Sorry Steve I’m not upgrading to iPhone 12

Japanese iPhone haters cira 2008, Wired updates to the original piece are hilarious btw. Photo by Danny Choo (

I’ve upgraded my iPhone every year since the Japanese debut. Yes, that infamous Brian X Chen ‘Why Japanese Hate the iPhone‘ 2008 Japan launch when a huge line ran from the Omotesando SoftBank store, past Yoyogi Park all the way to Shibuya. This year, for the first time, I am not upgrading.

This is not because of any iPhone 12 Pro shortcoming. It looks like a great device and I’d love the camera upgrade, but things have changed: Face ID sucks in COVID era Tokyo commuting, Japanese carrier subsidies dried up in 2018. We live in an unbundled world so I switched to a 3 year Docomo plan for iPhone 11 and Docomo stopped offering an upgrade program. Oh, and Yahoo Japan Auction went to the dogs long ago. Too many shady Chinese buyers with questionable Yahoo Japan mail accounts asking for direct deals and international shipping. None of this is allowed by Yahoo Japan Auction rules but if you ignore those pesky rule breaking requests they trash your Yahoo Japan Auction rating. It’s not worth the bother.

It used to work like this: 2 year subsidized iPhone contract, upgrade to the newest iPhone, unlock the old iPhone SIM and sell it on Yahoo Japan Auction, use the proceeds to pay off the remaining installment payments on the old iPhone. Rinse, repeat. That was then, this is now. I’ll wait until iPhone Face ID is joined with an iPad Air-like Touch ID side button. That is my iPhone upgrade criteria now because face masks in public are here to stay. It won’t come soon or cheap, but I can wait.

So my apologies to the iPhone guy in the sky. I’ve enjoyed the yearly iPhone upgrade routine over the years. My favorite remains the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone that really made the Japan market, a fun time. We’ll meet again at iPhone 14…or 15.