• Bloomberg

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Apple Inc. shipped 1.69 million iPhones in Japan in the fiscal year ended March 31, capturing the top share of the country’s smart phone market, according to MM Research Institute Ltd.

The iPhone, offered by Japan’s third-largest wireless carrier, Softbank Corp., accounted for 72 percent of smart phones shipped in the country in the period, the Tokyo-based researcher said in a report Thursday. Taiwan’s HTC Corp. was second with 11 percent, followed by Toshiba Corp. with 6.8 percent, it said.

Demand for the iPhone helped more than double Japan’s shipments of handsets that can surf the Web and download music, video and applications to 2.34 million units last fiscal year, while shipments of regular mobile phones declined 4 percent to 34.4 million, according to the report. Smart phone shipments will probably exceed 3 million units in the 12 months started April 1, even as the overall market is forecast to contract for a third year, it said.

“The iPhone was pretty much the sole winner in fiscal 2009, but the market will continue to expand this fiscal year as competition from Google’s Android and Microsoft’s ‘Windows Phone’ heats up,” the report said.

Softbank and bigger rivals NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp. are expanding their smart phone lineups with handsets running Google Inc.’s Android software to bolster revenue from data services. DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile phone operator, began selling its second Android model earlier this month and KDDI, the country’s second biggest, will introduce a Sharp Corp.-made phone in June.

IPhone shipments in Japan accounted for 5.6 percent of 30.1 million units Apple sold worldwide in the 12 months to March, according to quarterly data released by the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. The device, released in July 2008 in Japan, shipped a total of about 2.3 million units in the country as of March 31, MM’s researcher Hideaki Yokota said by telephone Friday.

Android, a newcomer to the smart phone market, will see its global handset base jump to 68 million units by 2013, from 690,000 in 2008, researcher IDC Corp. said in January.

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