Leading Japanese Carrier NTT DoCoMo Losing Customers as iPhone Deal Remains Elusive

Reuters reports on difficulties being faced by NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile carrier with 60 million customers, as it has yet to reach a deal with Apple to offer the iPhone. The major hurdle to a deal has been DoCoMo's insistence on allowing its own services to be preloaded on devices it carries.

It is paying heavily for that obstinacy - with a net 3.2 million users jumping ship to its two domestic rivals over the last 4-1/2 years - but is determined to protect the walled garden of services it has built around its own smartphones.

"We're trying to develop a lifestyle system," NTT DoCoMo CEO Kaoru Kato told Reuters in an interview this week.

The report notes that while DoCoMo pioneered a number of smartphone services, those services have been surpassed in popularity and ease of use by third-party offerings. Combining that reduced consumer reliance on DoCoMo's own services with Apple's equally obstinate position that carriers can not preload apps and services on the iPhone may leave DoCoMo in an increasingly difficult position with its customers.

DoCoMo appears to be banking on iPhone saturation at rival carriers Softbank and KDDI to force Apple to relent as it seeks to drive further sales growth of the popular device, but DoCoMo's list of demands, which also includes carrier branding on handsets themselves, clashes so strongly with Apple's philosophy for the iPhone that an imminent deal appears unlikely.

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Little appears to have changed in the stalemate between Apple and DoCoMo, as a November 2011 report highlighted many of the same sticking points. And with the iPhone continuing to lead the Japanese smartphone market even without DoCoMo on board, it appears that Apple may be able to continue negotiating from a position of strength.

Still, Samsung's dramatic rise in most of the rest of the world has enabled it to surpass the iPhone in many markets, and Apple may be feeling some pressure to make its best effort to ensure that a similar scenario does not play out in Japan.

Related Forum: iPhone

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Top Rated Comments

blackburn Avatar
142 months ago
Carriers should never ever brand their phones, much less mess around with the software.

Never saw a carrier modified phone that had any advantage to a normal phone.
Score: 46 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ljohnson72 Avatar
142 months ago
Kinda hoping the same for NTT DoCoMo, showing that Apple cannot dictate every carrier they want :)

LOL... Seriously?

It's Apple's phone; you play by their rules if you want to sell it. Simple enough.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ChrisTX Avatar
142 months ago
One of the main reasons I like the iPhone. No carrier branding, and no crapware on their devices. It is hands off from everyone but Apple.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Timster83 Avatar
142 months ago
I hope Apple stand firm over this, only because if they let DoCoMo brand devices and preload apps, it would only open the floodgates for other carriers to do the same.

And it wouldn't be avoidable by buying an unlocked device directly from Apple either. It would be automatic just like today's carrier updates are.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
lkrupp Avatar
142 months ago
Kinda hoping the same for NTT DoCoMo, showing that Apple cannot dictate every carrier they want :)

Except for the fact that the iPhone continues to be the most popular smartphone in Japan (according to this article) and that Samsung sells only 1/5 the number phones in the country. Then consider that DoCoMo has lost 3.4 million subscribers because they don't carry the iPhone. Now who do you think has the most bargaining power?

As for your lamented desire to see Apple taken down a notch I don't get your point at all.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NoNothing Avatar
142 months ago
Kinda hoping the same for NTT DoCoMo, showing that Apple cannot dictate every carrier they want :)

Android fanboys are a funny lot. They hate the carriers but hate the iPhone even more for Apple having a far superior mobile OS people actually ask for by name allowing Apple to dictate demands to carriers instead of bending over backwards to them.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)