Foxconn, a company Apple heavily relies upon for iPhone production, plans to start selling its own smartphones in Japan.
It’s a bold move into one of Apple’s hottest markets by the Taiwanese electronics company, which employs around 1.3 million people and 40,000 robots.
“Foxconn Electronics is expected to introduce its entry-level and mid-range smartphones into the Japan market through its subsidiary Sharp in the first quarter of 2017,” reports per DigiTimes, quoting industry sources.
At present, it’s not known for certain which brand the new smartphones will be sold under, but it is “highly possible” they will be produced under the Sharp name. Foxconn acquired Sharp, which produces displays for iPhones, earlier this year for 389 billion yen ($3.5 billion.)
Foxconn is no stranger to producing its own smartphones. The company manufactured Android smartphones sold under the brand InFocus, with low-end devices that typically cost a couple of hundred dollars. Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile purchased Microsoft’s feature phone business earlier this year for $350 million.
Japan has been an interesting region for Apple. The iPhone continues to dominate the Japanese market year-over-year, even though the company previously had a hard time giving out iPhones for free. Apple has previously been impressed enough by its Japanese sales that it moved its chief of sales for Japan and Korea to North America in an attempt to replicate some of the success the company had in Japan.
Still, if Apple can continue to work (relatively) comfortably with Samsung, which produces both rival smartphones and iPhone components, there’s no reason Apple should feel too threatened by Foxconn’s expansion of its phone business.
Or is there?