Japan tops smartphone app market


Japan surpassed the United States as the top-grossing market for apps in October as use of smartphones surged and wireless carriers started billing customers directly for downloads from Google Inc.’s online store.

App revenue in Japan more than tripled from a year earlier on the back of games as Google Play closed the gap with Apple Inc.’s iOS store in Japan, defying the trend seen in the rest of the world, a report released Wednesday by researcher App Annie said. Downloads were also boosted by NTT Docomo Inc., the nation’s largest mobile phone operator, which began offering the iPhone in September.

Japanese are quickly adopting smartphones after lagging behind other markets, with 42 percent of the population using the devices in 2013 compared with 28 percent a year earlier. That proportion is expected to jump to 62 percent in 2014, outpacing the 50 percent penetration rate estimated for the U.S., App Annie said.

“Japanese are accustomed to spending money on mobile phones,” said Hiroshi Naya, an analyst at Ichiyoshi Research Institute Inc. based in Tokyo.

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