Yes, iPhone Carrier Subsidies in Japan are Officially Dead: New Docomo Data Plans

The writing has been on the wall for over a year now, and sluggish iPhone XR sales only confirmed the fact, that iPhone carrier subsidies in Japan which have defined the industry since 2008, were dying. Today’s Docomo announcement unveiled new plans that discard all the complexity of previous plans like ‘FOMA’, ‘Xi’ and ‘docomo with’ all of which disappear on May 31, with 2 simple choices:

  • Giga-Ho: ¥4,980 a month for 30GB
  • Giga-Lite: ¥1,980 a month for 1GB with other date tiers available, 3GB@3,980, 5GB@4,980, 7GB@5,980

Docomo customers can apply for the plans from the Docomo web site or a Docomo shop starting May 22, service starts June 1. There are many configurations and new options available, from home internet bundle discounts to new family data sharing. And it looks like tethering fees are gone. Depending on the configuration savings can be as large as 40% compared to previous plans.

At first glance customers will still need to do some homework via the online cost simulator (something that Japanese love to do), or visit the nearest Docomo shop to find the configuration that fits your needs while giving the best discount. This is just part 1 of the continuing saga of data plans without subsidies. At the end of the announcement Docomo said stay tuned for more. KDDI au and SoftBank should be announcing new plans soon, and we’ll get Docomo part 2 when the new iPhones come out this fall.

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SoftBank Launching iPhone XR Happy Price Campaign January 30

It looks like Apple is working with Japanese carriers to drum up iPhone XR sales. Docomo already issued a limited iPhone XR discount campaign in December aimed mainly at carrier switchers. Today’s SoftBank announcement of the “iPhone XR Happy Price Campaign” that launches on January 30 appears to be a broader ¥10,800 discount for customers who purchase a iPhone XR with a 2 year contract. However the campaign page says nothing about upgrades. I guess the devil will be in the details.

As Tim Cook mentioned in his letter to investors, carrier subsidies are going away in other markets and Japan as well. Docomo, KDDI au and SoftBank are in a transition away from subsides under pressure from the Japanese Government to get consumer monthly data and voice costs down.

PayPay Troubles Quash QR Code Hype

SoftBank’s network meltdown was only the start of QR Code PayPay troubles. The 100 Million Yen giveaway startup campaign that was supposed to run December 4~March 31 was suddenly and unceremoniously shutdown at 11:59 pm December 13. The official excuse was that 100 million yen had been given away, but then Japanese tweets started appearing complaining of credit card holders charged for PayPay purchased items that they did not purchase. There were also reports that store staff were not checking customer IDs which they are supposed to do with PayPay purchases over 30,000 JPY. Last but not least once you register a PayPay account, there is no way to delete it.

2 days later top Japanese tech journalists Tsutsumu Ishikawa and Junya Suzuki started to pick up the story on Twitter. PayPay PR answers to Suzuki san’s questions were particularly damning: PayPay apparently allowed unlimited attempts to register credit card numbers and security code numbers, reported credit card fraud cases are “in the double digits” but PayPay does not have a handle on the problem and requests that anybody with suspicious credit card PayPay charges to contact the company (good luck with the user unfriendly ‘Help’ page). Yomiuri later reported that card frauders apparently used stolen card identities to register PayPay accounts with unlimited security code attempts. PayPay PR says this security lapse has been fixed.

Ishikawa san summed it up nicely: somehow it’s so ‘SoftBank’ that the very campaign meant to kick start a QR Code payment boon in Japan ends up destroying the opportunity to do so.