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Samsung Releases Brand-less Smartphone in Japan

In Japan, the Galaxy Note 7 was released without Samsung’s signature branding on the front or back of the device. This is the second time that the South Korean tech company has omitted its branding in Japan — The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge also did not have the Samsung logo. The brandless phone was Samsung’s way of trying to increase its share of the difficult Japanese market.

However, the company still hasn’t seen much success in selling its phones in Japan. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in Japan and why Samsung is not popular in that country.

The Smartphone Market in Japan

Samsung has consistently released some of the best-selling smartphones in the world because the company focuses on sleek designs that are packed with features. However, Samsung’s smartphone popularity doesn’t seem to carry over to Japan. Samsung has had great difficulty penetrating the smartphone market in Japan for several reasons. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that in 2014 and 2015, Samsung controlled only about 5 percent of the market.

That number has improved slightly in 2016, to 6 percent, but Samsung is still not doing as well as it had hoped. Meanwhile, Apple controls close to 50 percent of the smartphone market in Japan, followed by Japanese makers such as Sony, Fujitsu, and Sharp.

Statistics are similar in other Asian countries, including China. Historically, many tech companies have had a hard time entering the Japanese market. Consumers in Japan are loyal to Japanese products, and they also make buying decisions based on politics.

Why Is Samsung’s Signature Brand Missing?

Although Samsung did not explicitly state its reason, the company decided to remove its branding from all its products sold in Japan. Long-standing tensions in East Asia could be the main reason. Japanese markets have been greatly affected by politics, particularly since Prime Minister Shinzō Abe was elected in 2006. Tensions between Japan and South Korea are very strong. Since Samsung is a South Korean company, it makes sense that removing its name from Japanese markets might produce greater sales.

The decision to go brandless in Japan was also made because the previous model, the cool Samsung Galaxy S6, did not sell well in Japan despite its strong features, such as a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display and 16MP auto HDR camera. In almost all other markets, Samsung has performed very well because its Galaxy series of phones rivals all competitors. However, Japan has been a particularly hard market to compete in. Removing its logo is a major sacrifice Samsung has made in order to attempt to gain market share.

It’s interesting that all Samsung launches in Japan have been lackluster. Its Galaxy series of phones are sold by two carriers — NTT DoCoMo and au by KDDI. Even with little competition, Samsung performed well only during the first week of its launch in Japan. Politics seem to play a much bigger role with smartphone sales in Japan than in any other market.

The Brandless Phone Looks Amazing

There is one good thing that has come from Samsung’s brandless smartphone — people love the design. Forbes reports that Samsung fans are in love with the new look and feel of the Galaxy Note 7. It looks like a single shiny black jewel because the black metal frame connects seamlessly to the black glass on the front. The Japanese version looks even better because the sea of black is not disrupted by the Samsung logo, making people in other markets wish that they could buy this phone. The black version is selling the fastest, but the blue coral is receiving tons of compliments, too.

What Will the Future Bring?

None of Samsung’s efforts, including the lack of branding, have made much of an impact on its share of the smartphone market in Japan. There have even been rumors that Samsung is considering withdrawing completely from Japanese markets until political unrest between Japan and South Korea eases.

One thing is certain — people around the world wish they could get their hands on a brandless Galaxy Note 7 because of the phone’s awesome look and feel.