Why Japan Loves the iPhone 5s

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This story has been updated from 10:16 am EDT to include information on Apple's decision to fix iPhone 5 with problematic sleep/wake buttons for free.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Apple  iPhone sales "performed strongly" in the first calendar quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in Europe, Japan and Australia. Smartphones with Microsoft's Windows operating system, however, stumbled.

According to the latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Google Android systems remains the top operating system across Europe with 70.7% of the market, compared to 68.5% in the fourth quarter of 2013. Apple holds the second spot, owning 19.2% of the market for the quarter, up from 19% in the prior quarter. Windows accounted for 8.1% of smartphone sales compared to 10.1% in the fourth quarter.

"Apple regained ground in the first quarter of 2014, primarily due to the strong performance of the iPhone 5S, growing its sales share in Europe, Japan and Australia," said Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech in a press release. "By contrast, Windows had a tough start to the year as a result of its entry-level Nokia models facing fierce competition from low-end Motorola, LG and Samsung Android smartphones."

Kantar said Apple has been particularly successful in Japan where, in the past quarter, it has secured 42% of smartphone sales on NTT DoCoMo , 59% on KDDI AU and 81% on Softbank . The research firm notes that Japanese consumers primarily like the design of the iPhone (30%), followed by its 4G capability (29%) and the belief that it will be reliable (24%).

Importantly, Apple's success in Japan is filtering through to iPad sales as well, Kantar said, with nearly a quarter of iPhone owners also owning an iPad. "Japan's love affair with Apple shows no sign of fading," Sunnebo said. "With smartphone penetration in Japan lagging well behind Europe and the US, Japan will remain a key growth market for Apple."

Apple reported fiscal second-quarter results that topped Wall Street expectations, with shipments of iPhones fueling results. Apple reported second-quarter earnings of $11.62 a share on $45.6 billion in revenue. The company shipped 43.7 million iPhones, 16.4 million iPads, and 4.1 million Macs during the quarter, it said.

During the conference call, CEO Tim Cook said the company gained smartphone share in both developed and emerging markets including "the U.S., the UK, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Vietnam and Greater China, just to mention a few. In fact, we established a new all-time record for total iPhone sales in the BRIC countries."

In Japan, revenue rose 26% year-over-year to $3.96 billion, in spite of the foreign exchange headwinds. Apple's "smartphone market share reached an incredible 55%," Cook said on the call.

The Kantar research also showed that China's so-called phablet growth continues "unabated," with devices with a screen larger than 5" made up 40% of smartphone sales in March, Kantar said.