Smartphone Usage in Japan Is Growing, but Feature Phones Aren’t Going Away

Simpler devices continue to hold their own with older mobile users

The number of smartphone users in Japan will increase 3.0% this year to 70.8 million, representing 56.1% of the population, according to eMarketer’s latest media usage forecast.

However, because of the country’s affinity for feature phones and desktops/laptops, Japan’s smartphone penetration rate will continue to trail many of its neighbors in Asia-Pacific. For example, the populations of South Korea and Singapore, which are both much smaller than Japan’s, will each have smartphone adoption rates of more than 75% this year.

Japan underindexes on the smartphone front because of its older population—more than 25% of the country is over the age of 65. In addition, smartphones and data plans are more expensive in Japan compared with other countries in Asia-Pacific.

“The feature phone is still relevant in Japan thanks to the older population who have yet to find it necessary to purchase a smartphone,” said Chris Bendtsen, senior forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “For this group, the desktop/laptop is the preferred portal to the online world, and there isn’t a need for on-the-go access with a smaller device. The smartphone population is by no means a small number, but the fact that feature phones aren’t a thing of the past is unique in Japan compared to other developed countries.”