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iPhone Cost in Japan: Prohibitive?

June 17th, 2008

Sbip-LlA couple of pretty bad pieces of news reportedly just leaked out about the iPhone in Japan: it could cost as much as ¥10,800 ($99) per month for the full plan–not counting many of the calls dialed. A 300-minute plan costs an additional $75. Presumably you could still get 40-yen-per-minute calls without the extra plan.

What Japan Thinks published a supposedly leaked pricing plan. According to the document, the 8GB phone costs ¥61,920 ($575), but is discounted (only when certain plans are bought?–it’s unclear) down to ¥19,200 ($180) over a 2-year period, or about ¥800 ($7.50) per month. That’s just for the phone; reasonable.

Then you are able to sign up for the “White Plan,”“ for ¥980 ($9.10) a month, which gives you unlimited free calls to family members, unlimited free calls to SoftBank clients until 9pm, and all other calls are ¥42 ($.39) per minute. I could live with that–I only make about a half dozen phone calls a month to people other than Sachi, and some of them might be SoftBank users. Under this plan, my phone bill might be only a few hundred yen (a few dollars) a month.

But then there’s data–they really sock you for the data plans. For email–Mobile Me and Yahoo only (I don’t use Yahoo, nor will I)–you get unlimited mail for ¥1800 ($17) per month. I would sign up for Mobile Me, and all other email I could forward to my Mobile Me account. But still, $17 just for email.

Then comes the data plan: ¥6800 ($63) for the unlimited data plan. Ouch. I mean, ouch. Maybe that’s a standard fee in Japan, I don’t know–all I know is that I don’t think I could possibly justify that. Fortunately, the iPhone switches to WiFi automatically whenever a network is detected. I have WiFi at home, and I have my old Airport Express base station, which I could easily set up at work. That would cover my data usage most of the time; I would then, presumably, just use only as much data as I absolutely had to, at what I think is ¥76 ($.70) per minute. It would have to be commando raid stuff. But this would normally be how I use my phone–mostly at home and in the office. I don’t think I could justify $63 a month for the odd impulse browsing while I was walking around town. Pricey.

In short, SoftBank’s data plan would break my bank, so I’d have to simply give up on that one. That is, of course, presuming the memo is for real. I have the distinct feeling that SoftBank is intentionally leaking this to gauge reaction. Hopefully there will be widespread dissatisfaction and they will lower the actual offered rates. But, like I said, I have no idea what data plans usually are in Japan, so this might actually be more or less standard. I’m just used to my basic ¥2000/mo call plan with minutes at ¥10 per; keitai rates have always seemed pricey to me. But if I want the iPhone, I may have to get used to them, and/or certain limitations.

Worse news still: only the 8GB model will be released on July 11; the 16GB model–which I have been waiting all this time for–won’t come out for another 2-3 weeks after that. Yargh. However, Sachi and I both planned to go SoftBank upon the iPhone release, and she’s going there less for the iPhone than simply because we can be on the same plan. So maybe she would be willing to let me steal hog monopolize borrow her phone for the first few weeks–a substantial thing for me, much less so for her.

Of course, (a) the memo could be fake, and/or (b) I could be reading the plans wrong. Is the data plan–apparently specially created for the iPhone–a flat rate, or does it build up with use? If it builds up to a ceiling of ¥6800, then what’s the floor, how many free minutes, and how much do you pay per packet/minute within the plan? And what about GPS? Is GPS counted as data? Or is that free?

Anyone who knows more than I do (i.e., anyone in Japan with a keitai) please set me straight….

Categories: Focus on Japan 2008, Mac News Tags: by
  1. Karen
    June 17th, 2008 at 23:57 | #1

    Hi Luis,

    Well, I have no knowledge concerning Japanese plans, but I can tell you the US plan is expensive. I have the cheapest plan and it sets me back $59.99 a month. Our entire family was on a plan which cost $80.00 a month for 4 people. Once I got the iPhone they were still on the family plan for $80.00, and I was paying $60.00, so I got them Virgin Mobile phones and .20 a minute plans. Since the boys rarely use their phones, it is WAY cheaper – the minimum fee is $20.00 every 3 months, but since I have auto-top up, it’s now $15.00 every 3 months.

    Anyway, it turns out that to add my husband to my iPhone account with ATT will add $40.00 a month. That’s $100.00 a month for two people to use a cell phone!!! My current monthly fee is very extravagant, but it’s the only game in town for iPhone…

    And as for data usage outside home and work, well, that’s where I use the iPhone for data the most! At home I’d be on my laptop. I use it for Google Maps when I am lost (a frequent occurrence) and for other things. For example, we were at the bookstore the other day, and my son was confused about which books he needed for his summer reading, so I got online on the iPhone and looked up the district’s summer reading list for his school. You cannot count on finding an unsecured network when you are wandering around….

    I hope the memo is wrong about the price, but it is very costly here, so I wouldn’t be surprised. I am hoping this changes at some point and we have a choice of providers, as a lot of people really hate ATT…

    Take care,


  2. ykw
    June 18th, 2008 at 03:35 | #2

    The data plans (“persistent internet) in the usa go for $30 to $40 a month. This is in addition to the regular voice plan. Folks are not doing this unless they have a good need for it, or they have lots of money. An outside salesperson, for example, needs it. Some folks are using this to read email, yet not send email, since it is more comfortable to send w/ a regular keyboad; and it is easy to read text on a small screen since one only reads one word at a time. I do not know many people that are browsing the internet w/ a mobile device, since it is more comfortable to wait till one gets to a computer w/ a big screen.

  3. June 18th, 2008 at 08:31 | #3

    With au I pay 6,000 yen/month for unlimited web and mail access + 1,800 monthly fixed cost for family plan (calls to family members free). Telephone calls to other than family are not included (or only a very limited minutes included – I don’t remember) and are expensive under this plan (‘Double Keikaku Light’). In comparaison iPhone seems not that expensive.

  4. Paul
    June 18th, 2008 at 09:13 | #4

    I would have thought that cellphone plans weren’t that expensive in Japan. Why so much?

    My own iPhone plan in the states is around 80 per month. That’s 400 or 500 anytime minutes, unlimited nights/weekends, and unlimited data. I’ve read that for the 3G version it’s going to be another ten bucks a month- still a good deal, especially since Ginger is going to get one and we’ll be on a family plan.

    We’ll wind up spending the same as we do now overall because of the data component, but when you consider how much more the iPhone lets you do it’s a good deal IMO.

  5. Geoff
    June 18th, 2008 at 09:31 | #5

    Softbank has their price plan online in English at http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/price_plan/ The data charges are based on per packet charges, with price per packet depending on the plan. Docomo also does it this way. However, I can tell you that for a moderate user, a 6000-10,000 Yen per month mobile bill is not unusual in Japan. Email (even spam email!) will rapidly pump up your phone charges.

  6. matthew
    June 18th, 2008 at 13:52 | #6

    Standard stuff in japan. Data/packet charges are in the 4–6000 range and heavy use can be more. Softbank’s is actually one of the cheaper plans but they are all about the same IMHO. Figure on monthly bills over 10,000 yen.

  7. June 20th, 2008 at 20:31 | #7

    The New Super Bonus thing means that if you cancel the contract before the 2 years is up, you have to pay the full price of the handset, which is 61,920yen. If you keep the phone for 2 years you get the discount. This is how Softbank manages to hook in young people who cannot upfront a lot for a new handset. Personally, I’ve never used a mobile for more than 8 months so it never makes a difference to me…

    In the case of iphone we know that the 32GB will be coming so I personally would be hestitant to rush out and get these first ones. I have a 32GB ipod touch and I find it’s still not enough memory for me.

  8. June 20th, 2008 at 20:45 | #8

    OK, I’ve read that memo a little more closely.

    It seems reasonable to me and also a little bit more flexible than the x-series data plan which locks people in at 9600yen. The iphone data plan at least give users the option to just choose an unlimited mail data plan or an unlimited browser data plan or both. I’m guessing that if you use gmail and safari you can just go with the 6800 and forego the Mobileme/Yahoo mail cost.

  9. June 23rd, 2008 at 19:27 | #9

    Good news is this turned out to be fake. The dataplan is a lot cheaper at 5985 yen.

  10. Luis
    June 23rd, 2008 at 20:06 | #10

    Either it was fake, or they floated it as a test and then changed plans after seeing reactions. But I would be inclined to see it as a fake. The new news is in a Japanese press release, not published in English, yet. But iPhone in Japan has the English for it.

    My own take: I took a blind guess at the pricing for both models of iPhone in Japan back on June 11, way before any pricing had even been fake-leaked. I was off by 460 and 440 yen for the 8GB and 16GB models respectively. Pretty damned close guess, if I say so myself. Heck, I might have been spot on and the exchange rates just fluctuated…

  11. Luis
    June 23rd, 2008 at 20:17 | #11

    Roy: As the “leaked” data plan price was 6800 yen, I don’t know if 5985 is “a lot” cheaper, unless that price includes all email outside of their S-Basic service. I don’t see a clear statement that this is going to be so, just a reference to “Mail” which I cannot discern is different from SoftBank email. I’ll have to wait for the English translation or else see if some local site does me the favor before SoftBank does…

    Short version, if the 5985 plan is for all email and web browsing (plus GPS or whatever?), then it looks pretty good. Not as good as DoCoMo’s cheapest plan, but close enough I suppose. Especially for the heavy browsing one will do with the iPhone relative to normal Japanese cell phones.

  12. June 23rd, 2008 at 23:17 | #12

    If you add the cost of the visual voice mail (315yen) + 3 way calling (210yen) + Call Waiting (210yen) + the S!Basic package (315yen) + 5985yen for the data plan it works out to 7035yen

    Then add on the White Plan (980yen) + the handset cost assuming 16gb (1440yen) you’re looking at a total of 9455yen..that’s still not to bad I guess..

    This doesn’t include the cost of MobileMe of course.

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