Some 3G flip phones to become unusable soon in Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
3G flip phone models are seen in December 2013.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Traditional flip mobile phones, dubbed “garakei,” a staple of the days before the arrival of the iPhone in Japan, will become unusable in a few years due to the termination of 3G telecommunications services.

KDDI Corp. will stop 3G radio wave transmission for flip phones at the end of March, followed by SoftBank Corp. in late January 2024 and NTT Docomo Inc. at the end of March 2026. From April 1, “out of service” indications will appear on the screens of KDDI’s garakei phones.

The company had several million 3G contracts at the end of March last year. With their contracts canceled automatically on April 1, the subscribers will no longer be charged services fees but will be unable to make calls or use email.

Photos and other data stored in handsets will be preserved. As contract information will be maintained until the end of June, the subscribers can conclude new contracts while keeping their phone numbers during the period.

KDDI is calling on subscribers to upgrade to new models, saying the switch is available for free before the automatic contract cancellation.

Giving consideration to users who are accustomed to garakei phones, the company offers garakei-style handsets that are compatible with the 4G wireless networks, the current mainstay service.

But it faces difficulty persuading all 3G subscribers to make the switch, as some want to use their current handsets as long as they are usable.

In Japan, 3G services started in 2001, led by NTT Docomo. With the total number of contracts standing above 120 million at the end of March 2012, garakei phones became the predominant handsets in the country.