Thursday, May 13, 2010

Steve Jobs says the Japanese iPad is not SIM locked

EDIT: Thanks to Durf, it is all clear now. When I read the FAQ, my mind just skipped over the part that said "in Japan." So, I read the FAQ as saying "you cannot use a micro-SIM card purchased overseas in the iPad," when it really said "you cannot use a micro-SIM card purchased overseas in the iPad in Japan."

So, I guess that settles it. You can take the damn thing to the US and use it with At&T if you like but you can only use it with Softbank in Japan.

According to a post at mobile in Japan, one of their readers emailed Steve Jobs and got a reply saying:
Actually, the version of iPad sold in Japan does accept international SIMs.
Well that is interesting. So which is it? Apple posts an FAQ (see Edit3 here) that is a direct translation from the US site, then updates the FAQ the next day (edit5, same post) to say it cannot be used with a micro-SIM other than Softbank's.

One thing is for sure, Apple sure screwed up this one. Either Steve Jobs is mistaken or we are looking at the third FAQ update by Apple Japan in as many days. If this was the US, it would be pretty easy to get your money back on a pre-ordered iPad due to the incorrect information being given out by Apple.

But I am 99.9% positive this will not happen for anyone in Japan who paid money thinking they were getting an unlocked device. Not only are you dealing with Apple, but softbank on top of that.


  1. EDIT: Thanks to Durf, it is all clear now. When I read the FAQ, my mind just skipped over the part that said "in Japan." So, I read the FAQ as saying "you cannot use a micro-SIM card purchased overseas in the iPad," when it really said "you cannot use a micro-SIM card purchased overseas in the iPad in Japan."

  2. Actually, why not? If there is no lock... Do other providers not offer roaming?

  3. I think Apple was not stating the limitations of the iPad; they were stating the current limitations of the Japanese cell phone carrier system. Compared to international standards, the Japanese system is relatively locked, not the iPad. B-mobile, e-Mobile, docomo, or softbank could all technically issue a micro-SIM that would work in the iPad (assuming they all have W-CDMA 2100 and that is what the iPad has also).

    I'm not sure this is correct, but it seems to be the only reading that makes sense of everything said so far.

    But this means that docomo's original intention of selling micro-SIMs for the iPad is technically possible. Softbank/Apple's misleading (?) statement caused docomo to give up on something that they didn't have to do -- unless there is some legal reason why docomo couldn't sell SIMs for unlocked devices.

  4. They gave it up? Did I miss that one?
    Nevertheless, it would mean that people willing to use any other carrier than Softbank would have to buy it from overseas, as the Softbank one is bundled with the 2 year contract.

  5. I doubt that Apple is driving this restriction in Japan. Rather, as we all know, NTT is pretty tight with its all-you-can-use data APNs.

    On a separate topic...check this out:

    That's pretty impressive considering that the X10 is a pile of crap. I wish they had done some kind of deal with HTC to get the Nexus One or the Desire.

  6. It would be particularly mysterious if Apple agreed to a provision like this in light of the fact that their main distributor in Japan (Softbank) just opened the door to their main competitor (HTC Android). It must be a statement of the actual availability of third party wireless. I can't believe Apple is very happy with Softbank for selling the Desire.

  7. Sorry for the late comment - been busy @ work these days with no time to play on the internet.

    @BigAl: A reader emailed me this

    Docomo abandoned plans to produce a micro-SIM for the ipad after confirming that softbank would be the exclusive distributor.

    @gregconquest: I'm not quite sure what you mean the carrier system. Docomo and Softbank both use CDMA-2100. Docomo also uses the lower frequency 850 band (that the iPad also supports). E-mobile uses 1700 Mhz and is therefore NOT compatible with the iPad. The reason docomo gave up is because the ipad apparently won't accept SIMs other than softbank if the mobile country code is 440 (Japan's code). So there is no reason for docomo to sell them since they can't be used.

    @vankirkc: AT&T is selling android phones as well but still have iphone exclusivity. docomo locks down their APN better than softbank, but if softbank could, they would certainly do the same. The recently changed the password on the flat rate APN because too many people knew the details.


    I still think that softbank made it worth Apple's while to give them exclusive rights to the ipad. What, I don't know. A slice of the subscriber profits? Seeing that the data plan is 1500 yen less than the one for the iphone, there is not a lot of profit there to give to Apple. There is technically no reason for it the ipad not to work on docomo. Docomo actually more fully supports the iPad because they also have the 850 band.

    Docomo's CEO REALLY WANTED to sell SIMs for the iPad. He said so many times. Since the iPad can be purchased without a contract (but with the expensive pre-paid data plan), do you guys really think that docomo wouldn't sell SIMs for it just because softbank originally sold it? Heck, you can buy one direct from the apple store.


    DoCoMo Abandons Plans to Offer IPad Wireless Service in Japan
    May 10, 2010, 5:22 AM ED

  9. "... the ipad apparently won't accept SIMs other than softbank if the mobile country code is 440 (Japan's code)."

    So, the iPad is SIM-locked to accept only softbank micro-SIMs while being used in Japan, right?

    I am not proficient in the technology involved, but it does seem to me that there is still confusion with several of you drawing different conclusions. If the iPad being sold in Japan is not SIM-locked, then how can it be prevented from using other compatible cell carriers in Japan? Where else would the lock be? And would this be any different for an iPad I import myself?

  10. There is certainly confusion, which is 100% Apple's fault. Steve Jobs announced that the iPad would not be locked, then someone at softbank tells the J-media that it is locked, then Steve apparently sends an email to a dude in Japan saying it will work with foreign carriers.

    So, to me, that means that the locking only prevents the you from using it with the Japanese carrier of your choice, but if you took it to the US, you could use it with AT&T if you wanted.

    I guess we won't know the answer to this question until iPads ship and people try to use them with different carriers in Japan and abroad, or until Apple releases concrete information that definitively answer these questions. So far, the only information available, as expected, doesn't directly address the questions.

    This is why I believe the Japanese iPad has be purposely crippled to not work with any carrier other than softbank. If this was not the case, it would be in Apple's best interest to say so. Instead, Apple modified the FAQ 24 hours after it was posted to indicate it wasn't usable in japan with Docomo et al, but didn't dodged the real question of the SIM locking. That tells me that it does have a lock.

    Anyway, I wouldn't buy it until I knew for sure which carrier's SIMs it will accept.

  11. has a really comprehensive summary of the status quo. Worth reading, I think.

  12. Hey thanks, just got through mentioning it. Not that we didn't already know that softbank was going to lose a lot of customers the minute SIMs are unlocked.

  13. It is June, we are ready: