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How are new iPhones faring in Japan? NTT Docomo offers clues

NTT Docomo, which began offering the iPhone for the first time last fall, is seeing mostly positive results so far in Japan, where the iPhone has been red hot.

iPhone 5S.
iPhone 5S NTT Docomo

NTT Docomo provided some visibility into iPhone sales in Japan, when that country's largest carrier reported earnings on Friday. Most of the news -- but not all of it -- was good.

First, the bad news. Docomo, which began offering the iPhone for the first time in the fall of last year, said group operating profit fell 2 percent in the April-December period and sales were slightly off, according to a Nikkei report.

The addition of the Apple phone also increased Docomo's "discount costs," according to Nikkei.

The Good news: So-called "customer outflows" (to rival carriers, for example) dropped from 130,000 in September to 50,000 in December, the company said.

Also in December, the carrier saw a net increase of 279,000 subscribers, beating rivals KDDI and SoftBank -- the first time in two years that's happened.

And KDDI, which also reported earnings this week, said iPhone sales are up. Softbank has yet to report earnings.

The iPhone -- thanks in part to Softbank, which began carrying the phone in 2008 -- has been popular in Japan, forcing carriers like NTT Docomo -- which had long resisted the iPhone -- to embrace it.