iPhone 5S in Japan

iPhone 5s

So we have a new iPhone coming out today, one that has finally achieved full market penetration -it will be available on all three major networks in Japan.

I have owned two iPhones (a 3GS back in the day, and a 4S that I’m using at the moment). I will have paid off the 4S in a couple of months, so have been thinking about upgrading.

I’m on Softbank, and they are running at least two special deals that may affect this decision:

1. they will pay off any remaining payments on an iPhone 4 or 4S if you upgrade to one of the new phones
2. they will set your monthly data charge at 4,500 yen for a year (a saving of 1000 yen or so off the standard rate for the LTE network)
3. they will buy back your phone (I think mine is worth about 14,000 yen according to their program)


Another factor is that I upgraded my 4S to run iOS 7 yesterday, and so far I am very happy with it. The battery seems to be holding up fine, it runs fast and does everything I want it to. I really like the new operating system, and it seems to be happy on my old phone.

The new iPhone 5S has had some pretty good reviews, and is technologically interesting, but basically is not going to improve my life. The only thing it does that my current phone does not is provide an internet hotspot (like the iPhone 5).

Doing some rough calculations, upgrading to a new phone is more or less cost neutral, at least for the first year or so. After that it will cost me about an extra 2000 yen a month.

Verdict: undecided. I am going to wait a bit longer and see what the new phones are like. Quite a few people around me are planning to upgrade. I’ll also go in and talk to Softbank and get some accurate numbers off them.

Has anyone got an iPhone 5S yet? Is it worth it?


20 Sep 2013, 4:01pm
by Andrew Clarke


Hey Ben, also undecided. I’ve been waiting for this to be released and now that it is, I’m half thinking about sticking with my 4S, staying flexible contract wise (as one can be in Japan) and waiting for the 6 this time next year….

Or….. dare I say it…. I’m quite tempted to jump from my beloved apple to a HTC One (friend of mine has one and its nothing short of stunning and very, very clever in so many ways).


Anyone considering a new i-phone needs to hold this in his/her hand first and play with it in a shop. Besides the huge screen, cool features like pausing a video when you look away from the screen & impressive specs the latest android software is awesome and offers so much more freedom and choice than iOS’s censored controlled environment.

But perhaps most importantly for the HTC One, unlike so many plasticy, cheap looking android devices this has taken away possible the last advantage apple had – build quality. Thie HTC one’s sleek glass and aluminium is equal if not superior to anything apple has ever made. .

The iPhone set the bar high, but that bar has been reached and far surpassed and with each painfully unimpressive incremental release of an “S” rather than a leap onto a new number and completely new piece of hardware, the iphone has lost so much ground its depressing.


As for the new finger print sensor.. I’d never use it for two reasons.

I’ve lost my phone and got it back because the person who found it could check my phonebook and called my mum to let me know it was found. I could have remotely deleted content off it if I had of liked though if it was lost for just a couple of days longer.

While not jumping head first into conspiracy theories, at the same time I’m not overly excited about giving an american corporation the specifics of my fingerprints so they can add me to what will soon become the biggest international finger prints/personal ID database in the world (the CIA’s dream come true). I can change a pin number or i-tunes password but I’ll have the same finger prints for life and I’m not comfortable sharing them without reason.

By the way, the ability to provide a wifi hotspot has been standard on all iphones since the 4 (and via bluetooth or USB on the 3s), but was restricted by some carriers such as in Japan for reasons I’m not privy to). In the US you had to pay a little extra for a tethering package and then the carrier would activate it. In Ireland and the UK, I’ve tethered so much that my “mobile usage” shows 95GB downloaded and 30GB uploaded in just 20 months of usage. Maybe you could change plan and take advantage of tethering on your existing 4s.

Let me know what you decide, I’m curious if you could be swayed by the HTC One…


Hey Andrew

That comment deserves a blog post of its own 😉

I am tempted by android, after playing with a Nexus 7 and an old android phone.

In Japan only the LTE iPhones can do hotspots unfortunately.

I am tempted, but I think I will just keep using my old phone until further notice. See if I can stay true to my newfound minimalist/frugal leanings…

20 Sep 2013, 8:07pm
by Malcome Larcens


Why don’t you guys go off contract and buy an unlocked (SIM Free in Japan)? I have been without contract for almost 5 years, I buy and sell phones whenever I want and the monthly fee for unlimited internet and 30 mins of calling is 3800 yen with b-mobile. They have many packages to chose from if this one isn’t good for you. I normally get 50% for my used phones. Depending on the phone if it’s less than 2 years I can get about 60% of original price. So if you find that you don’t like a model or OS you can change without any penalty. I have a Windows phone now and have to say it is easy to use kind of a cross between Android and IOS. So called subsidized phones normally cost much more than buying them outright. They did a study in the US and on average people paid about twice as much for a subsidized phone as. Same with computers, I looked at computers a few years back, it looked like the price was 50% off but had to sign a 2 year internet contract that would have cost about 4500 yen more per month for 2 years. So it wasn’t a deal at all.

Hey Malcome

That sounds very attractive actually. Is the phone unlocked? Can you use it overseas? I’ll have a look at b-mobile 🙂

21 Sep 2013, 11:20am
by Malcome Larcens


All phones come in unlocked versions. Obviously none of the carriers will tell you about this. I found a company called Expansys, they only sell unlocked phones and they have an office in Japan although not much support. But most important they have some of the best prices around. Even cheaper than Yahoo auction or eBay and it’s very quick. You can check the site http://www.expansys.jp and see for yourself. You have to pay a small duty but for 40000 yen it’s about 4000 yen so about 10% but in most cases overseas prices are cheaper.

I see that a Nexus 4 costs about 30,000 yen in the UK (50,000 in Japan). Very tempting.

Unfortunately I am two months into a two-year contract right now 🙁


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