I went to a Softbank shop in Shibuya, Tokyo and asked how much it would cost to upgrade an iPhone 3G to an iPhone 3GS. The clerk told me that for the 16GB model it would be an additional JPY 780 per month for 24 months, totaling JPY 18,720, assuming the continuation of my current contract. That sounded about right to me, given the US prices.
I wanted to see if I could just buy one outright, and slipped into another general electronics store that was selling iPhones from Softbank and other phones. Unfortunately, the clerk in the second store told me that the "discount" you get with a new contract is not valid for the upgrade, so you end up paying a total of about JPY 70,000. Additionally, you cannot just buy a phone in the US and have it activated for use here.
Yep. That's a whopping USD 700.00 for upgrading to an iPhone 3GS from Softbank Japan, and the "after discount" pricing is only for new contracts, not for upgraders. Wow, I'm stunned (while at the same time I'm hoping I'm wrong) at being penalized for wanting to upgrade. What a way to engender loyalty, Softbank.
I guess the only thing to do is to wait until Softbank change the pricing, which they eventually did for the 3G, after some time had passed.
I feel like a lifeless husk that's been trampled on and ground into dust. :-/
24 June 2009 - I've heard conflicting reports on this situation, stating that you can upgrade and that you cannot upgrade in Japan, and that you can or cannot buy iPhones from the US or China and bring them here to use. However, from the Japan Times newspaper this AM, it appears that you will be able to buy an iPhone 3GS with no contract. I assume this is from Apple. The question is, can I just pop my existing SIM in there.
As for the cost, the 16 gigabyte model is priced at ¥11,520, and the 32 GB is ¥23,040, on a special campaign offer, while it retails at ¥23,040 (16 GB) and ¥34,560 (32GB) for those wanting the phone out of contract. —Japan Times 24 June 2009
26 June 2009 - I went to Apple, who told me that, no, despite the statement in the Japan Times you must have a contract. They concurred with Softbank's statement that you'd lose the discount on your 3G, and that you'd end up paying the approx JPY 70,000 yen over two years. What I did learn was that you could do a "kishu henkou" (model change) after you've completed paying off the original 3G. Wow, what a blow.