Sharp has leapfrogged rival handset makers NEC and Matsushita to become Japan’s number one mobile phone manufacturer, according to a study by the MM Research Institute. Sharp, once a relative minnow in the Japanese market, received a leg-up in 2002 when NTT DoCoMo awarded it a major handset supply contract. Since then it has improved its exposure by offering advanced design features and high quality LCD displays and digital cameras.
In the year to 31 March 2006 Sharp increased its shipments by 20% to 7.6 million – a market share of 16.3% out of a total 46.3 million units sold. Matsushita took second place with 16.1%, although annual shipments dipped 1.8% to 7.5 million. Matsushita is withdrawing from international GSM operations as its mobile unit continues to make losses. Meanwhile, NEC, which held the number one spot for four consecutive years, came in a lowly third in 2005/06, as its shipments fell 10.6% and its market share dropped to 15.8%.
A key factor in Sharp’s turn around is its success in securing supply contracts with more than one network operator. In addition to DoCoMo, it also sells phones to Vodafone KK and plans to start selling models to KDDI by the end of the year.