As the yen dips, gadget-loving Japan goes for second-hand iPhones

TOKYO, Nov. 8 (Reuters) – For years, Japanese shoppers have eagerly craved the latest gadgets, but now a tumbling yen has made new iPhones out of reach for some and a growing second-hand business in a key market for Apple Inc (AAPL. O).

The Japanese currency’s decline to its 32-year low against the dollar has put pressure on consumers and accelerated a broader shift in spending in the world’s No. 3 economy. Industry watchers say Japanese shoppers are more open to second-hand purchases, thanks in part to the rise of online auction sites.

In July, Apple increased the price of the entry-level iPhone 13 by almost a fifth. The standard iPhone 14 later debuted 20% more than the iPhone 13, even though the price in the US remained stable at $799. While the dollar has risen sharply against global currencies this year, the yen has been particularly affected, with a drop of 22%.

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

“At over 100,000 yen, the iPhone 14 is too expensive and I just can’t afford it. It would be fine if the battery lasts 10 years,” he said. The iPhone SE 2, released in 2020 but without the dual camera on the back of the iPhone 14, was a “good balance” between cost and features, he said.

Apple declined to comment on this story. But in an annual registration filing last month, it said sales in Japan fell 9% in the year ended Sept. 24 due to the weakness of the yen.

Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, admitted to analysts last month that the strong dollar had led to price increases for its products in some countries, but sales were still up double digits in Indonesia, Vietnam and other affected markets. with currency challenges.

Used smartphone sales in Japan grew nearly 15% to a record 2.1 million in the past fiscal year and are likely to reach 3.4 million by 2026, according to technology market research firm MM Research Institute.


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

“Until now I only bought new phones, this is the first time I buy second-hand,” says the 23-year-old. “The new models are expensive.”

Even after the price hikes, the iPhone 14 sold in Japan is the cheapest of 37 countries when tax is taken into account, MM Research Institute said in a September survey. More yen weakness could prompt Apple to raise prices again, the research firm said, potentially denting its hefty 50% share of Japan’s smartphone market.

The price of the latest iPhones is now above 100,000 yen, a “major psychological barrier” for many shoppers, said Daisuke Inoue, chief executive of Belong Inc, part of trading house Itochu Corp. (8001.T) that sells used phones. and tablets online.

Average sales on Belong’s Nicosuma e-commerce site have tripled since Apple increased prices in July compared to the average of the previous three months, Inoue said. At the Belong operations center outside Tokyo, shipments of used phones were unboxed and sorted before being inspected, sorted and cleaned by rows of workers at long tables.

The phones were then photographed from multiple angles for sale online. Belong uses Itochu’s global network to find used devices in Japan and abroad, depending on where the best prices are, Inoue said.

Some devices are bought from companies, such as tablets previously used for payments in cafes or displays in taxis, he said.

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 spokesperson for Mercari, Inc (4385.T) said.

Now that Japan has reopened to foreign tourists, the second-hand iPhone market is getting a new boost.

Retail chain Iosys Co Ltd has seen an increase in foreign tourists buying used iPhones in the past two months.

“The yen continues to weaken,” Iosys chief executive Takashi Okuno said. “That trend of visiting Japan and buying an iPhone is coming back.”

($1 = 147,1200 yen)

Additional reporting by Kohei Miyazaki in Zama, Japan and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Writing by David Dolan; Edited by Lincoln Feast

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