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Japan’s Gadget-Lovers Turn to Old iPhones as Yen Tumbles

The latest iPhones are now priced above the 100,000 yen level, seen as a ‘major psychological barrier’ by many Japanese

KDDI shares declined about 4% on Monday after a telecom service outage, the biggest such system failure in the wireless carrier's history.
Secondhand trade for Apple Inc in Japan has grown as the yen fell to a 32-year low against the dollar. Photo: Issei Kato, Reuters.


Japanese shoppers have turned to more affordable second-hand iPhones as a tumbling yen puts the price of new models out of reach for many.

The second-hand trade for Apple Inc products in Japan has grown with the yen falling to a 32-year low against the US dollar.

As a results, industry watchers say Japan’s shoppers have become more open to buying second-hand, thanks in part to the rise of online auction sites.


iPhone Price Spike

In July, Apple hiked the price of the entry-level iPhone 13 by nearly a fifth. The basic iPhone 14 later debuted at 20% more than the iPhone 13 did. While the dollar has surged against global currencies this year, the yen has been particularly hit, dropping 22%.

Kaoru Nagase wanted a new phone but couldn’t justify the price of a iPhone 14, which starts at 119,800 yen ($814). Instead, he bought a used iPhone SE 2 in Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district for less than a third of that.

“At more than 100,000 yen the iPhone 14 is too expensive and I just can’t afford it. It would be fine if the battery lasted for 10 years,” he said.

100,000 Yen Barrier

Taishin Chonan bought a used iPhone 13 after the screen cracked on one of the two devices he carries for personal use. The replacement has a higher resolution and a better battery and camera than the iPhone 7 he had been using.

“Up until now I’d only ever bought new phones, this is my first time buying used,” the 23-year-old said. “The new models are expensive.”

The latest iPhones are now priced above the 100,000 yen level that is a “major psychological barrier” for many shoppers, said Daisuke Inoue, chief executive of Belong Inc, a unit of trading house Itochu Corp.

Changing Attitudes

Many Japanese have traditionally been wary of second-hand items, including electronics, but that is changing.

Marketplace site Mercari has seen strong growth in sales of used smartphones, while sales of home appliances and electronics have also grown, a company spokesperson said.

With Japan open again to foreign tourists, the second-hand iPhone market is getting another boost.

“The yen just keeps weakening,” said Iosys executive Takashi Okuno. “That trend of visiting Japan and buying an iPhone is coming back.”

Apple declined request for comment.

  • Reuters, with additional editing from Alfie Habershon


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Alfie Habershon

Alfie is a Reporter at Asia Financial. He previously lived in Mumbai reporting on India's economy and healthcare for data journalism initiative IndiaSpend, as well as having worked for London based Tortoise Media.


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