When Apple’s iPhone was launched in 2007, customers in the United States and Europe received the iPhone with euphoria. A few months after the initial launch, the iPhone 3G was introduced to a total of 22 countries including Japan.
However, what followed after the iPhone’s appearance in a technology-obsessed Japan, is a timeless lesson in the value of genuinely understanding the expectations of potential buyers.
One important factor which Apple did not consider regarding the Japanese market, is the fact that Japanese buyers might have had needs varying from those in the U.S and Europe. Although the demand for the iPhone outpaced supply in other parts of the world, the iPhone was gathering dust on Japanese store shelves.
Press reports indicated that only 200,000 units were sold in Japan, primarily to existing users of Apple computers and laptops.
This was a country where an estimated 50 million cell phones had been sold the previous year. With a bit of research, Apple would have discovered that Japanese consumers were habitually taking videos and watching TV on their personal phones. Yet the iPhone 3G did not even include a video camera.
Furthermore, Apple could have anticipated the difficulty in competing in a market where many phones routinely included chips for debit card transactions and train passes.
To make things even more complicated was the fact that the iPhone was way more expensive than its competitors in Japan. Apple might have thought its online software store to be valuable enough to justify the higher price. However, the company did not take into consideration that people were reluctant to do online shopping in 2008.
Having seen the iPhone 3G, the Japanese market had shown Apple’s brilliant visionary CEO what they did not want, as well as the dangers of relying solely on presentiment and past achievements as a marketing strategy.