Japanese shipments of traditional flip-phones rose in 2014 for the first time in seven years while smartphone shipments fell, suggesting that Japanese consumers still feel an attachment to the familiar and less expensive older models, Reuters reported.
Flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to 10.58 million units last year, while smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to 27.70 million, down for a second year, according to data from market researcher MM Research Institute Ltd.
Japanese consumers pay some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest.
Many Japanese accustomed to years of deflation are content with old-style flip-phones offering voice calling, email and in most cases basic internet services.
In Japan, they are also known as “Galapagos” phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes, the news agency said.
Japanese electronics companies Panasonic Corp. and NEC Corp. have pulled out of the consumer smartphone business, unable to compete with dominant brands Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.
But they still make flip-phones, competing in a crowded market with Fujitsu Ltd. and Sharp Corp., among other handset makers.
Japan’s mobile market, with a penetration rate of 98.5 percent, or 125 million subscriptions, is already saturated.
“Smartphones are also peaking in terms of functionality and they tend to last a long time as well, so there are fewer renewals,” said MM Research executive analyst Hideaki Yokota.
He said 2014 was a particularly strong year for renewals in the subscription cycle for flip-phones, suggesting that last year’s growth may not be repeated this year.
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