Getting an iPhone on July 11 was possible only if you were willing to queue for hours.
As time passes, however, it gets easier to find both the 8GB and 16GB version.
One thing to remember: the Apple Store in Ginza and the online store do not sell iPhones !
Where to buy an iPhone?
I got mine at Softbank in Omotesando, their flagship store, since they offer english-speaking services. It’s on the Omotesando street. You can either drop at the Harakuju station (JR Line) or Meiji-jingumae station (Tokyo Metro)
In Tokyo, you canalso go to the Softbank Shibuya store, the Roppongi store or at the Narita airport mini-store. Just go there to check the closest to your place.
Some people have had no problem registering in English at either Bic Camera (english list of stores) or Yodobashi Camera. Some smaller shops have their iPhones and since most clerks are always very helpful, you can try your luck there (just don’t expect english-speaking clerks everywhere).
At the time of this writing, still expect some queues in some shops.
What to bring with you ?
First of all, you must be a resident in Japan to get your iPhone. There’s no prepaid option for it.
Since Softbank seem to alter their policies every two days, play it on the safe side, bring:
1) your passport
2) your alien registration card
3) your credit card
1) bring the passport that has the visa included, not another form of ID (I know, it might be possible only to bring your health insurance card or your driver’s license, but be sure that it will fly with the clerks before queuing for two hours…)
2) Your alien registration card should have the address where you’re actually living, otherwise bring a residential registration certificate, a public utilities receipt or any printed matter issued by goverment or public offices.
3) Your CC should have more than two years of validity time ahead. International CCs will also be accepted.
This is certainly where Softbank has altered its policy the most in the first month. Normally, it should be enough to bring your ATM card if you have a Japanese bank/post account, but it will now be most likely refused (since end-July, clerks even hand you a registration form when you queue that explicitly announces the credit card necessity, so no need to complain that it’s not written on Softbank’s website).
You can workaround the CC payment only if you’re ready to pay the full price for the iPhone (no discount on the actual phone). The 16GB will come at around JPY 80,000. Note that with that solution, your ATM card will, magically, be sufficient for monthly subscription payment.
In any case, you have the ability to request a change from CC to your bank account after your first month.
On a more general view, it seems Softbank was viewing the iPhone as more directed towards foreigners and took the steps of CC payment to avoid customers leaving before the end of their contract.
On a side note, paying the JPY 80,000 upfront means that you will end up paying the same amount after two years than if you had payed the monthly fee (the discount system is altered).
How long it will take ?
Let’s discount the queuing, but be ready to stay at least 90 minutes in the shop for a new contract. It’s painfully slow and bureaucratic, but most of the clerks I had to deal with were very nice.
How much will it cost ?
The pricing plans from Softbank need a PhD to be understood.
First of all, the new contract will cost you approx JPY 2,840, billable on your first month.
The basic plan is called White Plan and allows free national communications between 1AM to 9PM between Softbank users: JPY 960/month. Double White Plan costs twice as much and offers some rebate on calls made outside of the SB network.
The mandatory Packet Flat Rate will cost you JPY 5,985/month and allows you unlimited data transfers.
SB just announced a new pricing plan (not even a month after their first one !) that basically makes this 5,985 the max. cost of the plan, it might cost you only JPY 1,695/month if you’re using less than …2MB a month. At 10MB approx, you reach the plan ceiling. Seems however that with this plan, the phone will cost you more when you buy it.
The S! Basic Back is also mandatory at JPY 315/month. It brings you the voicemail basically.
As for the phone itself: the 16GB will cost you JPY 34,560 and the 8GB JPY 23,040.
All in all, it’s approx JPY 7,280/month, plus the JPY 2,840 contract, plus the phone.
If you really want to understand the discount pricing policy of SB, let’s have a coffee sometimes. Let’s say a Vodka. And make it a double.