DoCoMo Loses Most Users Ever as IPhone Fails to Halt Slide

DoCoMo Store
Workers prepare and clean a window display for the Apple Inc. iPhone 5C outside an NTT Docomo Inc. store in Tokyo. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile phone carrier, lost the most subscribers on record even after adding Apple Inc. iPhones to its lineup as it attempts to regain market share from SoftBank Corp. and KDDI Corp.

DoCoMo lost 66,800 net users in September, the company said in an e-mail today. SoftBank added 270,700 and KDDI 232,700 users, according to the carriers. DoCoMo’s share of mobile users slumped to 46 percent in September, compared with 52 percent in 2008, as first SoftBank Corp. and then KDDI Corp. won Japanese consumers with Apple handsets.

Apple introduced two new smartphones last month, including a cheaper version in bright colors and an updated high-end device DoCoMo began selling on Sept. 20. The carrier had resisted the iPhone to focus on handsets from Sony Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. and protect its online store, called dmarket, from competition with Apple’s iTunes.

“DoCoMo must offer more incentives for existing users to remain with the carrier,” said Eiji Mori, an analyst at BCN Inc. in Tokyo.

DoCoMo attributed the subscriber loss to customers who delayed purchases until after Apple’s new mobiles went on sale Sept. 20 and insufficient stock of those handsets, said Atsuko Suzuki, a company spokeswoman. Rival carriers’ marketing strategies also hurt sales, she said.

DoCoMo had a total of 61.8 million subscribers last month, followed by KDDI with 39 million and SoftBank with 34 million.

Market Share

DoCoMo, which has gained 24 percent this year, fell 1.2 percent to 1,542 yen at the close in Tokyo. SoftBank, which has more than doubled, added 2.9 percent and KDDI, which has gained 69 percent in the same period, was unchanged at 5,160 yen.

SoftBank accounted for 39.5 percent of Japanese sales of Apple’s two new models, while DoCoMo took a 31.9 percent market share and KDDI controlled 28.6 percent, according to estimates from BCN, which compiles data from appliance and electronics chain stores.

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