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iPhone Headed to US Bases in Japan

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A product recall may delay Friday’s expected arrival of iPhones at U.S. base exchanges in Japan, a SoftBank representative said Monday.

He declined to say how many phones have been ordered, but said it would be “sufficient” to cover anticipated sales. However, the recall may delay shipping, said the representative, who did not want to be named due to company policy. SoftBank has exclusive rights to sell iPhones in Japan.

“We hope they’ll be there in time, but we’re not sure,” he said.Apple recalled the USB power adaptors sold in North America and Japan after reports they were prone to breaking, leaving prongs in outlets.

Apple’s 8GB and 16GB versions will be sold at on-base retail outlets at Yokosuka Naval Base, Naval Air Station Atsugi, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Sasebo Naval Base in mainland Japan, and at Kadena Air Base and camps Kinser, Foster, Courtney and Hansen on Okinawa.

Yokota and Misawa air bases and Camp Zama won’t get iPhones until October, due to space upgrades required for product displays, the spokesman said.

“As far as we know, we’ll be the first military exchanges to sell iPhones,” the spokesman said.

He said the company is working to reduce the cost for overseas military customers. Stateside, iPhones retail for $199 and $299 if customers sign up for a two-year AT&T contract.

In Japan — because of the inability to run immediate credit checks — customers may pay for the phone upfront and SoftBank will rebate those who get two-year service contracts, the spokesman said.

This means paying about $600 for the 8GB version and $800 for the 16GB version. Those who elect the SoftBank contract will receive 24 monthly rebates, scaling back the total cost to $200 and $300, respectively, he said.

Zurui’s comment: People under SOFA status can also purchase their phones off-base in order to avoid paying so much initially. Understanding that AAFES contracts the cellular phone services with non-USGOV entities, and those entities receive personal checks from those under SOFA status, I do not see why the contractor and AAFES cannot use the same system to verify whether or not a service member can pay via personal check or using their Star Card as a form of credit check.

The vendor can just as easily use current methods to conduct a familiar type of business transaction. There is no need to have the vendor (Softbank or other) “reimburse” the purchaser.

What happens if the service member deploys to Iraq or Afghanistan and for some reason the monthly payment is delayed or the service member is double-billed, will the “refund” be applied to the charges? Is the “refund” nothing more than a way to “guarantee” payment? AAFES needs to take a look at this policy! 

By the way, my company operated a kiosk at a large AAFES store and I briefly worked as an AAFES employee. I am really curious to know why this is being allowed.

Current iPhone owners should ensure their adaptors have a green dot. If not, replacements will be available Oct. 10 at Apple stories, or can be ordered from the company Web site.

The product was released July 11 in Japan, with buyers snatching up about 200,000 phones in the first two months, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

But sales quickly dropped off because many of the iPhone’s features weren’t new to Japanese customers, who enjoy high-tech phones as a standard, the article said.

Also, the text messaging lacks the “emoji” or emoticon pictures, and the phone as a whole is considered expensive, the article said.

But the SoftBank spokesman said he expects a stronger response from U.S. servicemembers in Japan due to the iPhone’s popularity stateside.

“We anticipate big interest from the military,” he said. “They like the high-level stuff and are very gadget-prone.”

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