April 17, 2015 10:06
Samsung has removed its corporate logo from its Galaxy S6 smartphones sold in Japan amid deep distrust of Korea and Korean technology in the island country.
Instead, the sleek smartphones features only the Galaxy brand name, as do all accessories.
The move is unprecedented for Samsung, but a company spokesman said, "The measure took into consideration the specialized nature of the Japanese market."
Japan is the only market in the world in which the Korean electronics giant is struggling.
The Japanese smartphone market has been virtually impregnable to Korean manufacturers. According to U.S. market researcher Strategy Analytics, Apple ranked first in smartphone sales there last year, accounting for 40.8 percent of the market, followed by Sony (18.1 percent), Sharp (12.4 percent) and Fujitsu (8.8 percent). Samsung ranks fifth with only a 5.6 percent market share, while LG, the world's No. 3, accounts for just 1.7 percent of the market in Japan.
Samsung and LG's combined market share in Japan still falls short of global also-ran Fujitsu.
Japan has a total population of 127 million, more than twice as many as Korea, and the mobile phone penetration rate is more than 110 percent. The smartphone penetration rate stands at only around 70 percent, which still makes the market appealing for Korean firms.
A quick glance around any subway train in Japan will reveal just how many people use iPhones there. Japan has the largest number of iPhone users of any other Asian country, which why Apple made sure it was one of the first markets to receive shipments of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch.
Jeong Ok-hyun, a professor at Sogang University and former head of LG's mobile phone R&D center, said, "Japanese consumers think that Japanese brands have the best technology, and mobile service providers also favor Japanese manufacturers, so it is tough for foreign companies to break into that market unless they’re selling a product that has special appeal to consumers, such as the iPhone."
When it unveiled the Galaxy S3 in Japan in 2012, Samsung ranked third after Fujitsu (21.4 percent market share) and Apple (18.4 percent) with 14.8 percent of the market.
But anti-Korean sentiment stoked by a new far-right government meant the Galaxy S5 fared poorly, and Samsung's share of the Japanese market fell to 10.7 percent in 2013 and to 5.6 percent last year.
Korean companies are struggling to make their presence felt in Japan. Samsung plans to launch a big marketing onslaught in Japan for the Galaxy S6 to take the market share back. In October last year, it chose to unveil the Galaxy Note Edge featuring a curved screen in Japan first.
LG also included Japan among the 15 nations around the world that will get to see the G4 before other countries.
An industry insider said, "The Japanese market is unique. It's tough to crack and doesn't have the growth potential of China and India. But it's symbolically important, which is why foreign companies keep trying to make it big in Japan."
The situation is no different for home appliances. Samsung and LG, the No. 1 and 2 players in terms of global TV market share, have only a small presence in Japan. Samsung accounted for just 0.1 percent of the Japanese TV market until it packed up and left it in 2007.
LG's market share is rising slowly, but is still only in the two-percent range.
An industry insider said, "Japanese are very loyal to their national brands and have become wary after seeing their once-mighty brands get beaten by foreign rivals on the global stage."
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