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Was Wired right? Japan's love/hate affair with Apple's iPhone

November 28, 2013: 12:12 PM ET

If the Japanese love the iPhone now, could they have hated it in 2009?

ChenFORTUNE -- The most salient fact about Brian X. Chen's Why the Japanese Hate the iPhone, written for in early 2009, nearly three years before Chen joined the New York Times, is that the editor's note responding to Chen's excoriation in AppleInsider is longer (at 751 words) than the original (678 words).

Daniel Eran Dilger, who wrote the AppleInsider critique, invoked Chen's infamous piece once again Wednesday under the heading "Japan never hated the iPhone."

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Dilger's new piece was pegged to the latest stats from Kantar World Panel -- reported so far only in a tweet -- that show the iPhone taking 76% of Japan's smartphone sales in October.

So was Chen wrong?

"Hate" may be too strong a word for how Japanese consumers felt about the iPhone in the winter of 2009, but re-reading the piece today, and knowing what features Apple added to the iPhone in subsequent releases, Chen's reporting (misquotes aside) actually holds up pretty well.

An update to the Wired editor's note, added 14 months after the original piece, makes the same point:

Update: 2 p.m. PT, April 23, 2010 — A Bloomberg report today notes that the iPhone has captured 72 percent of the Japanese market. While we understand critics' skepticism in our original report, we would stress that when our report was written in February 2009, an analyst listed reasons for why he thought the iPhone wasn't selling well: high price, lack of a video camera and support for multimedia messaging. All three of those shortcomings have now been addressed. Softbank gives away the phone for free, and Apple has added a video camera and support for multimedia messaging. The Bloomberg report further suggests that those moves were just what the iPhone needed to gain a foothold in Japan.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for

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