Apple’s iPhone Is Dominating Japan—Vader Strikes Back

Japan has always been a somewhat different world and NTT DoCoMo’s new advertisement for the Galaxy S is no exception. Darth Vader shows up as the pitchman/metaphor for the Android powered smartphone in more than one advertisement from the carrier. Given the iPhone’s recent success in Japan, NTT has to do something since it lost out to smaller carrier Softbank to carry the iPhone. It’s like as if T-Mobile got the iPhone first in the US.

Darth Vader—Pitchman for the Galaxy S

No, it isn’t just you who is a little creeped out by the thought of Darth Vader always walking with you like your carrier when you have a Galaxy S (the i9000 to be exact), I am too. Then I remembered Japan is also the country behind the far creepier Love Plus iPhone app that works like a virtual, definitely underage looking girlfriend. Coincidence? I think not.

On the other hand, Japan is also introducing the first 3D, Android powered smartphone series—Galapagos. The Sharp 003SH and 005SH both incorporate the same glasses-free 3D technology that will appear in Nintendo’s 3DS portable gaming system. Unfortunately, they are not expected to end up in the US.

I guess the message from NTT in the advertisement was somehow lost in translation. Either that or Galaxy S, Android and Darth Vader are all somehow connected. Sure, there are ‘droids’ in Star Wars and an R2D2 themed smartphone from Motorola has come out but Darth Vader isn’t exactly synonymous with Android, at least here in the US. Star Wars geeks will surely point out that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker and that he built R2D2 and 3CPO in the prequels. My answer? Go back to your basements and keep rooting your Androids so you can install your Queen Padme themes. There were only 3 Star Wars movies.

Interestingly, a strong iOS app market has started to grow in Japan. Japan has pretty much always had mobile internet and paid, app-like services so it’s no surprise. The US is really 10 years behind on this. With even Foursquare having plans for the future to launch in the country, we can expect Japan to become a hotbed of smartphone apps and developers.

So what’s up with Darth Vader and NTT? Did Verizon have the wrong marketing strategy the whole time against the iPhone? Maybe they should have run ads featuring Vader and the tag line “He keeps Steve Jobs away.”

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