By Dan Frommer | Apr. 26, 2010: Business Insider

Apple’s iPhone is a lot bigger in Japan than many expected it would be, approaching two years of sales in the country.

The iPhone captured 72% of Japan’s small but growing smartphone market in the last year, according to Tokyo-based research firm MM Research Institute, via Bloomberg Businessweek. And sales are growing fast: Apple said on its most recent earnings call that last quarter’s iPhone sales in Japan grew 183% year-over-year.

You can find anything from camera shops to these micro-PCs.

Among the phones not considered "smartphones," colorful designs are still big

Jelly Beans!

In this neighborhood, you can buy anything from cameras to transistors. Here's a neat shop selling audio accessories under the train tracks. But that's it for today!

Admittedly, that 72% market share stat is a bit of a stretch, because drawing the line between smartphones and “dumb” phones in Japan is a much different exercise than it is in the U.S.

While most Japanese phones aren’t technically considered smartphones because of their hardware design and software platform, they’re still much more advanced than what we consider “dumb” phones in the States. Many phones that aren’t considered smartphones are still used to run apps and watch video, even live TV. And Japan is much more advanced than the U.S. in fields like mobile payments.

So it’s not like the iPhone is totally taking over Japan.

But having just spent a week there, paying a lot of attention to what mobile phones people were using, we can affirm that Apple is having a good deal of success.

While the vast majority of Tokyo Subway riders we saw were still using flip-phone style devices — not categorized as smartphones in the MM Research stats — we did see plenty of iPhones.

But perhaps the best sign of the iPhone’s success in Japan could be coming at the expense of SoftBank, the country’s exclusive iPhone carrier. We heard from an iPhone user there that — like AT&T in the U.S. — SoftBank has been pounded by users’ demand for bandwidth, and is often unreliable.

Dan Frommer is Deputy Editor of Business Insider.
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