As yen tumbles, gadget-loving Japan goes for secondhand iPhones


Author: Uranaka Miho

TOKYO (Reuters) – For years, Japanese shoppers have been eager to shell out for the latest gadgets, but now a weaker yen has put new iPhones out of reach for some and sparked an increase in Apple Inc’s second-hand deals in a major market .

The yen fell to a 32-year low against the dollar, weighing on consumers and accelerating a broader spending shift in the world’s third-largest economy. Industry watchers say shoppers in Japan have become more open to buying second-hand goods, thanks in part to the rise of online auction sites.

In July, Apple raised the price of the entry-level iPhone 13 by nearly a fifth. The starting price of the base iPhone 14 is 20% higher than the iPhone 13, although the US price remains at $799. While the dollar has risen sharply against global currencies this year, the yen has been hit particularly hard, falling 22%.

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

“The iPhone 14 at more than 100,000 yen is too expensive for me to buy. It would be nice if the battery lasted for 10 years,” he said. The iPhone SE 2, released in 2020, does not have the dual rear cameras of the iPhone 14 and is a “good balance” of cost and features, he said.

Apple declined to comment for this story. But in an annual regulatory filing last month, sales in Japan fell 9% in the year to Sept. 24 due to a weaker yen.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri also admitted to analysts last month that a strong dollar had led to higher prices for its products in some countries, but sales in Indonesia, Vietnam and other markets facing currency challenges remained at two-tenths of a percent. digit growth.

Second-hand smartphone sales in Japan rose nearly 15 percent last fiscal year to a record 2.1 million and could reach 3.4 million by 2026, according to technology market research firm MM Research Institute.

100,000 yen barrier

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

“I’ve only bought new phones so far, and this is the first time I’ve bought a used phone,” the 23-year-old said. “New models are expensive.”

The MM Research Institute said in a September survey that iPhone 14 sales in Japan were the cheapest among 37 countries when taxes were factored in, even after the price hike. Further weakness in the yen could prompt Apple to raise prices again, which could erode its huge 50 percent share of the Japanese smartphone market, the research firm said.

Daisuke Inoue, chief executive of Belong Inc, a subsidiary of ITOCHU Corporation, a trading company that sells used mobile phones and tablets online, said the latest iPhones are now selling for more than 100,000 yen, which is a “tremendous deal” for many shoppers. Major Psychological Disorders”.

Average sales on Belong’s Nicosuma e-commerce site have tripled from the previous three-month average since Apple raised prices in July, Inoue said. At the Belong fulfillment center outside Tokyo, shipments of used phones are unboxed and sorted, then checked, graded and cleaned by rows of workers at long tables.

These phones are then photographed from multiple angles to sell online. Inoue said Belong uses ITOCHU’s global network to help it source used equipment in Japan and overseas, depending on where the best prices are.

Some of the devices were purchased from businesses, such as tablets previously used for cafe payments or taxi displays, he said.

Traditionally, many Japanese have been wary of second-hand goods, including electronics, but that is changing.

A Mercari, Inc spokesman said second-hand smartphone sales on marketplace site Mercari grew strongly, while sales of home appliances and electronics also rose.

The second-hand iPhone market is getting another boost as Japan reopens to foreign tourists.

Retail chain Iosys Co Ltd has seen a surge in foreign tourists buying used iPhones over the past two months.

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

(1 USD = 147.1200 yen)

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


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