Monday, February 1, 2010

Using the Google's Nexus One in Japan

We just received another question from a reader, this time regarding Google's Nexus One phone.  Specifically, the reader asks if we know whether this phone will be available in Japan and when.  The short answer is we have no idea.  Yes, softbank has announced they will release an Android phone this year, but no details have been released.  Given the timing of softbank's announcement, I doubt they had the N1 in mind, since it was not even a rumor at the time.

For now, the N1 can be used in Japan, but only on softbank.  Unless someone absolutely needs to purchase a new phone now, I would wait a few months to see if Docomo does indeed allow foreign phones to be registered and used on its 3G network.  Commenters report getting much slower data transfer rates on a docomo HT-03a when switching it to softbank.

An xda member and sometime commenter on this blog had this to say on the subject of using the N1 in Japan.
I can confirm the Nexus works fine on Softbank, for people with black Softbank sims with unlimited iphone data. The black sim APN details are easily google-able. One comparison I made though, Softbank browsing and internet speed was so terrible it did cramp the Nexus a little. Browsing and data felt slower on the Nexus on Softbank than the 03a on Docomo, despite the Nexus being a much faster handset.
Other commenters on this blog have mentioned that SIM cards for the X-series softbank smart phones will also work with Android phones and that it is possible to walk into a store and apply for a plan, but no one has commented directly on using these SIMs with the N1.

Also, keep in mind that the APN for the X-series gray/silver SIM cards is different from the APN for the iPhone with the black SIM cards.  Both require a subscription to the packet flat-rate full plan for the iPhone and X-series phones. DO NOT, under any circumstances whatsoever try to use a softbank SIM if you are subscribed to the regular, unlimited packet discount plan for non-smartphones because very unpleasant things will happen.

One last thing, not that I should be pointing out typos and grammar mistakes as this blog is littered with them, but anyone else notice the that on the English flat-rate plan page at softbank, iPhone is misspelled?


  1. That's amazing I just wrote you an e-mail and you posted an entire article to answer me.

    Thank you very much for the precious comments.


  2. Sadly, I didnt find this post before I ordered my N1. I now have a slick phone with no 3G service (and I dont want to buy an iPhone just for the SIM and data plan either). Oh well. What I found amazing was that I couldnt even get Docomo to admit they were using IMEI filtering on the biz-hodai APN. I'm amazed you coaxed this information out of them! That or you were able to speak with an actual engineer...

  3. Just to be clear, you don't have to buy an iPhone. Check the end of the this thread on xda-developers (if you haven't already). I can't confirm how to get a silver/gray SIM for softbank because I haven't done it. One commenter says he walked in and just got one, but I am now tending not to believe this based on the recent Japanese new articles I read after Docomo's most recent earnings report.

    It seems you could get the cheapest possible softbank dumb phone with the unlimited packet discount plan (BUT DON'T USE IT), and then call them up and ask to be switched to the packet rate full plan for iPhone and X series.

    As I quoted in that thread on XDA, Japanese wikipedia, and we know wikipedia in never wrong ;-), non x-series users can upgrade. (I didn't bother to translate the part about their being no merit to do so because the guy we were trying to help out didn't have the best English and I didn't want to confuse him more than I already had. But, there is indeed merit - from the point of view of an android user.)

    Read the from the third sentence in the second paragraph under the heading this link takes you to on ja wikipeida.

  4. I will keep that in mind. I have been trying very hard to avoid Softbank at all and have currently resigned to subscribing to MZone and hoping that the wi-fi coverage is "good enough" to get me by until Docomo will allow me to register my IMEI. However, if that fails, I will look into moving to Softbank as you suggested.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

  5. No problem. By the way, another way to do it would be to find someone who has an older softbank phone that they don't use any more. Walk in with *that* and you shouldn't have to spend any money on a phone or have any contracts.

    But I feel ya. I hate everything to do with softbank, from yahoo auctions to yahoo bb to that annoying, blinkly-sparkly aberration of a home page

  6. Seems I always find this information "after" I've made a purchase. In this case I have the Nexus One from the states, pulled my SIM out of my (SoftBank) iPhone, set the APN up from another site and all seems to work "except" I can not use the web browser, gmail or other "Internet" needy items (love to know the fix for that btw).

    SoftBank has always been my last choice (I had them back when they were Vodafone too). They just seem to have the weakest signals, most expensive plans and of course buggy/slow 3G networks. We had AU when we lived on Okinawa and they were absolutely by far the best signal, service and price I saw (as an American) down there. But when the iPhone came to Japan, SoftBank was the bandwagon you had to jump on. More than was needed for this post; basically I have a Nexus One here in Japan with SoftBank and it works well, just needs Internet via 3G.

  7. 67comet, sounds like the APN is not set correctly. I'll refrain from posting all the details of the APN here (like the password), but you need to confirm that you have set the APN as the "smile" APN, not the "opensoftbank". The first if for the iPhone black SIMs, and the second is for the X-series silver/gray SIMs.

    If you follow the links here, you will see screenshots showing (in Japanese) where to go on Android 1.6 (assuming it is the same for 2.1 on the N1) to change the APN settings. Keep in mind this links shows setup for the X-series "opensoftbank" APN, but if you are unsure how to set APN details, this will help.

    If you do indeed have the APN set properly, perhaps it is time to discuss here.

  8. If you're talking about the silver u-sim from Softbank, I just went into the store and signed up for one in December. It's working just fine with the smile APN, and haven't gone over the 6k flat rate yet.

  9. Hi All, I am currently using an N1, with a Singtel 3G/data plan, if I'm coming from Singapore to visit Japan, can I use the N1 in Japan without any problem? Please advise.

    Thanks so much!

  10. Hi Kevin, I added a new label called "overseas phones." I'd suggest checking what commenters had to say on these posts and following any links, especially those to xda-developers.

    Right now, the only option you have for using the N1 in Japan is with softbank. Since I have never been a softbank customer, I cannot give details, but according to commenters, the best thing to do is walk into a store with a softbank-branded "dumb-phone" and sign up for a plan. Then, call customer service and switch your data plan to the proper one for smartphones (linked in this post). It may take a few days before your new packet plan is active. Once you confirm that you are on the smartphone unlimited data plan, set the proper APN (which you can find the info for in these posts, comments, and links) and put the softbank SIM into your N1.

    In Akihabara, many stores sell used cell phones. So, if you don't know anyone here that can give you an unused softbank phone, the cheapest thing to do would be to buy a used phone and activate it with softbank. You can buy a "zero yen" phone at a softbank store, but I am thinking that would require a contract.