• Kyodo, Bloomberg


Apple Inc.’s newest iPhone models went on sale Friday in Japan ahead of their debut in the United States and other countries later in the day, with NTT Docomo Inc. offering the popular handsets for the first time.

The three-way battle to attract subscribers between DoCoMo, the nation’s largest mobile phone carrier, and its two archrivals, Softbank Mobile Corp. and KDDI Corp., which already offer iPhones, is likely to further intensify given the handsets’ continued popularity.

“I started lining up five days ago,” said Sachihisa Saishiki, 45, who runs his own business and has camped outside the Ginza Apple store in Tokyo on at least six previous times.

“I was with a group of 10, and we took turns going out for food, going back home to take showers. I spent time sleeping out here, too, lying down on a cardboard box,” he said after buying a gold top-of-the-line iPhone 5s.

Katsuki Tochi, a 37-year-old salaryman outside the Ginza store who purchased black and white versions of the iPhone 5s, said: “This is the second time for me to line up here, but it feels like there’s more people this time than the last time. I love Apple, their design is great.”

The two new models are the premier iPhone 5s, which features a fingerprint security sensor to unlock it, and the lower-priced iPhone 5c.

DoCoMo is offering the 16-gigabyte version of the iPhone 5s effectively for free on a two-year contract by discounting monthly fees. The carrier will apply the same discount for both 16- and 32-gigabyte models of the iPhone 5c.

Softbank and KDDI also offer the 16-gigabyte iPhone 5s and 5c handsets effectively for free with two-year contracts, but only to new subscribers.

DoCoMo has seen an exodus of subscribers who switched to iPhone handsets first offered in Japan by Softbank, and later by KDDI. The company had long been reluctant to introduce the device, as Apple is said to have strong influence in pricing and supplies. But DoCoMo came to an agreement with the U.S. tech giant, which faces tough market conditions overseas in a battle with South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co.

The new iPhones were to go on sale later Friday in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, France, Britain and the United States. It’s the first time Apple is rolling out its flagship product for sale in China on the same day as other main markets, as the company seeks to lure new customers in the world’s largest mobile-phone market.

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