Cell Phone Carriers in Japan are Weird

On Sept. 10th, Apple announced the iPhone 5s and 5c (yay). I’ve been waiting since I arrived to Tokyo in June to sign-up for a Japanese mobile because of the iPhone.

Japan has three major carriers: NTT DoCoMo, KDDI / au and Softbank.
KDDI and Softbank have carried the iPhone and the only major carrier that was holding out was DoCoMo — which according to everyone I’ve asked around me, has the most superior network.

In the US, I think DoCoMo would be Verizon. KDDI is AT&T and Softbank is Tmobile or Sprint.
I found market share charts over on a Mobile in Japan blog (thanks, Paul) and took screen shots of the pie charts.

This is what the market share was like in 2006:

Screenshot_9_14_13_7_37_PM

Then, in August 2013:

Screenshot_9_14_13_7_38_PM

As it’s pointed out, a lot has changed and following this trajectory, DoCoMo had no choice but to carry the new iPhones or their market share would keep decreasing.

Whatever — that’s fine. I’m not really interested in Japanese mobile economics.
I mean, if you ask me, all three carriers have major sub numbers, considering the population in Japan.

What really annoys me, is that everything in Japan is backwards. For example, in the US, carriers give new subscribers incentives such as special pricing or handset discounts…makes new customers feel welcome. In Japan, mobile carriers reward returning subscribers.

In particular DoCoMo is a bit bizarre as they are only allowing returning VIP customers to reserve the 5c online. New customers or non-VIP customers are treated like second class citizens and I guess we have to wait in line or something. Fine, whatever. I’m planning to get the 5s which can’t be reserved so it doesn’t matter too much.

Then when they announced their pricing plan*, it made me not want to choose DoCoMo, even if apparently they have the most superior network.

New customers have to pay a monthly fee of 6,030 yen (apprx $60 USD) plus voice, while returning customers only have to pay a monthly fee of 4,200 yen (apprx $43 USD) plus voice.

That’s almost a $20 difference. WTF.
Oh well, I guess I’ll wait until the 20th to see which carrier offers the best price plan to decide which company to go with.

*source (in Japanese)

[EDIT] Update: the news article I got the pricing from, updated the post and apparently this is only student pricing. I feel a lot better now!

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