May 22, 2024

What you need to know

  • Google Pixel phone sales in Japan rose by over 500% last year.

  • Google was the only major phone brand to grow its market share in this period.

  • Google moved into third place in Japan for overall market share.


New sales data recently released suggest that Google Pixel handsets are rapidly becoming one of the most popular brands in the Japanese market. The figures show that Google is now challenging Sharp for second place in market share, behind Apple.

The figures from Counterpoint Research (via Android Authority) make for some interesting reading. Across the whole of 2023, mobile phone sales declined by 11.6% compared with the year before. Interestingly, iPhone shipments declined by 6.1%, while Android sales went down by 16.3%.

Despite these challenging figures, Google Pixel handsets bucked the trend, with year-on-year growth of 527%. It was the bestselling phone brand in both Q2 and Q3 of 2023. Google was the only one of the top five smartphone brands in Japan to see sales growth last year. In Q1 2023, Google became the second best-selling brand overall in Japan for the first time.

This meant that Google’s overall market share leaped from 1.5% in 2022 to 10.7% by the end of 2023, narrowly missing out on a second place to Sharp, which, according to the report, “regained its second position in the market with steady following in the elderly segment for its affordable smartphones” (almost 30% of Japan’s population is 65 or older).

Sales figures for smartphones in Japan in 2023Sales figures for smartphones in Japan in 2023

Sales figures for smartphones in Japan in 2023

Counterpoint suggests a few contributory factors to explain Google’s rapid growth in the market. Firstly, a new partnership with Docomo, a Japanese mobile phone carrier, meant Pixel devices were available on three networks rather than two. Additionally, some local brands were subject to takeover by bigger brands or withdrew from the consumer market.

Masafumi Inbe, Market Analyst for IDC Japan, said: “local vendors in Japan are gradually finding it difficult to compete with global vendors in terms of product development and competitiveness, including foldable smartphones and AI smartphones.” The expectation is that this trend is likely to continue as larger brands with deeper pockets continue to gain traction in the Japanese market.

Pixel sales are growing in other parts of the world, too, albeit not quite as dramatically as in Japan. We recently reported that Pixel sales represented 3% of the market share in North America last quarter, placing Google fourth behind Apple, Samsung, and Motorola in terms of sales. And with the Pixel 8 named “best smartphone” at MWC recently, there’s plenty of room for optimism for the future growth of the Pixel brand.

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