Home > Focus on Japan 2010, iPhone > SoftBank & iPhone 4

SoftBank & iPhone 4

June 14th, 2010

Iphone4SideI went to SoftBank to check out whether or not I should get an iPhone 4, and surprisingly, it looks like I will. My two-year contract & obligation to pay off the iPhone 3G has 4 months left to it, and I figured that I would have to wait until that was out before I could think of getting the next one, and maybe have to pay extra for it as I was not a new customer. However, it would appear that SoftBank is making it easier for existing customers to upgrade than I thought. If I understood what the clerk was saying, I can get an iPhone 4 now, and simply start paying for it subsequent to the previous contract running out.

In fact, the new iPhone will be even cheaper; two years ago, the iPhone 3G (the first iPhone to be released in Japan) was going for ¥960 ($10.50) per month for 24 months, for a total of ¥23,040 ($250) for the low-end 8GB model. This time, the low end iPhone 4 (16GB) is free with the 2-year contract if you get a new number with it.

Sounds great, but there are caveats. As I expected, existing customers do get hit, though not very much: if you continue to use the same phone number as before (as most existing customers will no doubt want), you have to pay ¥300 ($3.25) a month for the 16 GB iPhone, for a grand total of ¥7200 ($78.50) over two years. (As if it costs them that much to not change your phone number!) Still, less than eighty bucks for a new iPhone–not bad at all. A pretty good deal in fact–I did not expect SoftBank to run with such a low price immediately upon release.

Another caveat: SoftBank is offering two plans for the iPhone 4, the “Basic” and “Value” plans. For both plans, you get the whole package, but the Value plan gives you only the flat rate of ¥4410 ($48) per month for your data plan (the price seems a bit inflated mostly due to the current strong yen). In the Basic plan, you have a sliding scale where the data plan could cost as low as ¥1029 ($11.20) per month, and you max out at ¥4410 if you use too much data. In exchange, you have to add ¥480 a month, or about $125 over two years, to the price of the iPhone. The Basic plan sounds good–if you try, you can cut down your data usage to the minimum and save as much as $900 over two years, right?

Wrong. The Basic plan sounds cheaper, but SoftBank conveniently hides the relevant data. They do tell you that if you use no more than 12,250 packets, you just pay the eleven bucks a month for data. Cool! 12,250 is a lot! Um, actually not. You won’t find it on the same page which describes this plan, but SoftBank defines a “packet” as 128 bytes. 12,250 packets is a measly 1.6 MB–less than a single digital camera photo at full size. You reach the maximum rate of ¥4410 by using 52,500 packets, or 6.72 MB–something you will certainly do if you do normal stuff like check email and use the Maps app while out and about. Especially if you browse web pages–six megabytes can be used up pretty quick. Just as an example, in May, according to my SoftBank bill, I used over 750,000 packets. No way in hell I could go below the 52,000 limit, save for turning off data use under 3G except in emergencies.

In short, don’t fall for the “cheaper” Basic plan: you’ll only wind up paying an extra $125 over two years.

So, going for the “Value” plan makes sense, and for Japan, the whole schmeer is pretty reasonable–especially the iPhone 4 for just eighty bucks plus what you’d pay normally anyway. At first, I thought that SoftBank would sock it to people they already had on contract, making them pay full price or pay a penalty for early adoption, but it seems not. Again, unless my Japanese led me to misunderstand the clerk; I will be checking up tomorrow, seeing what is or isn’t possible. The SoftBank stores in Omote-Sando and Shibuya have English-speaking staff, and the iPhone 4 reservations begin at 5pm. One drawback: they’ll only have the model in black if you get it right away. That’s OK with me, the new phone looks goofy in white.

If I do get the new phone, then my 3G will be off the phone grid. In other words: Jailbreak time!

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPhone Tags: by
  1. Tim Kane
    June 14th, 2010 at 22:50 | #1

    It seems to me that it makes sense for Apple to do this.

    The competition from other manufactures and other platforms is going to intensify.

    My guess is, the name of the game, long term for smart phone business, would seem to be ‘firstest with the mostest’ when it comes to both market share and to the market of available applications. The thing is, it’s probably easy for developers to modify their apps to fit on other platforms, and so, they have to persist in both areas: market share and size of app base.

  2. Tim Kane
    June 14th, 2010 at 23:10 | #2

    Incidently, it has the same motif as my philips mp3 player: black glass with a grey metalic band.


  3. Daniel
    June 15th, 2010 at 01:52 | #3

    I called Softbank customer service a few hours ago and they still didn’t have information about the upgrade. I hope your information is correct – I’d definitely shell out 300 yen a month for the upgrade – but they told me the purchase price for new customers is 46,000 yen for the 16GB and 57,000 yen for 32GB. That’s triple the price US customers pay. So I’d be surprised if the upgrade was that cheap.

    Well, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!

  4. Troy
    June 15th, 2010 at 05:50 | #4

    Apple’s ID is really beginning to remind me of Sony’s (the Clie) from last decade.


    I have an iPod Touch 1G & another iPod 3GS, and an iPad, but I really really want to get this iPhone 4.

    The only thing to wait for now is USB3 connectivity.

  5. matthew
    June 15th, 2010 at 08:26 | #5

    My thoughts exactly. When I get the new Iphone 4—i jailbreak my old one. A perfect situation. LOL

  6. Luis
    June 15th, 2010 at 09:15 | #6


    That’s the price for outright purchase–without a 2-year contract. With a contract, you get a monthly discount of 1,920 yen for 24 months, adding up to 46,080, the total price of the 16 GB iPhone 4. The 32 GB model costs 57,600, so the 46,080 discount leaves 11,520, which, over 24 months, comes out to 480 yen. Add 300 yen to either deal per month for “keeping the same number,” and you have the deal I outlined.

    See the rundown (Japanese only now, sorry) on this page:


    They mention the 1,920 yen monthly discount, but not the additional 300 yen fee.

    I still could have it wrong somehow, having missed some glaring detail somewhere, but I am pretty sure I didn’t.

  7. Daniel
    June 15th, 2010 at 12:09 | #7

    I called Softbank earlier (after going in to the store, where they had no information whatsoever) and they told me that if I upgrade I have to pay the full amount for the phone (broken down into monthly chunks, though whether they’ll actually let me do that is questionable – for the 3G I had to pay the full 80,000 yen upfront) and then receive a discount of 980 yen per month. So the extra charge would be 1,000 yen per month. They didn’t mention a 300 yen charge for keeping the phone number.

    I think it really sucks that they didn’t release the pricing information until preorder day – it means we have just a few hours to decide whether or not to enter a two-year commitment. Not to mention the conflicting details that suggest that some of us will end up getting better deals than others. I’m inclined to hold off until Softbank gets it straight, quite frankly.

    Thanks for the info!

  8. June 15th, 2010 at 13:02 | #8

    They’re basically doing this here in the States, too. If you presently have an iPhone and your contract isn’t up yet, but it ends at some point in 2010, then AT&T will let you “out” of that contract to get into an iPhone 4.

    It’s all about the Android phones. With Froyo, version 2.2 of the Android OS, they’re really hitting their stride and are extremely strong competition for the iPhone.

    In fact, some people think that the HTC EVO, the first 4G phone being sold (it’s on Sprint/Clearwire’s WIMAX 4G network) is superior to the iPhone.

    It’s got a bigger screen, fast processor, front and back cameras, shoots HD video, can be a WiFi hotspot for 8 devices, blazing speeds, etc etc etc.

    The EVO’s biggest problem is battery life, but there’s already a bunch of hacks out there that let you strip away the Sprint-added shell and redo the phone’s radio baseband (which controls how much it “talks” to the cellular network) and also load up new ROM software on the phone.

    With far better integration with Google’s various software (including Google Voice), the Android devices have a lot going for them compared with an iPhone- even an iPhone 4.

    That said, since it appears that the hacker community already has stuff worked up to keep iPhones jailbroken and allow tethering when iOS4 comes out, I suspect that I’ll be sticking with the iPhone and upgrading… probably tomorrow, in fact. :)

  9. CH
    June 15th, 2010 at 15:51 | #9

    How about the fact that if you only have the foreigner registration card and passport as id, they won’t give you a contract, if you have less than 26 months left on your visa? Even with your credit card as security! I ran into this issue on the weekend when trying to get an ipad.

  10. Troy
    June 15th, 2010 at 16:22 | #10


    man that sucks! You can only buy a phone every 3 years???

    Reminds me of when I went to Tsutaya and rented 15 CDs for the weekend on just my ARC and the rental fee. Couldn’t believe they trusted me, and back then (1999) nobody had credit cards so they couldn’t hold a deposit on me.

  11. Troy
    June 15th, 2010 at 16:28 | #11


    but there’s already a bunch of hacks out there that let you strip away the Sprint-added shell and redo the phone’s radio baseband (which controls how much it “talks” to the cellular network) and also load up new ROM software on the phone

    LOL. Geeks need to understand that mucking around with tech like that is so 20th century.

    The EVO core strength is the 4G network and the hotspot capability. As a phone I don’t think it can compete with Apple’s stuff since the EVO is just another fragmentation of the platform, a shard if you will (using the WoW reference). Android has too many shards as it is.

    iPhone 4 is solidly in the center of the future course of the platform. It is very nicely backward compatible with the previous generation and also sideways compatible with the iPad. Apple’s A4 does a very good job of giving developers a very solid graphics capability without breaking the heat and energy budget, and its APIs are awesome and getting even better.

  12. Daniel
    June 15th, 2010 at 19:36 | #12

    Well, I give up.

    I got to the Softbank store at 6pm and there were about 30 people waiting while just two clerks manned the counter. Everyone had numbered tickets, but when I asked for one, the store staff said to “wait”. I did for five minutes or so, but like I say: 30 people, two clerks. And when I went back an hour or so later, their computer system had crashed. I was given a number, but told it would take three or four days before they could take my reservation.

    In the meantime I called customer services to find out the cost of an upgrade. It’s tiered depending on how long you’ve had your current phone. I bought my iPhone – paid 80,000 yen upfront – in Nov 2008, but they reset my contract when I changed my number in Aug last year (which in itself was a major ordeal). So they count me as having had my phone for 10 months, which would qualify me for a monthly service discount of 920 yen. In fact I’ve had the phone for a year and a half, so should get the discount of 1,220 yen. That’s a difference of nearly 8,000 yen over two years – not major, but considering I paid 80,000 yen for my handset just weeks before they became heavily discounted, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth.

    Interestingly, if I’d been on the same Softbank contract with the same phone number for three years (or 300 years) but had upgraded my phone six months ago, the service discount would be the same 920 yen – ie, they would count from when I last got a new phone, not a new contract. In my case I got a new phone a year and a half ago, but they’re counting from when I last signed a contract, not when I purchased the handset. Which just goes to show, Softbank will use whichever rule suits them best…

    So anyway, I either swallow my principles and accept the extra 300 yen a month, or wait till the end of August for my contract to have lasted a year and upgrade then. Cheers Softbank!

  13. Luis
    June 15th, 2010 at 20:48 | #13


    Just try again tomorrow morning, different branch. There’s a ton of them, should be no problem.

    I wanted to reserve one tonight, but had different problems. There was a school activity until 7:15, and the Shinjuku SoftBanks were jammed. I got on the best trains home I could–two transfers, two of the trains expresses–but the SoftBank store said they stopped taking people at 8pm sharp. They did let me fill out a form, and I am supposed to come back at 10 am tomorrow morning.

    I think the problem came from Apple: SoftBank was probably forced to wait until 5pm to start taking reservations so as to match the NYC opening time or something–which was stupid, as SoftBank only had 3 business hours to sell phones. At least they could have extended their hours or something.

    I also got conflicting stories about the 300 yen surcharge. Everyone agreed the 16GB model was subsidized down to 0 yen, but there were several different stories about surcharges or keep-the-same-number fees or whatever.

    Maybe tomorrow will run more smoothly.

  14. Troy
    June 16th, 2010 at 01:01 | #14

    Apple’s website was timing me out after like 10 seconds of inactvity.

    I should buy AAPL, LOL.

  15. Alex
    June 23rd, 2010 at 18:30 | #15

    To clarify few points , people seem to be disinformed / or incapable of reading thru softbank website.

    Iphone contract with softbank have 2 financial sides one is the contract,second is the phone itself.

    If you have paid for the phone fully when bought,then all you deal with is the contract which you can change after 6month use or you can just keep as it is.
    In case you received the softbank discount service, you will be charged back for the reminder of the discount

    If your phone was installment based and got automatically discounted , then all you pay is the reminder (non discounted)
    For example my I phone was the one bought at 3000+ with 1920yen discount service
    to get iphone 4 I will have to pay the reminder which is 3000 x amount of time left of my old phone

    Makes perfect sense.

    Now iphone 4 will be free with 2 year commitment and installment payment (16gb) or 400+ yen a month with 2 year commitment and installment payment(32gb)

    Actually I believe they dont offer full payment anymore so its only installment pricing really.

  16. Steve
    June 24th, 2010 at 18:12 | #16

    I stopped by Softbank today in Okinawa, they said you simply pay double, till your current contract is paid off. In my case, I have one yr on a 3gs contract left, so for one year, I pay double the cost of the phone (not the data fee of course) for a new 2 yr iphone 4 contract. I guess that amounts to about 2,000¥ per month for 1 year to pay off the 3gs and get a new IP4.

  17. Cody
    June 27th, 2010 at 17:58 | #17


    I had the same issue. I was going to reserve an iPhone and make the switch from AU as soon as it comes in (which at this point they’re quoting 2-3 months if you didn’t get one in the initial go-round), but when I said I only have my foreigner card/passport she said oh you can’t get a discounted rate/contract from us. That’s pretty damn ridiculous. I believe she was saying something about a drivers license, but I’m not going out and getting one just so I can have a damn iPhone. And also considering I wouldn’t be worrying about extending my Visa til next year…

    What do they do for folks who only get a 1 year visa for their stay in Japan? Say you can’t have phones from us?

  18. CH
    June 27th, 2010 at 19:20 | #18

    Essentially that seems to be it, even if you’re paying with your Japanese credit card. It’s difficult to understand clear policy when talking to Softbank staff. There seems to be a serious lack of critical thinking on their part, they can’t seem to give a reason for the visa policy, when someone with a week left on their visa and a Japanese drivers licence can waltz in and get one, it’s madness! I’ve been a perfect customer for 8 years.

  19. Alex
    June 29th, 2010 at 11:34 | #19

    lol,just got off the phone with softbank,according to their reps any preorder who has not received the phone will be looking at 6 weeks from now on.

    Thats a bit ridiculous considering they actually sold it in shops on launch day, and should be sued for it really, since that represents really bad customer services.

    Since my current phone is hardly working and fighting with it another 6 weeks seems bit stuppid… any other suggestions?

    Docomo got any good headsets recently?

  20. Luis
    June 29th, 2010 at 13:20 | #20

    Holy crap. 6 weeks? That’s pretty damned intolerable. I intend to call SoftBank myself and see if that can be corroborated, and otherwise will start looking around at stores like Yodobashi or whatever. But to take preorders and, if you got in in the 4th hour you still have to wait a month and a half… that’s not kosher. I could have had one by now if I had had any clue.

    When I signed up, they gave me the impression that it was still something I could cancel–they would cancel the order if you did not pick it up within 5 days, for example. Maybe I will see if I can find one elsewhere, and if so, then cancel the original order.

    Alas, I get the feeling that it won’t be available any better otherwise, either.

  21. Alex
    June 29th, 2010 at 13:32 | #21

    Well that the 157 dial,and I got the 6 weeks figure when I explained that my phone doesn’t work for the last month or so (board half dead) and all I got is my company’s BB so I actually do need the iphone.

    Anyhow,I reckon I will pay a visit to the shop I preordered at after the lunch rush is over,got no meetings today so I can spare an hour to try and claw my way in (specially cause all I want is the seemingly better available 16gb model)

  22. Jp
    June 29th, 2010 at 19:59 | #22

    How did you get a figure of 6 weeks from them? I made a reservation on the first day but didn’t receive my phone so called the shop and the guy said he had no idea. Called softbank and they also said they had no idea. Tried again last night and the softbank guy said he has no info from HQ or Apple so just keep checking the softbank website for updates

  23. Luis
    June 29th, 2010 at 21:19 | #23

    I think that it tends to be person to person. I think the company line is, “we don’t know,” but one person may have heard “6 weeks” somewhere. I stopped by the Shinjuku Minami branch today to ask, and was told 6 weeks–if I ordered today. They said that at that branch, they were about halfway through fulfilling the orders made there the second day of pre-ordering (so had I gone to that branch, I’d have had my phone by now).

    This is frustrating because (a) I have no idea if it will come tomorrow or in a month, and (b) in the U.S., current Apple Store orders are served in 1-2 weeks. People who order now in the U.S. could get their iPhones sooner than I will get from pre-ordering 2 weeks in advance!

    I think Apple is definitely under-supplying Japan.

  24. alex
    June 29th, 2010 at 22:48 | #24

    I explained how i got the 6 weeks figure

  25. John
    July 1st, 2010 at 13:31 | #25

    Will be traveling to Tokyo next week on holiday. Thinking about getting a unlocked iphone4.
    Will it be possible to buy a iphone4 upright without contract from soft bank. Own the iPhone and use it abroad.

    So all I need is to show my passport to buy the iPhone at soft bank. Do you know if there is a minimum charge for the phone line.

  26. Luis
    July 1st, 2010 at 14:02 | #26


    I don’t think that buying the iPhone is the problem, I think that finding one will be a bear. Softbank is currently quoting a 4-6 week wait for getting an iPhone if ordered today.

    As to the other issues, I don’t know, but you might find answers in the “Mobile in Japan” forum:


  27. Jp
    July 1st, 2010 at 14:36 | #27

    Just picked mine up this morning. They called me last night at 7:30 to let me know it was ready to be picked up

  28. Luis
    July 1st, 2010 at 14:45 | #28


    May I ask, when did you apply (first day? early or late?) and which branch? I checked with Shinjuku Minami, they claimed they have already supplied people who applied later than I did… I seem to have chosen a sucky branch.

  29. Jp
    July 1st, 2010 at 15:21 | #29

    I ordered mine just before they closed on the first day of ordering at the minoo branch in Osaka

  30. Luis
    July 1st, 2010 at 15:29 | #30

    Hmmm… Ok, thanks, that’s a bit heartening–I ordered mine first thing as they opened up the second day in Hibarigaoka. Hopefully, there’s some track between branches. I guess I’ll find out.

  31. Luis
    July 2nd, 2010 at 10:26 | #31

    Just got the call from SoftBank–eight days after the initial release, they finally got it in. Hopefully I’ll have enbough time to go in and get it this morning…

    Interestingly, I haven’t even had a chance to see one up close yet–just saw someone on a train holding one, is all. Well, off to get it…

  32. Luis
    July 4th, 2010 at 22:55 | #32

    Anyone else get their iPhone 4 recently?

  33. Rob
    July 21st, 2010 at 16:55 | #33

    You misunderstood some details…

    1. You don’t start paying for the new phone after you finish the current one, you start paying at the same time. For example, if the new one is 500 yen per month (after discount), then you will be paying the rate for your old phone (say 1000 yen) for it’s remaining four months, plus the price of the new phone, for a total of 1500 yen per month, until the old phone is paid off. What’s more, the discount on the phone will be discontinued as soon as you start using your iphone. This means if your old phone was 3000 yen per month, minus a 2000 yen discount, you will be paying 1000 yen per month prior to the iDhone upgrade, and 3000 yen per month for the old phone after the iPhone upgrade. This is still better than making you pay off the old phone in a lump sum before you can upgrade, however.

    2. I am not sure what you were talking about with the new number. If you get a new line, then it won’t change anything, except you will have to pay service fees for both lines – it will cost more. If you cancel the old one, then you will have to deal with the inconvenience of changing your number, and also pay the lump sum of anything that’s due on your old contract.

    As for the commenter who said the prices are triple the US price – look again, the prices mentioned in the article are the ACTUAL prices, not the “free phone” type prices. I am sure you can’t put an iPhone 4 for $200 without contract in the US. The price with contract is about free for the 16GB in Japan, is that more than in the US? Not only that, but you don’t have to buy into any specific data plan, you can continue to use your existing phone plan. (i.e. you can even get it with NO data plan if you know you will be around WiFi or have a portable WiFi hotspot).

  34. Rob
    July 21st, 2010 at 17:03 | #34

    Well this is simple, really, you can apply one of two ways:

    1. As a foreigner – You need a credit card and a Passport and a Resident Alien ID. This proves that you are who you say you are, that they can get your money, and that you have the right to be in the country for at least as long as the contract you are signing up for.

    2. As a (assumed) Japanese – You just use whatever ID any Japanese people would use, Including a Health Insurance Card, Japanese Passport (which obviously you can’t), Japanese Driver’s License, Inkan Registration Certificate, etc. Then you can pay by Japanese credit card *or* bank account. (They will accept bank account since they trust you to stay long enough then if you have appropriate Japanese ID).

    The “critical thinking” here is that if you don’t have enough appropriate ID to register normally, they allow you to register as a foreigner, but then there are additional restrictions. I’m sure they’ve had it happen more than once that some 22 year old hormone happy Nova instructor showed up and bought an expensive phone on a two year contract, and then disappeared two months later back to their home country.

  35. Kev
    August 15th, 2010 at 21:09 | #35

    It seems cheaper in Japan than U.S
    U.S around $700, $800
    Japan around $450, $600.

    Go figure…

  36. xbxyq260
    October 16th, 2010 at 19:22 | #36

    you were right about that daniel youll just endup always surprising about unexpected over pricing bill,just what iam experincing right now.i have wirelees net at home which in my own knowledge,using wifi will make my sending mail for free until recently i foundout turning on your cellular data on will just split the 3G signal and the charge will go on.now i pay off my own ignorance

  37. xbxyq260
    October 16th, 2010 at 19:22 | #37

    you were right about that daniel youll just endup always surprising about unexpected over pricing bill,just what iam experincing right now.i have wirelees net at home which in my own knowledge,using wifi will make my sending mail for free until recently i foundout turning on your cellular data on will just split the 3G signal and the charge will go on.now i pay off my own ignorance

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