Wednesday, July 28, 2010

General information for (smart) phone users in Japan

Last updated: 7/11/2011 (This is still a good source of information, but please follows the below list of link to keep up with current developments. As I imagined, it is a bit difficult to keep this page 100% up to date.

If you read nothing else on this page, read this: Staff in Docomo/AU/Softbank/Emobile shops have no special knowledge or ability to change the way corporate HQ does business. They often have no power to remove disputed charges from your bill and probably have no real avenue to conveying information to corporate. It appears that corporate has the attitude that the shop staff are lucky to have been graciously provided with a job and are treated accordingly.

Other relevant articles are:

Trying to get an unlocked phone working on Docomo is a waste of time
Japanese MVNOs to the rescue with reasonably priced data plans
Data speed comparison between Docomo and Softbank
Docomo access point names (APN)
Real world test of B-mobile Fair SIM
Docomo Xi LTE plans for fiscal year 2011
Unlockable and tetherable: Docomo summer 2011 lineup
Comparison of all b-mobile SIMs
Softank Ala Carte SIMs for unlocked phones

This is meant as a service to the foreign community and is provided with no warranty, guarantee, or anything of the sort. Use at your own risk and when in doubt confirm with other sources or ask questions.

Mobile phone common sense in Japan

Background

In the mid 1990s, when cellphone usage in the US for example was extremely low and required paying a fortune to purchase and use a literal brick of a phone, mobile phones were quickly spreading to all segments of the population in Japan. For much of the last decade, Japan was widely regarded as having the most advanced infrastructure and handsets.

The typical Japanese cellphone today is of a "clam shell" design and is often referred to as a "feature phone" or "Galapagos keitai," due to the rich set of features and functionality that was developed in isolation from the rest of the world. By the late 1990s, all carriers had introduced proprietary platforms for providing mobile internet and e-mail, in addition to SMS, to handsets.

The explosion in smartphone popularity in Japan, driven primarily by Apple's iPhone (though the original Android-based Xperia X10 quickly became Docomo's best selling smartphone ever - at the time), raises questions regarding the future viability of the standard feature phone, which offer neither applications of comparable quality nor the full internet at a reasonable price. (Most phones include a "PC site viewer application, often Mobile Opera, but packets used viewing the real internet are not subject to unlimited data discounts and are bill at the full rate). However, the iPhone and some Android handsets lack many popular features, such as infrared, one-seg TV tuners, and RFID-based payment systems for train fares, etc.

A number of Android handsets have been development domestically to bring some of these features to smartphones. A consortium of handset makers and Docomo are also currently developing a linux/symbian-based OS (WTF?), that may or may not be compatible with Android (whatever that means), is expected to be available around the end of 2011, and will be offered to overseas makers. [This literally has FAIL written all over it - IMHO handset makers should stick to making the hard and leave the development of the soft to others. Why not take Android and modify it to do what they want? Since Android is licensed under the proprietary-code friendly Apache license, as opposed to the GPL, they don't have to publish any source code they modify, as long as it doesn't touch the GPL'd linux kernel.]

Carrier platforms

Today, the three major carriers platforms are i-mode, ezweb, and yahoo! keitai for Docomo, AU, and Softbank respectively. These platforms are incompatible between carriers, so if a softbank phone were unlocked and used on Docomo, that phone would not be able to browse mobile-specific websites or send and receive email. It would be limited to voice and SMS transmission, which would not be a problem for most of the world, but in Japan, sending emails between phones appears to be a much more common means of communication than calling. This is probably because of the high cost of voice service (see below), and the inability to send SMS to handsets on a different network. (Japan now has cross carrier SMS.)

Billing

Unlike the US but similar to many locations in Europe, incoming calls are billed to the caller, who pays for the network time of both parties. While the basic plans can be inexpensive, they typically contain very few included minutes and extremely high charges for overage. An exception is Softbank's white plan which includes zero minutes but free calls to other softbank phones except between 9PM and 1AM with any other calls be charged at ¥21/half minute. All carriers now offer unlimited family calling plans.

Someone coming from the US would expect to see the number of minutes in their plan subtracted from the number of minutes actually used, with the remaining number of minutes being charged at the set overage rate, with all fees clearly listed. Japanese carriers do not indicate directly the actual number of minutes used; this must be calculated by the customer based on knowledge of the rate for excess minutes, which is also usually not displayed. A typical bill will show an extremely high number, which would have been the bottom line if no rate plan was applied. For example, If a rate plan allows for ¥4000 worth of included calls, and the customer actually used ¥10,000 worth of calls, ¥10,000 would be displayed, ¥4000 would be subtracted resulting in ¥6000 plus the basic fee for the rate plan. The same approach is often used for displaying data charges.

This is probably because the government stays relatively uninvolved in regulating carriers with respect to customer treatment.

2008 changes to billing

Up until around 2008, the "1 yen keitai" was quite common in Japan. Problem was that the marketing was misleading because the real price of the phone was paid in jacked-up monthly service fees. So someone who uses the same phone for an extended period of time ends up subsidizing the purchases of those who consider a cell phone to be a fashion accessory and buy a new one with the changing of the seasons.

The government released a set of guidelines changing billing practices and killing off the 1-yen keitai in its previous form, resulting in a sharp drop in handset sales, shown by this chart from Softbank. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Communications often releases guidelines that the carriers are not officially required to follow. Unofficially, everyone is expected to follow the guidelines and, to date, everyone has.

(NOTE: Handsets that were purchased prior to the rules going into effect are STILL subject to the higher service fees today, and will be forever, so if you have a phone bought prior to 2008, you will save money on your monthly bill by buying a new one.)

Present business model

This did not change as of fiscal (April) 2011 when Docomo half-assedly implement the MIC SIM unlocking guidelines.

According to Softbank's SIM lock presentation, carriers shoulder the cost of handset development. Most handsets are produced by domestic makers exclusively for carriers. Apparently, much of the flow of money centers around the selling of handsets. Each carrier releases a new lineup of phones each season, and competition between carriers is primarily centered around which one offers the most desirable handsets.

Governmental interference resulting in decreased sales of handsets has not been traditionally welcomed by the carriers. The reason that Docomo is in support of unlocking is most likely because they do not carry one of the most desirable handsets in Japan today, the iPhone.

The handset market is basically saturated.

Smartphones in Japan

Disadvantages of smartphones in Japan

The disadvantages are quickly disappearing, though much of the following is still applicable.
  • On the software side, the current generation of smartphones are incompatible with carrier specific platforms for walled-garden internet and disaster announcements. Compatibility with carrier-provided email is also limited.
    • Softbank's S! Mail (@softbank.ne.jp) is available on all softbank smartphones except for the HTC Desire, though a modified MMS.apk has been created that spoofs the iPhone's user agent to allow sending S! Mail with this handset.
    • The iPhone has an additional standard IMAP account (@i.softbank.jp) that can be accessed with a mail client address.
    • Docomo will be providing carrier mail (@docomo.ne.jp) to select smartphones with SP Mode and already offers a "mopera" account. 
  • Emails between members of a family plan incur no additional fees when all parties are using feature phones, but, because the free email is limited to usage of the carrier platform (e.g., i-mode), email sent to a smartphone is treated as normal packet usage, even for the iPhone's i.softbank.jp address (see note 2 here).
  • Some mobile sites include location services that are only compatible with carrier platforms (e.g., the post office mobile site can use a phone's GPS to display the closest branch or ATM), but this is likely to change as specific applications are developed.
  • Email sent from smartphones to feature phones mail may be bounced by default depending on the recipient's spam filter settings, which often block all mail not sent from a docomo.ne.jp, ezweb.ne.jp, or softbank.ne.jp address, requiring recipients to "white list" smartphone addresses on an individual basis or loosen their spam settings. This includes the iPhone i.softbank.jp address.
  • On the hardware side, many smartphones do not include an infrared transceiver for sharing contact informatioin (赤外線セックス), a one-seg TV tuner, an IC-card for making payments with your phone (携帯お財布), as well as other common features like pedometers, solar panels, and water proofing. As domestic makers begin releasing more Android-based smartphones, expect to see some of the features included. For example, many of the phones in Docomo's summer 2011 lineup include these features.
Compatible carriers for overseas phones
  • B-Mobile (MVNO)
  • Docomo (from April, 2011)
  • Softbank
It is possible to use a foreign smartphone on Softbank, though technically not allowed. B-Mobile (not to be confused with Japan's smallest carrier E-mobile) is an MVNO using Docomo's network. Docomo announced that foreign phones will be allowed from next fiscal year.

Which phones can be used
  • Phones displaying Japanese certification either stamped directly to the phone or on the screen.
  • Phones that support W-CDMA 2100 Mhz.
  • iPhone (850, 900, 1900, and 2100 MHz
  • LIST OF COMPATIBLE PHONES PENDING

Why can Softbank be used?

All Japanese carriers attempt to prevent unauthorized handsets, i.e., any device they did not sell you from connecting to the unlimited data plans. Some carriers do a better job than others. Softbank controls access through a user name/password scheme. The password is easily google-able (which is not a good thing, since Softbank could change the password).

As of July, 2011, Softbank now officially allows unlocked phones on their data network, though they are still not unlocking phones.

Docomo's method for restricting non-branded phones

While an unlocked phone is fully capable of working on their network, it is prohibitively expensive to do so because the "biz-houdai" unlimited data APN is filtered by IMEI number, even for people who have properly subscribed to the unlimited data plan. You can only connect to the mopera APN, which adds an additional ¥4,200 to the monthly bill. The reason for this is non-branded, unlocked phones are likely able to tether.

Essentially, think of it as Docomo has done a better job than Softbank obtaining the goal of not allowing non-branded devices from using unlimited data.

However, Docomo allows data-only tablets that are compatible and certified for use in Japan on their network at the same data cost as smartphones. Tethering from a data-only tablet is also allowed for no additional cost. There is no immediately apparent logical reason for this.

AU's method for restricting non-branded phones

AU, along with Sprint and Verizon in the US CDMA-2000, while most carriers use W-CDMA, which is an evolution of the GSM standard and was originally developed by Docomo. Chances are your phone is not compatible with AU's network.

Even if it were compatible, the SIM cards used by AU 3G phones are actually locked to one specific device (according to KDDIs SIM lock presentation). It is not even possible to switch an AU SIM card from one AU device to another.

Frequencies in Japan

3G
  • Docomo: W-CDMA; 800, 2100 MHZ
  • AU: CDMA-2000; 800, 2100 MHz
  • Softbank: W-CDMA; 2100 MHz
  • E-Mobile: W-CDMA; 1700 Mhz
800 MHz is only used in Japan. 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz are the frequencies used by US T-Mobile, but AFAIK, one is used for uplink and one for downlink, so US T-Mobile phones are equipped with an antenna that is not compatible in japan for 3G. US AT&T uses 850 MHz and 1900 MHz.

LTE
  • Docomo: 1500, 2100 MHZ
  • AU: 800, 2100 MHz
  • Softbank: 1500 (DC-HSDPA), 2100 MHz
  • E-Mobile: 1700 Mhz
AU will rely on the CDMA-based network for voice, so AU handsets will only be compatible for data.

Procedure for using an overseas phone with Docomo

Main article: Trying to get an unlocked phone working on Docomo is a waste of time

Using an overseas phone on Docomo is not recommended because of the high price of data, which is over 10,000 yen. Only phones that appear on an official list compiled by Docomo of will be allowed access to the biz houdai APN and reasonable data rates. Phones that are incapable of tethering will be on the list. No phones are on the list because phones that 1) unlocked are 2) generally capable of tethering.

Procedure for using an overseas phone with B-Mobile

Main article: Comparison of all b-mobile SIMs

B-Mobile has no retail stores and is therefore a very low overhead operation. They offer the least expensive plans in Japan. Registration is done over the internet. They offer several products:
  • B-mobileSIM U300 for data only
  • talkingSIM for voice and data
  • B-mobile FAIR 1GB over 120 days SIM
  • Aeon exclusive SIMs for data only (post paid by credit card), each compatible with b-mobile VoIP.
    • Plan A ¥980/month (100 kbps - no streaming)
    • Plan B ¥2980/month (400 kbps - no streaming)
    • Plan C ¥4980/month ("carrier speed -steaming allowed)
Neither product requires a contract. Data only SIMs can be used non residents.

The data-only U300 SIM is prepaid for 1/6/12 months and may be purchased with cash on delivery and is an option for anyone with an address at which deliveries can be received. HTC handsets running Android 1.6 do not work and must be either upgraded to 2.x or downgraded to 1.5. A new radio does not need to be flashed. Only Japanese certified phones are officially supported but B-mobile customer service is very helpful even to people without certified phones. The data-only SIM lacks a circuit switch component of SMS and voice) which may cause the 3G icon not to display, even though 3G is in fact connected.

The voice and data SIM requires a credit card and proof of residency in Japan. Only Japanese certified phones are officially supported. Because this SIM contains a circuit switch component, the 3G icon and other issues (Android 1.6) may be alleviated.

B-mobile also offers a 050 VoIP service for the IDEOS handsets, which is now offered standalone, though performance can only be guaranteed on the ideos. MVNO BlueSIP offers a standalone service that is usable with the U300 data SIM for Android and iOS. NTT Communications also offers a VoIP service.

Procedure for using an overseas phone with Softbank

Softbank will now officially sell ala carte SIMs for unlocked phones that support 2100 MHz, except for iPhones, apparently due to way Apple handles APNs. The phone is supposed to be certified for use in Japan, but I can imagine that some shops may not care/notice if a phone is not certified.

If you can't get a SIM through official channels, you must have a softbank plan for a regular feature phone, and  then switch the data plan to the unlimited plan for smartphones, set the proper APN on the smartphone, yank the SIM from the softbank phone, and slip it in the smartphone. (NOTE1: a compatible "dumb"phone with no need for a data plan can be used by simply slipping in the Softbank SIM card. NOTE2: if you are slipping a black iPhone SIM into another phone, you don't need to do steps 1-4 because you are already subscribed to the proper plans)
  1. Start service with any phone on softbank, this includes "feature phones" (the galapagos keitai with all the famously Japanese functions)*.
  2. Subscribe to the S! Basic Pack (¥300/month + 5% - soon to be 10%? - tax).
  3. Subscribe to the Unlimited Packet Discount S plan.
  4. Change you data plan to the Unlimited Packet Discount for Smartphone plan (¥1029 - ¥5985/month).
    • Sign up for online billing (¥100/month + 5%).
    • Access the My Softbank site from a PC **.
    • Click on the green icon 料金プランや割引、ご契約住所の変更など各種お申込みはこちら (Service plans and discounts, address change, all service applications).
    • Click on the button next to "割引サービス" (Discount Services).
    • Select the second option " パケット通信料割引サービス変更 例)パケットし放題など"
    • Change the plan to パケットし放題 for スマートフォン. (Unlimited Packet Discount for Smartphone).
  5. Set the proper APN*** for your SIM card.
    • The gray/silve SIM uses the "opensoftbank APN"
    • The black iPhone SIM uses the "smile APN"
  6. Swap the SIM from your Softbank phone to your smartphone once you have confirmed that the proper data plan is active.
  7. Check this thread for information on getting your @softbank.ne.jp address working on an Android device.
* You may be unable to start service with a second-hand softbank phone.
** It is possible to have a softbank rep at the store or on the phone change your plan to the smartphone plan, but it is easier to do it online because the rep will invariably not understand why you want the more expensive smartphone plan when you don't have a smartphone, and it would not be recommended to tell them what you are doing.
*** Google for the proper password but do not post it here or on other random sites, as it got too widely known and changed once, leaving everyone screwed. This is unlikely to happen again as it would be a nightmare to update everyone's phones to work again, but it is still a bad idea to go around randomly posting the f***king password.

Can Softbank know that I am using a different phone?

Yes, the can easily see that the IMEI number of your phone is different and could shut you down as a result. But the fact is that there have been no reported cases of this happening, so it appears that Softbank is not, for the time being at least, actively looking for this.

Common and expensive problems with Softbank

If you set the proper APN but fail to subscribe to the correct plan, data will work and you will receive a huge bill. If your phone is capable of tethering, you also run the risk of getting a huge bill because the packet discount is not applicable when tethering. In practice light tethering is OK, but don't be stupid and download 1080p movies using bit torrent.

Softbank should send you an SMS if you exceed a certain amount of data charges, but some people report not getting this promptly. At full packet rates, 100 MB costs nearly ¥70,000. (100 MB*1024 = 102,400 KB*1024 = 104,857,600B/128 = 819200 packets * ¥0.084 = ¥68,813) Assuming that bit torrent movie is 1GB you'd pay ¥704,643 for the download.

If you ever plan on owning another cell phone in Japan under your own name, you have no choice but to pay the bill. Reports are mixed regarding the success of negotiating for a reduced bill.

Confirming proper configuration with Softbank

Softbank recently changed their billing practices so that it is no longer difficult to tell if your phone is correctly setup.

Sim locking in Japan

Main article: Japanese mobile phone SIM unlocking procedures

Is the government going to require carriers to unlock phones?

No, the government is only going to urge carriers to unlock phones, leaving the decision up to each carrier. Only phones sold from 2011 are subject to this recommendation. Docomo and E-mobile supported unlocking, AU and Softbank were against it. For reasons listed in this series of posts, it is unlikely that Softbank will unlock any phones at first. All carriers are expected to comply with MIC guidelines, even though they are not required, and all have complied with the various MIC guidelines to date.

Perhaps Softbank wins a concession from the government (like an allocation of the 800 MHz band)?

If all carriers voluntarily unlock phones, will the iPhone be included?

Softbank CEO Son has said he has no intention of unlocking the iPhone.  For example, AT&T in the US unlocks all phones except the iPhone because lock status is maintained by Apple who will not unlock an iPhone unless forced to do so by the government. Since these are only guidelines, officially at least, it is hard to say what will happen with the iPhone.

Can Japanese smartphones be unlocked

Most Docomo Android firmware contains additional lock protections. A simple IMEI-based will likely not work. Docomo will unlock all phones that went on sale after April 1, 2011. Any phone introduced prior to that date is ineligible, even if it was purchased after April 1. To unlock these phones, custom firmware must be flashed and then an IMEI based code used.

LTE in Japan

When will LTE be available in Japan?

According to KDDI's presentation, the plans for each company regarding the start of LTE service are:
  • Docomo: 12/2010
  • AU:12/2012
  • Softbank: Unannounced
  • E-mobile: 7/2012
E-mobile and Softbank are both rolling out DC-HSDPA planned for 11/19/2010 and 2/2011, respectively, which could result in an effective 10x increase over current data speeds.

Prospects for an LTE iPhone 5 on Docomo

Unsure. While Docomo will have the only LTE network in Japan when the next iPhone is released, presumably next July, there is no guarantee that it will support LTE, though this is highly likely.

More importantly, the 7/2011 planned activation of Softbank's DC-HSDPA network coincides with the presumed released date of an LTE iPhone 5.

Should I buy a new phone now or wait for LTE

It depends on how desperate you are for a phone now and if you are locked into a contract with a carrier other than Docomo. Docomo will introduce an LTE phone in Winter 2011.

Comparison of Next Gen Networks

See here for updated information.

While all carriers are eventually moving to LTE, Docomo was the first to start service with their Xi (pronounced "Crossy") network. Plans for FY2011 include roll out in Sapporo, Sendai, Kanazawa, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka and 20% population coverage by April 2012. Once fully implemented, LTE will be a true 4G network with speeds up to 100/50 Mbps down/up. For now Xi is a "3.9G" network. The other carriers will be making improvements to their existing 3G networks prior to rolling out LTE service.

Softbank and Emobile, the number three and four carriers, will employ dual carrier waves to boost downlink speeds, using a standard first proposed by Emobile called "dual cell high speed downlink packet access (DC-HSDPA). AU, Japan's second largest carrier and only carrier using CDMA2000, plans to introduce a multi-carrier network using up to three carrier waves (click here for Japanese, or here for an English machine/MyGengo translation).

For now, AU's network will be by far the slowest but will launch simultaneously with the winter-spring line up of handsets and will have a number of handsets that support the increased downlink speed, including some androids (IS04 and IS06). The other carrier's launch products are all corporate-oriented data dongles or mobile routers, no phones. The only price I've seen so far is for Emobile's D41HW mobile router for ¥41, 580 (¥19,980 with 2-year contract... ouch).

AU
Docomo
Emobile
Softbank
Service
WIN High Speed
Xi
G4
Ultra Speed
Standard
EV-DO Rev A
LTE
DC-HSDPA
DC-HSDPA
Speed (u/d) Mbps
9.2 / 5.5
37.5 (75) / 12.5 (25)*
42 / 5.8
42 / 5.7 **
Monthly price†
?
¥4935
¥4480 (¥5580)
?
Data cap
?
7 GB
none (10 GB)††
?
Overage
?
¥2,625 per 2 GB
throttle 
?
Start date
Winter/Spring‡
12/24/2010
11/19/2010
2/2011
Launch products
IS06, X-RAY, S005, IS04, G11, S006
L-02C, F-06C
D41HW
007Z, 004Z, 005HW
Initial (subsequent) population coverage
?
Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka (7% 3/2011; 20% 3/2012; 40% 3/2013)
Major Cities (40-50% 3/2011)
Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka (12% 3/2011; 60% 6/2011)
Frequency
2100 MHz
2100 MHz
1700 MHz
1500 MHz
Bandwidth
15 MHz [5x3]
5 (10) Mhz [5x1(5x2)]
10 MHz [5x2]
10 MHz [5x2]

* 75/25 Mbps will be accomplished with dual-carriers in select indoor locations.
** Based on highest uplink of current handsets. DC-HSDPA seems to only increase downlink. Softbank has not announced uplink speed.
† Assuming 2-year contract and campaign pricing.
†† No cap until 5/2014.
‡ No official start date, but service is supposed to start with release of compatible winter/spring lineup handsets.

118 comments:

  1. Great post.

    One correction for the "Disadvantages of smartphones in Japan" section:

    You can use an '@softbank.ne.jp' email address on an iPhone with no problem at all. It uses the SMS/MMS application instead of the mail one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, gotcha, intended to say it has both @softbank and @i.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Do you know if @i supports IDLE commands for pushing mail? Or does it poll the inbox at configurable frequency, like 5 min, 15 min, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very good article to summarize the situation in Japan, with the inclusion of latest b-mobile movement!

    One question.... "赤外線セックス"...???

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks! Was just checking if people were paying attention ;-)

    Though that is really what it is like when two people are fumbling around to get their phones pointed at the perfect place...

    ReplyDelete
  6. A few notes:

    The Sharp IS01 Android phone, on sale already, does have one-seg TV and (apparently) "お財布" RFID payment.

    Docomo has the @mopera.net email address for smartphones (like softbank address), and mail from there seems to be treated as a mobile address (ie. no filtering) at least between Docomo accounts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I forgot about that one. I'll edit the part about "under development" and add that so far, only domestic makers are including these features.

    I just looked at the specs
    http://au-is.jp/products/is01/spec.html
    And it lists infrared but not an IC card for payments. Do you have this phone? Can you confirm that it does or does not have RFID?

    I'm not sure about mopera mail. I asked if it would have problems with blacklisting and was told that it might. And for the extra few hundred yen a month for another email address, I declined to get it.

    Having a unified phone and PC mail address is very nice - only problem is the occasional person who can't get my mail.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Out of curiosity, how often is it you get a bounced mail?

    Also, I wonder if this is trending away or not...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Not very often, at least not any more, because people have whitelisted me or, for those that couldn't be bothered or couldn't figure out how, I just don't send them email. But, there are still people out there with PC mail set to bounce.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Absolutely awesome post

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think you could mention that you need to spoof the user-agent to send MMS through Softbank with an overseas smart phone.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post and better summary of the overall mobile situation in Japan.
    I used a US model iPhone 3G in Japan for 1.5 years on an existing SoftBank contract. Every month I was scared of getting a full packet bill based on IMEI filtering. Luckily I never did get one.
    You touch briefly on the billing schemes (scams?); I wish there were more complete and clear information out there. With a total of 4 mobile phones at home I often wonder which carrier actually provides the best deal. But, after about 10 minutes trying to understand all the "Zero Yen" deals, uplifts and discounts, I always end up giving up in frustration.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Give me the details and I'll put it in. I don't know anything about it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Keeping billing info up to date would be just as hard as trying to maintain a list of smart phones available.

    Billing is absolutely ridiculous. If you have family, the family discounts are the way to go. If you know that you'll be with your carrier for 2 years, then one of the plans that gives you a discount for having the 2-year contract is also the way to go.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I completely agree about keeping the info up to date.
    Using SoftBank as the poster child, the family discounts and 学生割引 isn't all that much of deal or incentive to change. I've got 3 phones on AU and my iPhone with SoftBank.
    I would just like to be able to get through all the smoke-and-mirrors to find out what the actual net, net monthly costs are. AU and DoCoMo or no better, although it seems at quick glance to be a bit easier to understand.
    If I get motivated (bored?) enough I'll send you whatever I put together.

    ReplyDelete
  16. That would be excellent. I've mentioned it a couple times and here as well, but when I had AU, my phone was one of the zero-yen phones I got prior to the change in billing plans. When looking through the AU plans, I saw they had a much cheaper plan that I was ineligible for simply because my phone was the stupid zero yen one with the jacked up month fees. So, if you AU phones are old, you'll want to ditch them at some point to get the lower rate.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great article! One correction though. Shouldn't this sentence:

    An exception is Softbank's white plan which includes zero minutes but free calls to other softbank phones between 9PM and 1AM with any other calls be charged at ¥21/half minute.

    actually read:

    An exception is Softbank's white plan which includes zero minutes but free calls to other softbank phones except between 9PM and 1AM with any other calls be charged at ¥21/half minute.

    doug

    ReplyDelete
  18. I don't have the phone: I just heard that it would have IC payment. I could be wrong. A colleague was interested in it for that reason though, so I'm, not the only one wrong in that case.

    By the way, the phone is available at Docomo too, named "LYNX SH-10": http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/product/foma/smart_phone/sh10b/
    It looks pretty sweet in real life; if I hadn't got an Xperia already I'd have a hard time choosing.

    I've used Mopera mail for some months now, and I have yet to get any bounced as far as I know. I email people on Dokomo and on KDDI and it seems to work without them having to enter an exception. I may have been lucky of course.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Good to know you're not having trouble with mopera mail. I'll try and get confirmation that it does work, since you could indeed just be lucky.

    Checked the Docomo page and it also doesn't list osaifu or IC通信, so I am pretty sure it doesn't have it - might want to make sure your colleague realizes this if he's still thinking of getting one.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Awesome job you do here, really thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi, great article.

    Although the reader "Kevin" mentioned it already, Softbank DOES do IMEI filtering on iPhones. A quick Google search reveals a number of stories regarding this. I also know of a co-worker that was hit with a massive bill at the beginning of this year using a US unlocked iPhone 3G with his Softbank iPhone SIM card. They did not do this in the past, but they are definitely doing this now.

    I also noticed that you mentioned that carrier specific email systems are incompatible with smartphones. On Softbank, this is not true. The iPhone, OS version 2 (I think) supported both Softbank's SMS and MMS, including basic emoji features. Softbank has released several versions of their "Softbank Mail" for Windows Mobile, allowing Softbank users to send SMS and MMS to Softbank non-smartphone users.

    Also, you might want to mention the new overseas data roaming rate that Softbank introduced for smartphone users, at 1980 JPY per day for unlimited data use. This is the most reasonable roaming data plan I have seen since T-Mobile's long discontinued $20 unlimited roaming plan for Blackberry user in the US.

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  22. Hey, thanks for the helpful comment.

    Please post some links on softbank IMEI filtering because I have yet to hear of any instances of that. Everything I find on the internets or have been told by people indicates that it was 100% due to user error, by usually not subscribing to the proper data plan or ridiculous tethering - i.e., not keeping a very low profile.

    Can you have your friend give drop me an email with his story?

    I honestly don't think SB is checking IMEIs from the beginning of the year, because everyone on XDA indicates everything is business as usual. We even have people posting screenshots of their bill from a month ago showing the flat rate being applied to black iPhone SIMs in Android handsets.

    Softbank had better support for carrier mail on winmo, but when I wrote this article, I checked every SB smartphone available at the time and each one had a disclaimer saying they do not support carrier mail. Is this information actually not correct for phones currently on sale? The iPhone appears to be the exception.

    I am in the process of gathering info to use the andoid MMS.apk with a spoofed iPhone user agent to get MMS with softbank. MMS is admittedly not my strong point because I never use it, no matter what continent I am on. Docomo doesn't even have it for my phone (ht-03a/Magic/Sapphire/G2). The stock ROM from Docomo doesn't even have the MMS.apk in /system/app.

    We've discussed adding info on rate plans, but that would be too much of a pain to keep up to date. At 2000 yen/day, you'd be better off getting a local SIM.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hah, I was wrong on the S! Mail. I mistook lack of support for yahoo keitai to mean both no walled garden internet and no carrier mail. Not true. You are right, they do have S! Mail, all except for the Desire.

    Hopefully I'll be able to get info up on the spoofing shortly.

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  24. updated 8/4/2010 to fix information on softbank carrier mail.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Softbank sends you a notification saying that there is mail waiting for you: http://uploader.ws/upload/201008/photo.png

    But then you have to download it manually (or wait for the mail application to poll the inbox again).

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  26. It's much easier to just use the @softbank address

    ReplyDelete
  27. Haha. Great post. And so true about the sekigaisen-sex. If each sexual encounter was like your first time.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Really a great post!
    I would like to ask you the permission to translate it in Italian and to post it on my blog (http://ivanmrankov.wordpress.com/).
    Of course I'll give you all the credits and I'll link your site.
    I hope you'll agree.

    Thanks
    Ivan {ivanmrankov (at) yahoo.it}

    ReplyDelete
  29. Sure, thanks for asking first. Be sure to leave a disclaimer that this information is only a snapshot of the situation that should last until April 2011, but after that, much of what is here is likely going to need to be updated.

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  30. So I have a T-Mobile US G1 (HTC Dream) running Android 2.1.
    It supports W-CDMA (aka UMTS/HSPA/HSDPA/HSUPA) 3G 2100 and 1700 Mhz.
    In particular UMTS band I (known as "2100", used in Europe and elsewhere, but actually uses ~1900 uplink and ~2100 downlink), and UMTS band IV (known as "1700" or "AWS", the T-Mobile USA band, actually uses ~1700 uplink and ~2100 downlink).
    It is also quad band 2G (850/900/1800/1900), and is SIM unlocked.

    I would like to use it in Japan for a short vacation for both voice and data (and SMS is a nice to have).
    I will be a tourist, but I do have friends who live there.

    What do you recommend for me to get this phone working in the easiest manner? Should I just go with B-Mobile and have them send the talkingSIM to my friend who lives in Japan?

    Softbank seems more complex, since it requires buying a Softbank phone, and I don't know if they have any really cheap ones, or if a tourist can even buy one and get it working without being a resident with a bank account/credit card/etc.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I'm not even sure that Softbank's sims would work in your G1. I took my G1 over, and I tried using a rental Softbank sim and it wouldn't work, I ended up having to rent a phone.

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  32. I am going to have to ask some people with G1s that are using them here if they are T-mobile branded. The issue could be T-mobile's usage of different frequencies for uplink and downlink. I don't know if that antenna can do both up and down on 2100 MHz.

    It certainly would not work going the other way - taking an unlocked softbank android phone like the desire to T-Mobile. Give me some time to look into it.

    How long will you be in Japan? B-mobile will be the cheapest, and you'd need a friend to sign up for you. Problem is that you are going to pay 6000 yen for one month.

    Maybe be better to forget about voice and data and just do the b-mobileSIM 300 data only one, which doesn't require a credit card or proof of residence since it doesn't do voice. Voice is so expensive in Japan anyway, and SMS is limited to people on your same network, so most people use email.

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  33. I doubt that it needs to do both up and down on 2100. What most people refer to as "2100", more formally known as UMTS Band I, does not use 2100 Mhz for both uplink and downlink, and in fact for downlink it isn't exactly 2100 Mhz, but a range of frequencies around 2100 Mhz.

    As far as I know, the G1/Dream only supports this band no matter where it is distributed worldwide, with the one exception of the US, where it has the addition of band IV.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UMTS_frequency_bands

    So I don't think there is going to be any kind of low level radio frequency issue, unless you are saying that somehow Japan has some wacky UMTS band that is 2100 for both uplink and downlink, because no such band exists in the UMTS/W-CDMA spec, and therefore no non-Japanese phone would ever work on such a band.

    Well, actually HTC Japan's spec page for the Softbank Desire says it supports regular GSM 2G quad-band, so it would "work" on T-Mobile USA, just not 3G: http://www.htc.com/jp/product/x06ht/specification.html

    I'll be in Japan for just 2 weeks. Well, 6000 yen is probably cheaper than renting a phone would be, right?
    Oh, I didn't realize that the data-only doesn't require proof of residence. That's good to know. How do you pay for it? Doesn't require credit card or doesn't allow credit card? How do you physically receive it? I guess you have to have the ability to receive mail at some address in Japan, eh?

    Thanks a lot for the help

    ReplyDelete
  34. And this document: http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/binary/pdf/corporate/technology/rd/technical_journal/bn/vol10_2/vol10_2_047en.pdf

    Specifically states that FOMA (NTT DoCoMo's brand name for its 3G network) uses UMTS Band I (in addition to bands VI and IX, which are only used in Japan)

    This page says it too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_Mobile_Multimedia_Access#Frequency_allocations

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  35. You are correct. They are not using exactly 2100 and they have different bandwidths for uplink and downlink.

    I am just unfamiliar with how the g1 was distributed. I know that one without the antenna for t-mo won't work on t-mo (for 3G). I am pretty sure that it it has UMTS, then it will work in Japan. But not being 100% sure, didn't want to tell you wrong.

    I realize you can get GSM - which is why all the iPhone users in the US on t-mo are stuck without 3G.

    I just email they guy from the second half of this post for confirmation that his g1 (not mentioned in the post) is indeed t-mobile branded
    http://softbanksucks.blogspot.com/2009/12/letters-from-readers-yeah-softbank-does.html

    But like I said, 99.9999% sure it will work.

    As for the data SIM, details are here:
    http://softbanksucks.blogspot.com/2010/04/b-mobile-usim-300-on-sale-includes.html

    You need an address at which you can receive the SIM by courier (sagawa takkyubin) and you will pay cash on delivery. I got some emails from people saying that they used a hotel address no problem, but if you have someone in Japan, it would be better to have it sent to them at their address.

    A rental phone is going to rape you by the way. I really, really think you should forget about the voice SIM, because you are technically side stepping Japanese laws and the TOS from B-mobile. Sending SMS is 5 yen, and voice is 42 yen/min, with 25 min worth included, but still, if you do any calling at all, you'll blow that away.

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  36. Just realized that I helped a guy get a T-mobile US G1 working with the USIM.
    http://softbanksucks.blogspot.com/2010/04/b-mobile-sim-confirmed-working-on-g1.html

    There were a number of other posts on that topic, basically us figuring out that 1.6 was a no go with HTC's baseband. So, yeah, it will work. (I was thinking that was a Hero not a G1).

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  37. The thing about voice and being a tourist is that I find it useful to call hotels to make short-notice bookings, and to call commonly visited tourist sites to get information. I am guessing that using data to email them is not going to be quick enough for some of my needs and I'll want to call. Then again, I believe that it's much easier for Japanese people to read and write English than it is for them to speak and listen to it, and I certainly cannot speak Japanese.

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  38. Problem though is that it is wicked expensive to actually make the phone call. I understand you wanting to have voice, so if you really feel you need it, and it would be a real pain not to have it, then go for it.

    My 2 yen: For those arrangements when you need to call, I'd pick up a domestic phone card at the airport. You charge them and stick them in pay phones. They have arbitrary units. When you call a landline nearby, the units tick down very very slowly. When you call a cell phone, they tick down about one a second - disturbingly fast. Pay phones are so last century but they are still all over the place and they still get a lot of use by people who don't want to spend the money to call from their cell phone because calling from a cell phone will incur charges just as quickly.

    Heck, I keep a phone card around.

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  39. Don't know where else to post this, but it looks like Dell has its sights on a Japan release of the Streak:
    http://www.netbooknews.com/9412/dell-streak-shows-up-in-japan-one-step-closer-to-asian-countries/


    Looks like I will be able to put Docomo's IMEI registration policy to the test: It will most certainly have Japanese certifications, so I wonder if they will really mind if I show up with an unlocked EU version.

    Of course, if it is available for Docomo, I might just buy a local one so I can have access to the 850 band in buildings and underground. But considering how they price foreign phones, it would probably be even more expensive than the 600 gbp I paid to import mine.

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  40. Let me add my thanks for all the clear information -- I am another foreigner who has been completely baffled by the mobile market here, even after translation, (though I've found it is not limited to foreigners, nor in fact to non-SoftBank employees for that matter).

    I'm looking for a little free advice, so thanks in advance to anyone who cares to share an informed opinion. Pardon my ignorance of both mobile provider details *and* smartphones.

    With superfast internet at the office and a fancy (to me) new Japanese "Galapagos" keitai when I arrived 2.5 years ago, I didn't see the need for internet at home, nor a smartphone. Now that it's paid off and I'm paying essentially the same price for my old keitai as I could for a swanky new iPhone, I am having envy pangs. Coupled with the strength of the yen, I've been wondering if it would make sense to pick something up overseas and use it here. This site goes a long way to saying this is possible, I'd just like to double check a few things and solicit any advice people have:

    1. I have the silver/grey SoftBank SIM card, which I gather will work in any new smartphone? What about mundaneries like address lists?

    2. I would love to "tether," as I believe it's called, and get reasonable internet speeds (nothing crazy) on my computer at home. I've read conflicting views on this; it is clear that my current "Galapagos" unlimited data plan will not work (i.e. will be charged full price). Even the full smartphone plan seems to *not* apply to data sent 'through' the phone, is this true? I read somewhere in webland that a Nexus One makes all data look like phone traffic and would therefore work, but I'm skeptical -- is there a phone or app that does this? Basically, if I can somehow roll my mobile phone and home internet fee into one, that would be capital. I guess this B mobile might be the best bet but I've just learned about it today.

    3. Skype would be great, even if the quality isn't great. If (2) above worked, this would be included. But if not, it's another issue to consider. More generally, international calling is. I never do it now from my keitai (I think the option is actually turned off), but would be happy if I could in the future without incurring massive fees.

    4. The main problem holding me back from just buying an iPhone or HTC Desire from SB is that I'm not sure I'll be in Japan for two more years. And now that I've left it more than six months, every day it makes less sense. Plus, as I said, it's tempting to spend yen outside Japan right now. And this site now says there's something about Docomo unlocking things next year. Plus I just saw the other day that AU now has an Android handset...it's all just too confusing for poor little me.

    Anyhoo, apologies for blathering on. Thanks again for the info and any advice.

    ReplyDelete
  41. 1: I have a grey/silver card and have been seeing normal bills using my Dell Streak for two months so far. So long as you input the correct APN information, there should be no problem.

    2: Data is data, and a rooted android phone tethering should not show up as anything other than smartphone data usage. However, I would like to advise against heavy usage. First because if tethering like this becomes more common, it would force SB's hand into cracking down on foreign phones (which they technically don't allow) as it clogs up their network. Second, and somewhat related, because they actually CAN check to see if you're using a foreign phone or not through the IMEI code (but so far I haven't heard of them actively scanning IMEIs so I assume its not a policy), it is entirely possible for them to silently begin scanning heavy data users to make sure they're not using phones that have tethering enabled. Worst case scenario, they remove your packethoudai discount because you're not following the conditions and get slapped with a humongous bill (my bill sans the discount would be in excess of $3,000 and I almost exclusively web browse). And of course I should add that they could suddenly make it a policy to scan all IMEI codes anyway, so you always have that risk under Softbank.

    As another note, Docomo does plan on opening their doors somewhat to foreign phones sometime next year, and if I find a way to get my Streak running under their network officially I will switch in a heartbeat.

    3. I haven't used skype on my phone yet, but I have heard it works decently enough, especially if you're running a modern superphone with Froyo.

    4. For foreign handset vs local handset, there's two things to consider: First, with foreign handsets you have more options, and yes, you can get them pretty damn cheap. Phones that would normally be 70k are more in the 50-60k range, and I'm talking about brand new hardware that is just released in the UK, like the Desire HD or Z. You should also make sure the phones have compatible frequencies, your safest bet is just to get a European branded phone but I have heard that T-Mobile freqs are compatible too.

    Second thing to consider, and this is going into frequencies, is that foreign phones will generally have worse reception than Japanese phones because they're only operating off of one compatible frequency (2.1ghz), whereas Softbank also runs the 1.5ghz (I assume for rural areas), Docomo also runs the 1800mhz (again, probably for rural areas), and the 'bunker busting' 800mhz, meaning foreign phones won't be able to penetrate buildings like Docomo handsets can. From my experience, though, it doesn't make that much of a difference as a Softbank user (I never really drop any bars, as far out as a two hour train ride from Tokyo), though losing the bunker buster frequency under Docomo is a pretty tough decision, when they open up and give you the choice.

    Hope that helps.

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  42. Adding to Brian's excellent response:

    1) save contacts to the SIM card and you should be able to pull them off onto your smartphone. an sync them with gmail. If you get something with a micro SD card slot (not an iPhone), you can probably export them to the card.

    2) B-Moible is the best if you get an unlocked overseas iphone because they allow full transfer speeds for certain apps. They also allow tethering but this will be limited to 300 kbps, which is slow but fine for email/surfing.

    Aside from the IMEI number being different, like Brian mentions, a PC will use much more bandwidth than a phone. Simply browsing to a site with safari using a PC will get you served more data than with safari on the iPhone. Mobile Safari's browser agent identifies itself as a mobile phone, so most servers will display a slightly less heavy page. PCs have a lot more background processes going on, as well. Every time you open an application on your PC, it likely phones home on port 80 to check for updates.

    This background activity is also a potential liability, not just by throwing up red flags on the amount of bandwidth you are using but also because the packet headers will identify the traffic as not having originated from the phone. That and the ports being used. When windows or mac OS is checking for system updates, you bet that data can easily standout to a cell carrier, if as Brian mentioned, they are looking.

    So far, they aren't. I expect this to change at some point. Right now, the overhead probably isn't worth the effort to catch they few that are doing it. Given more time for smartphone users to increase, and assuming softbank network capacity stays relatively unchanged, they may start looking.

    3. skype works well on iphone and is allowed on B-mobile. Also works well on the 1GHz androids but is not possible with b-mobile on an android.

    4. Don't get one here. It will be expensive and it will require a contract.

    Avoid US AT&T phones because they don't have a 2100 MHz radio. The AT&T iphone does but it is locked and more expensive than one from HK.

    For 3G, Docomo and softbank both use 2100 MHz. Docomo also offers 800 MHz. I'm not aware of 1500 or 1800 MHz being used by either SB or Docomo for 3G. 1500 MHz will be for LTE ASFAIK.

    US T-Mobile phones should work fine but it is probably cheaper to buy from Europe/Asia where there is more of a SIM switching culture.

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  43. I would like to thank you for writing up all this information. I've been trying to research these things for years (off and on) good to see that the research has been made. I'm going to spend hours on your page... thanks again..

    ReplyDelete
  44. "1) save contacts to the SIM card and you should be able to pull them off onto your smartphone. an sync them with gmail. If you get something with a micro SD card slot (not an iPhone), you can probably export them to the card."

    I was just in a Softbank shop and asked about this. The sales guy obviously didn't know if you could transfer contacts and gave the typical "may not be possible" feigned answer even though I mentioned transferring contacts between two specific softbank phones. (the 941SH to the SH003 with Android)

    ReplyDelete
  45. Awesome write-up. It might be worth specifying in the SoftBank setup guide that the steps are only necessary for accessing SB's data service. Some unfortunate soul might think that it is required for using SB's network with a foreign phone in general.

    You also mention the different APN's associated with the two different cards, but you might want to indicate that the black (iphone) uSIM is primed and ready out of the breech. Once you setup the smartphone that you wish to use it in with the appropriate settings, the black uSIM will give you the iphone data rate without any adjustments to your account/service plan. I'm shelling out about 5000Y each month for everything, including the iphone's packet houdai discount that goes for 6000Y by itself for the silver uSIM.

    I was in a local SB store a few days ago and one of the reps was flashing around his shiny, new Desire HD (along with his white iphone 4). I showed him a bunch of the Android apps that I like and during the conversation, he mentioned that his was an unbranded, unlocked DHD that he was running on a SB iphone uSIM. I find it interesting that low-level peons like him have the APN hax readily available to them, but as soon as you mention bringing in your own, compatible phone, "Nope, we can't do that." I almost want to bring in an "unused," unbranded HTC Desire and ask him for a uSIM just to see what he says. Asking with an unlocked iphone might be interesting too.

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  46. Edited as requested.

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  47. Added comparison table of next generation networks.

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  48. you write: "1700 MHz and 2100 MHz are the frequencies used by US T-Mobile, but AFAIK, one is used for uplink and one for downlink, so US T-Mobile phones are equipped with an antenna that is not compatible in japan for 3G."

    As a matter of fact I tried a US-T-Mobile MyTouch 3G on Softbank and it worked fine. Only limitation is that the MyTouch does not support superfast HSDPA, so you are stuck with slower 3G speed.

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  49. Thanks for pointing that out - I said it backwards.

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  50. What exactly is the difference between "PC Site Browser" and "PC Site Direct"?

    Also, it appears that if you haven't purchased a smartphone from Softbank in the past, you cannot select the "Unlimited Packet Discount for Smartphone plan". This option doesn't even show up in the available options on My Softbank. Any ideas?

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  51. Amazing post, really! Thanks! A huge help and must have been an incredible amount of work & time! Wow....

    I know that this is not a forum but since the orignal blog is so helpful... I am just hoping that someone reading might, just might, be able to help me!

    I just got a free hTC Desire HD from Softbank as, apparently, I had piled up tons of "miles" with my 10 yr old J-Phone contract! The device is locked but, heck, its free and easy to unlock with an online code for a few extra bucks. With the handset I also signed up for a double white plan plus a few accessory packs, including the 5,980Yen unlimited data pack. I also own an unlocked Nokia N8 (I have a second foreign carrier Sim) with which the Softbank locked Sim works fine for voice and sms traffic but not for sms and, I fear, won't let me access the unlimited data plan. I have encountered 2 problems with the Internet and MMS settings as linked. These settings are very detailed for the Internet AP but of these I only managed to insert: Name, APN, Username, and Password on my Nokia N8 because I do not have the following input options:
    * Proxy:
    * Port:
    * Server:
    * MMSC:
    * MMS:
    * MMS:
    * MCC:
    * MNC:
    * APN type:
    And again for the MMS AP I managed to insert: Name, APN, Username and Password only as I couldn't find the following input options:
    * Proxy:
    * Port:
    * Server:
    * MMSC:
    * MMS proxy:
    * MMS port:
    * MCC:
    * MNC:
    * APN type:
    Also, when I try to access the APN Control menu I receive "SIM card error" (with ANY SIM card from ANY carrier, Softbank included) and I cannot access either option (Activate Restrictions or Add name manually).
    Now as before, I can receive MMS, but I cannot send them. I receive an error message: "message refused by server". I am not yet sure about the internet, but I will update once I receive my monthly bill (fingers crossed).

    Any suggestions on how to access the APN Control on an N8? Do I need to? How do I insert the other settings for which I don't have the imput options?

    I would greatly appreciate any help! TIA!

    Tommaso

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  52. I don't have softbank so I don't think I will be much help but you should do some searches for people getting their unlocked iPhone working on softbank. I know a lot of people do it. I would think the settings would be similar.

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  53. I too thank you for such a wonderful post and resource. It has been very helpful to me.

    My hope is that we (you) can expand the scope to include mobile wifi devices such as http://tiphone.temco.us/us/data/index.php

    I know there are a few other choices, and I hope we can use this space to help travelers to Japan keep in touch, even if only by data services.

    At this point, I would be very happy to use a mobile wifi device (turned on in my bag) and use my T-Mobile Nexus One to explore the streets, do some rough just-in-time translations, and keep in touch via email and google talk. Skype/VoiP/SIP would be even better. I know the bmobile data only sim is another choice, but the device above has much better throughput (7.2 Mbps vis 0.3 Mbps). Any way, I am fighting through my own search, but would love to share and collaborate with other readers of this blog...

    ReplyDelete
  54. I too thank you for such a wonderful post and resource. It has been very helpful to me.

    My hope is that we (you) can expand the scope to include mobile wifi devices such as http://tiphone.temco.us/us/data/index.php

    I know there are a few other choices, and I hope we can use this space to help travelers to Japan keep in touch, even if only by data services.

    At this point, I would be very happy to use a mobile wifi device (turned on in my bag) and use my T-Mobile Nexus One to explore the streets, do some rough just-in-time translations, and keep in touch via email and google talk. Skype/VoiP/SIP would be even better. I know the bmobile data only sim is another choice, but the device above has much better throughput (7.2 Mbps vis 0.3 Mbps). Any way, I am fighting through my own search, but would love to share and collaborate with other readers of this blog...

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  55. Is it possible to Surf Internet means almost all the web-sites from a Smart phon Like Nokia 97?

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  56. Updated with SIM unlocking and unlocked phone information
    APN link

    b-mobile FAIR information
    SIP options for 050 VoIP
    LTE service plans for FY2011
    general clean up of outdated information
    etc
    so forth
    so on

    ReplyDelete
  57. Delayed response here -- thanks again for everyone's help. 

    I am now in a position to pick up a phone in Canada without a contract, use it while I'm there all summer, and bring it back to Japan in the fall.  For a fee, Virgin Mobile will even unlock it for me when I leave.  In Japan, I'd first try to use it on my SoftBank (silver) sim card, and if that didn't work I suppose I'd switch to BMobile. 

    Thus I am looking for recommendations.  I've glanced and each of the following have a 2100MHz radio, as well as others -- I assume they'll work here.  Although I am sure there are better options out there, any smartphone will be a big improvement for me, and I am happy to restrict my choices to the following Virgin offerings:

    Samsung Galaxy:
     - 550 ($150 plus a $100 discount I don't yet fully understand)
     - S Vibrant ($500)

    HTC:
     - Legend ($250)
     - Incredible S ($500 plus a $75 discount I don't yet fully understand)

    After some looking around, it seems the Incredible S would be the best move.  Opinions most welcome.

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  58. I chuckled at this statement:


    "However, Docomo allows data-only tablets that are compatible and certified for use in Japan on their network at the same data cost as smartphones. Tethering from a data-only tablet is also allowed for no additional cost. There is no immediately apparent logical reason for this."
    So much of what happens in Japan suffers from the same inexplicability.

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  59. Hi there, I found your blog today and want to thank you for it. I haven´t found a better resource than this anywhere. Now, I am going to Japan for 24 months starting this October. My initial plan was to bring an unlocked iPhone 4 and use it with bmobile talkingsim, but the low speed of 300 kbps and the other limits on usable apps kind of scare me off that plan.

    Now, as I will be in Japan for 2 full years, I was wondering what options are there for me to get a proper contract with an Android Phone (I want either Android or the iPhone, leaning towards Android right now as I don´t really need another iPhone 4)? I need the phone for data mainly, a bit of calling (be available for calls), and zero texting. Are there options that are both faster and at a lower monthly cost than the bmobile iPhone way?

    As I will not be able to get the contract on my first day in Japan (need to get a registration card first, etc.), I actually would leave a few days (maybe weeks) before the 24 months are over - is that a deal breaker for Japanese carriers? Should I even tell them?

    If you´ve written about this, please point me to the entry.

    Cheers
    Walther

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  60. Thanks. You've really been doing your homework in preparation for coming.

    Regarding the talkingSIM, yes, 300 kbps is slow but not necessarily deal-killingly so. Fortunately the allowed apps on the platinum SIM cover the basics, like skype, etc. It might be worth trying because you can cancel at anytime and only be out the signup cost, since bmobile doesn't require contracts and doesn't have termination fees.

    Even if you bring your iPhone and don't get a subsidized phone, you could still end up in a contract if you sign up for any discount services. All the contracts I've seen simply require that you cancel within the 24th month. So if you start service on 10/31/2011 and cancel on 10/1/2013, you'd be fine.

    As far as other options go, If I was coming to Japan in a few months, I'd probably not even traditional mobile voice service. I'd get a data only plan that allows VoIP and then get a "050" phone number. (090 and 080 are for cell phones, 070 for PHS, 050 is for VoIP, etc.). Right now I am stuck with normal cell phone service due to the family plan that everyone in my extended family is on (we all get free calls to each other). VoIP would actually most likely cost more money in total for us since we'd have to pay for calls between the family, even though calls to others would be cheaper.

    But if you don't have any family here, then VoIP will be cheaper, no doubt.

    Carriers have good reason to keep VoIP off their networks, but with all the drastic changes in the mobile biz that have come out in Japan this year, VoIP services are slowly popping up. Mainly it is by MVNOs. blueSIP, and bmobile both offer it. However, if the VoIP requires a standalone app and you aren't allowed to use a SIP client, then battery life can be horrible I hear.

    VoIP is something I've been meaning to write more about, but haven't had the chance.

    So, I'd suggest to keep a look out for VoIP developments. NTT is planning on deploying something soon. I'll try and write something up.

    HTH

    ReplyDelete
  61. I think that the new VOIP service that NTT (OCN) is offering over mobile - 050Plus advertises as free calls to other 050Plus members and OCN dotphones (IP Phones).

    Looking at your situation, if everyone in family moves to Smartphone+050Plus, it might save some money. (ofcourse assuming that everyone in family is currently using unlimited or significant data plans).

    However, as you rightly mentioned, VOIP will probably be the way to go to save cost. 050Plus is 315yen per month compared to a minimum of around 1000yen for regular mobile voice provider. Not to mention that call charges are cheaper.

    I am seriously considering moving to data only SIM with 050Plus. Do you have statistics on data usage for a calls over VOIP.
    I was thinking of b-mobile FAIR or the AEON 400kbps. Also, do you know of any issues VOIP might have over 400kbps compared to "carrier speed"? My assumption is that 400kbps should be sufficient for good quality voice only VOIP calls.

    ReplyDelete
  62. I'm actually preparing a post on that right now. Haven't had the chance to yet, but the above comment spurred me to action.

    You are right and I've been thinking of that. The problem are the parents. They are very analog. Not only that, smartphones these days are still not for everyone - there's battery issues, crashes, stuff like. that. So, they are going to be using feature phones, which don't support (yet) VoIP. That pretty much leaves me stuck, I think. It would be very frustrating for them if I tried to move them off the galapagos phone.

    ReplyDelete
  63. SBSdroid...

    I've been following this blog for sometime now. Incredible work! Well done! You ought to turn this blog into an interactive webpage. If you can't be bothered or if you're too busy, don't worry as it's already a really very useful source of info as it is!

    I have one piece of extra info. SB staff informed me officially that next month AU, DOCOMO, SB will allow for "cross carrier" SMS service. At a cost to be defined. Not sure about MMS.

    More good news: SB no longer mind if you root, install new ROM, Radio, unlock etc. As long as your phone was originally bought in their store and branded SB.

    Last week I had a problem as I could no longer send SMS but I could receive them (sending/receiving MMS was ok). I went to the Shibuya store to check and the technician did not mind at all when the Coredroid animation appeared. In fact he asked me how it performd and if it was available with Japanese interface/language!

    Maybe SB is getting tired of gayjins like me blatantly flaunting all their rules and is giving up on their crazy limitations! Oh, I almost forgot, I have been thethering every day and I even downloaded a full movie: my monthly bill has never gone over the 11,000 yen mark (unlimited data plan)! Smiles!

    Tommaso

    ReplyDelete
  64. Thank you for the quick reply. I can see your point about VoIP, but personally, I have had a less than optimal history with it, especially on mobile phones. I.e. using Skype on the iPhone as the only option for calls is a bit of a pita (crashes, lock screen, etc.) I guess I am too convenient to go that way.

    Saving with a family plan sounds great. I will be coming to Japan with my wife, so maybe that counts as family and we can save a bit between the both of us for a two person contract, if that even exists.

    Going back to my initial idea, the main thing for me is to have a phone with Google Maps on it (so I can navigate around the area, be it on foot or bike), a browser, feed reader, mail, etc., so I think what I really want is either an iPhone 5 or a really good Android phone. As I can't wait for the iPhone 5 to be released and, what's more important, become available, I think I already made up my mind to get the best Android phone that's available in Japan this October with a two year contract. I guess it would be the Samsung Galaxy S II, right?

    My question to you is - what provider is likely to have the best Android phones - probably Docomo, right? As they seem to have the highest bandwidth, and have the Galaxy S II in their lineup, how much do you think I will be paying for a plan that has unlimited data (a reasonable speed cap is okay for me), and very moderate call minutes and text included? Where could I find out what carrier in Japan will offer which Android phones for what prices?

    Sorry to bother you with so many lazy questions. I could probably find all this out myself if I knew where to look, so if you just point me to the right websites I'd be happy.

    Cheers
    Walt

    ReplyDelete
  65. You may want to update this: Softbank's S! Mail (@softbank.ne.jp) is available on all softbank smartphones except for the HTC Desire, though a modified MMS.apk has been created that spoofs the iPhone's user agent to allow sending S! Mail with this handset.

    This was an early problem with the Desire, but there has been a Softbank Mail application since around November last year that sends and receives Softbank mail without any special modifications.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Yes, there is an app which will let you send and receive SMS & MMS, but it limits your SMS to 160 characters after which it switches automatically to S!Mail (MMS). Spoofing is the way to go if you want to keep sending SMS (free) rather than MMS (cost varies from plan).
    By the way, SB confirmed that from August 17th AU/DOCOMO/SB numbers will be able exchange SMS (at a cost).
    Tommaso

    ReplyDelete
  67. Maybe about 7500 yen a month for unlimited data and the smallest voice plan using a family plan to your wife with docomo. Probably best to check the docomo site for prices. I don't typically blog on the phones that are coming out. Large electronic stores sometimes have better prices than docomo shops. I'm not sure why.

    Check out my posts about the b-mobile Fair SIM - somewhere in there are graphs with the amount of money I paid every month for the exact what I suggested (family plan, smallest voice plan, unlimited data)

    ReplyDelete
  68. Thanks. I have to edit this to add that. I've got a post here somewhere on the details of the SMS exchange. Prices will drop, too (but will still be expensive).

    ReplyDelete
  69. I found your very informative website whilst trying to solve my problem with a new chinese 3g android phone and silver softbank sim. The sim works fine in a jailbroken iphone 3g but when put in the android phone the android phone just goes into an endless loop of restarts. Only taking the sim out lets the android phone boot up as normal. Unfortunately google has not been my friend in solving this but perhaps some reader here might have some ideas

    ReplyDelete
  70. That's a very odd problem.

    1. What is the exact model of the android phone?
    2. Has it been rooted or otherwise customized?
    3. Has it ever had a different radio flashed?
    4. (most importantly) does it boot loop when you stick in another SIM card, or only with the SB silver card?

    ReplyDelete
  71. Updated 7/11/2011 with cross carrier SMS, softbank ala carte SIMs, NTT VoIP, b-mobile/Aeon SIMs and general clean up and updating.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Thank you so much to try and help.

    Iti s chinese iphone copy type 3g A9+. Phone is supposed to be okay for 2100 3g network. I just got it yesterday and not sure if it is rooted or not. system was supposed to be 2.2 but maybe is 2.3. it was not customised just as came. I tried another sim I had at home from another country, but not a 3g sim, just 2g and it stared up and seemed to see the card for what I can tell since it is not a network here, and did not go into the endless reboot. I could use it as normal.

    I just tried a friend's iphone 4 softbank sim card in the android phone. ( I have an adapter for mini sim to full size) Exactly same thing happened as with my silver softbank sim. The phone momentarily recognised it is on the softbank network, so is reading the sim, but then reboots and goes into an endless cycle of the same thing rebooting, seeing the softbank network and then restarting.

    I am rather disapointed as was expecting it to work like it does in the jailbreak iphone 3g. Question I am not sure is if the phone is actually faulty or is there something about the softbank network and this phone/ and /or android version.

    thanks again for your help
    Ian

    ReplyDelete
  73. I bought it online. But the company is legitimite enough and if it is broken I can send it back, but of course I will have to pay the shipping cost. I just would just like to be really sure that it is a fault with the phone and not some kind of network/system problem related just to softbank. The only real way to test that will be if I went overseas and put in a 3g sim card of a another network. Of course it is not really a copy of an iphone because it runs android not ios and it cant connect to itunes and uses different usb cable and has a battery that can be easily taken out and so on and so forth so no one can really pretend it is an iphone or confuse it or even think it is one, but yes it does kind of generally look like one. A real copy of an iphone would have to be something that runs the apple system and I am sure apple would rightly be concerned about that but I dont even think those are availble and mine is certainly not something like that.

    Anyhow so you are saying you are pretty certain it is a hardware fault so maybe I should contact the dealer and see what they say. Thanks for your help

    ReplyDelete
  74. Thanks again. Makes good sense what you say. I would like to try a b-mobile sim, but I am not in Tokyo but maybe I can find someway to do this. Meanwhile I will email the vendor and see what they have to say. I will post here if I ever solve this

    ReplyDelete
  75. which mms.apk are you using? i was spoofing the iphone UA and everything was going swimmingly until about 2 weeks ago when it suddenly stopped working. i'm running vanilla android 2.3.4.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Hi Darren,
    Yes, also I had exactly the same problem. The Shibuya SB shop manager tried to fix it without success. JHe then found out that SB was modifying the SMS network to cater for the upcoming DOCOMO/AU SMS sending/receiving and, apparently, many handsets which were not running the SB crappy UI/ROM were unable to send SMS (but could receive them). I obtained that their Network Division look into my particular case and they solved it.

    I do not, unfortunately, use the app which I mentioned bcs I can't find it again (it was on some speciaslized forum's thread as X developers or something like that) and I don't know how to install it. But if you search for it I am sure that you can find it.

    Let us know if you fix your problem and if you find the spoofing APPK. Ciao,

    Tommaso

    ReplyDelete
  77. Update on my Chinese android phone. I sent it back to China and they sent me another one. Unfortunately it made no difference and exactly the same thing happens - with a softbank sim inside the phone will go into an endless loops of restarts that can only be stopped by taking out the sim card. Seems to be working okay with out softbank sim card inside and also will start up and appears to work okay with other country sim cards (not 3g) inside, although I can't actually test if those services work, but the cards are recognised and the phone start ups. I wish I could try a b-mobile sim with it, but anyhow it really seems like a compatibility problem with softbank, as weird as I know this sounds. Obviously softbank has no reason to support this phone so cannot investigate this further. The good news is that I think I can return the phone and get a refund. What are the recommendations around for a good cheap android phone that will work with softbank. I am looking for something relatively cheap and can accept the lesser features a cheap phone means but just would like the best value for a cheaper one and must be android 2.2 at least. I saw online the new Huawei Sonic which seems to fit the bill as good value for a cheap android phone. (Huawei is a chinese brand but at least it seems they have a name and are competing strongly on the android phone market.) ZTE Blade also seems to be a pick for a cheap android phone. Any opinions anyone?

    ReplyDelete
  78. Interesting.

    I own a Huawei IDEOS. It is nothing at all special, but unlocked and quad band WCDMA (850/1700/1900/2100), which covers Softbank, Emobile, Bmobile, Docomo, US AT&T, and US T-Mobile.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Sorry for the late reply! That makes sense, about migrating their service to be compatible with SMS. Would have been nice if they had told their customers about it, though.

    Well I flashed the latest version of the Oxygen ROM for HTC Desire (been using the ROM for nearly a year now) and MMS fixed itself, using the same tried-and-true mms.apk that I had been using before it broke. Since I was using my old Softbank iPhone SIM in my unlocked HTC, I just set the User Agent back to iPhone 3.0 and off it went! Not sure if it was because of the new ROM, or whether Softbank eventually just lifted their game and fixed it.

    Hope you find a way to get it back up and running! Trust me I know how annoying it is when it's not working.

    ReplyDelete
  80. @Darren,
    Pls, can you point me to a link to download your mms.apk? I still cannot receive MMS.
    Tommaso

    ReplyDelete
  81. Thanks in advance to everyone here for their help, it's appreciated. I have a few rookie questions with regards to setting up a new smartphone here, hope that is alright.

    I was in Canada over the summer and picked up a new HTC Incredible S from Virgin mobile, which apparently runs on Bell's network there. It's running Android 2.3. I have a SoftBank keitai that's been paid off (i.e. the two year contract was up a while ago, been running month to month since), and the corresponding silver SIM card. If possible I'm happy to run the new phone on SoftBank, but if necessary will switch to BMobile or something.

    The first thing I need to do is unlock the HTC -- Virgin said they could do it for a price, but the salesman indicated I could just do it myself. I realise there's a lot of information out there on this business, but was looking for some advice from anyone here on how best to do it. My preliminary search turned up a lot of somewhat dodgy looking sites offering unlock codes for money, and I have no idea if this is the norm. Any other advice for phone preparation, like things to do to the keitai and the smartphone before and after the unlock would be great.

    Once that is done, unless otherwise advised I'll attempt to get it up and running on SoftBank as per the instructions outlined above on this site.

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Update:
    I am still waiting to try and figure out the best (cheapest, safest, easiest...) way to unlock my Incredible S, but in the meantime tried to change my Softbank plan to unlimited data for smartphone, as per the instructions above. I am reporting that it does not seem to be possible, in that the only options available in MySoftbank online were the non-smartphone plans. Before I left Japan this summer I did cancel my non-smartphone data plan (leaving me with just the basic "white" plan), so it is possible that this is the reason the smartphone options are not available. However, I find it more likely that MySoftbank is aware that I have a grey/silver SIM, and is therefore not giving me the smartphone options at all. So it seems MySoftbank has changed since the instructions above were posted, (this is also supported by the fact that it looks like the interface has changed, e.g. I could find no green icon). If anyone can correct this I'd be happy to hear it. Otherwise, I suppose that BMobile is now the best option.

    ReplyDelete
  83. In the interest of trying to keep things current for readers trying, I am reporting that the procedure for using an unlocked Android phone on a grey/silver Softbank SIM seems to be out of date.

    I have been running my HTC Incredible S on Softbank for two months now under the opensoftbank APN (as instructed for the grey/silver SIM out of my keitai, as opposed to the black SIM). Technically everything runs just fine. However, there seems to be no way, either online or in person, to change to a "smartphone" plan. I have tried both of the packet houdai options that are available, but regardless am being charged at around ¥9000 instead of ¥5000 per month, apparently because the system thinks my keitai is tethered or some such.

    If anyone has had recent success getting a smartphone running on a grey/silver Softbank SIM and being charged the proper amount for data usage please let us know how you did so. Otherwise, I think the information above needs to be updated to say that Softbank has now made it impossible for older grey/silver SIM cards.

    ReplyDelete
  84. T,
    I am using Black SIM as well as Smartphone SIM in unlocked, rooted, flashed android phones and did not face any problem with the charges.

    However, I am already on the Smartphone related data plans. So that could be a difference with your case.

    I think the first thing you need to do is to get SB to change your data plan to a smartphone related one.

    ReplyDelete
  85. I think you are being charged as per below caveat
    "Maximum fees for PC Site Direct are ¥9,800/month. (Only for X Series.)"

    Please go through link to understand better http://mb.softbank.jp/en/price_plans/upd.html

    ReplyDelete
  86. Thanks very much for the reply.

    That caveat you point out looks like it is indeed the culprit. My online bill has the approximate ¥9000 charge labelled "定額料 パケットし放題", and then the lines "通信料 PCダイレクト@0.08円" and "割 引 パケットし放題 対象通信分" which nearly negate each other every month (which is good, because they run up to ¥30,000 or so). So I gather that I am getting a packet houdai, it's just costing almost twice what it should. Not sure what X Series is, but I guess SB's network is misidentifying my Incredible S -- perhaps this is their way of penalising those of us attempting to do what I am without scaring us off completely with a ¥30,000 bill.

    I agree, a solution would be to get SB to put me on a smartphone plan. However there seems to be no way to do so with my existing SIM card either online, where I've tried the other packet houdai options to no avail, or in person, where I made the SB employee dealing with me go to her supervisor not once but twice to check if there was not some way to do so -- I assume all they need to do is click a button, as it were. This even after I made it clear that I would have to leave SB (i.e. stop giving them my monthly business) if they didn't do so.

    Thus I think that the instructions in the original post above, which suggest simply going online and changing one's old account to a smartphone account, are now out of date. If I'm wrong and I'm just missing something in my.softbank online, I would love to hear about it. All of the other instructions are accurate -- I followed them and my phone is working fine as far as I can tell. If there are any other suggestions of what I can do to get the charges under control, please let us know -- I'd still rather save the hassle of switching carriers. I should add that I am trying to avoid another contract, (so if I have to leave I'll most likely go to BMobile).

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  87. T,
    Hi, I am from Canada and I am looking for a carrier for my unlocked nokia n8. It is so confusing with docomo and softbank. I got a couple questions
    1) did you stay with SB?
    2) did which to BMobile and was it difficult getting an unlocked phone on the system?

    cheers

    ReplyDelete
  88. As far as I know, your best option with a foreign unlocked smartphone is BMobile, especially if you don't know how long you'll be in Japan or are otherwise trying to avoid a contract. But there are others on this forum who would know better.

    ReplyDelete
  89. I have an unlocked Google phone. The first one from Europe. I spend a few months every year in Japan and was wondering what would be the absolute cheapest way to have the bugger make and receive calls here. Many thanks in advance, MF.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Without being a resident, It's not possible to get voice service. Your best bet would be a bmobile data-only SIM, maybe the zero-yen if are here frequently enough. Then you'd need a VoIP solution like skype or an actual SIP account somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  91. I see. Thanks a mill for the info. My wife is resident perhaps thru her I could set up something? What would be best just to have a local number people could call me on?

    ReplyDelete
  92. Right now, the "prepaid" SIMs also require a 1 year contract, so if you get voice service, you'll need to pay for a year. Another option would be to look into getting a 050 DID for a VoIP service, but my provider can't offer Japanese DIDs and the only domestic services I see that are also require contracts.

    A contract will cost you 10,000 yen to break.

    If you get JCI bmobile, the contract ends after one year and doesn't renew.

    ReplyDelete
  93. Interesting blog, but kind seems to be too much information in one place, and so far I couldn't find what I was looking for... I think I have finally solved the mystery of the data usage limits for KDDI au, but it's so bizarre that I'm trying to find confirmation. I guess I should write up a blog report of my preliminary results, and then check back here?

    ReplyDelete
  94. Post here what your finding. I'm not very well versed with what KDDI does, since they aren't a W-CDMA carrier that is compatible with phones from around the world.

    ReplyDelete
  95. Gawd, what an annoyance to get the 050 NTT service going. The battery could be also related to a cell-standy issue. Check this

    http://softbanksucks.blogspot.jp/2012/03/fix-for-excessive-cell-standby-battery.html

    Do you get signal bars displaying with the FAIR SIM?

    We should make this into a post on it's own...

    ReplyDelete
  96. Tragic Gaijin GringotsApril 24, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    Yes, I saw that, thanks. I will put CyanogenMod ICS on it when it comes available and try the patch. No signal bars, just a HSDPA icon. I reckon between 050 plus and the standby bug, my battery uses about 5% an hour.

    ReplyDelete
  97. http://glimpses-of-familiar-japan.blogspot.jp/2012/05/wireless-internet-services-with.html

    That's a summary of most of my research about the data limitations. The parts about KDDI are most of the new stuff. At the time I was writing it, I was strongly inclined towards switching to KDDI, but there's one more piece of data not yet included there that has me leaning the other way now. I have two sources (including one in KDDI) who say that KDDI is going to switch their high-speed data services to LTE in the next few years. There is some disagreement about whether that will be purchased from NTT or Softbank or might be their own new infrastructure, but any way you slice it, it makes me believe that WiMax is going to lose in the market... Therefore, I think I'm about to stay with eMobile with one of their double-speed phones. My own experience is that any speed over about 1.5 Mbps is satisfactory for my needs, and doubling my averages should improve things at a small marginal cost...

    ReplyDelete
  98. My understanding is that KDDI will roll out LTE from 12/2012, starting with 60% coverage of the population at 75 Mbps (theoretical). By the beginning of fiscal 2015, KDDI plans to have 96.5% coverage.

    http://www.japanmobiletech.com/2012/02/japanese-carrier-plans-for-lte.html

    ReplyDelete
  99. Is there an affordable way to get a prepaid phone with voice and data (preferably with tethering, but it's not necessary)? I've got the identification to sign up for post-paid, but I'd like to wait a couple months to see if Google will release a new Nexus. Any ideas?

    ReplyDelete
  100. I'm leaving for Japan on a one year visa in about a month and I'm really kinda overwhelmed by all of this phone stuff.

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a phone that I can buy unlocked in the US that will work with b-mobile with no problems?

    I'd prefer not to buy an Apple product if I can avoid it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. your best bet is probably a galaxy nexus since they are identical hardware wise to the Do como sc04d and that one is known to work with bmobile. You will probably want to switch the modem firmware for the Japanese one so you can get better reception. Also if you are going to be use a data only SIM you should apply the patch linked at the top of this site so you don't get excessive battery drain. we haven't tested that patch on the galaxy nexus though.

      Delete
  101. I currently live abroad but my parents still pay for my monthly softbank phone (non-smartphone) which i have turned of for most of the year. I'm thinking of getting a samsung galaxy (s III, s II x, ace II x or ace). As long as the phone is unlocked and WCDMA 2100 compatible it should work, right?

    Well, as your website mentions, and as I phoned Softbank, they told me that they are not authorized to give out SIM cards for non-Japanese phones (phones that I purchased abroad).

    1. the softbank representative told me that non-smartphone sim cards and smartphone cards differ, so regardless of where i buy the phone, i would have to purchase a new smartphone sim card. is this true?

    2. most likely i will buy a samsung smartphone abroad. the lady told me that she cannot authorize me a sim card for phones that are not part of their inventory and phones that are purchased abroad (no manufacturing stamp, as indicated on ur website) what should i do? how do i walk into a store to receive a smartphone softbank sim card?

    3. im not sure if i understand what this means: "If you can't get a SIM through official channels, you must have a
    softbank plan for a regular feature phone, and then switch the data
    plan to the unlimited plan for smartphones, set the proper APN on the smartphone, yank the SIM from the softbank phone, and slip it in the smartphone" found under "Procedure for using an overseas phone with Softbank"

    ReplyDelete
  102. There are no rules/regulations with SB that forbid you to ask for a sim card unsiutable for your device. Of course if you do your device will not properly connect to the SB network and this will cost you a BOMB!


    But...



    1. Go to a SB store and say that you lost your sim card. Bring only your ID and NOT your contract.

    2. The staff will verify and confirm that your name is registered with SB with a contract and a phone number.
    3. They will now ask you which sim card you need. The employee's screen menu which is used to link user/number does not display contract/device specifics.

    4. Ask for a grey sim card "for smartphone" and a black micro sim card "for iPhone" according to which you will use.
    5. Insert the sim card and you can already make/receve calls but - be very careful - modify both the Data and MMS APNs before you use any data connection or you will incurr in a very unpleasant surprise with your next phone bill.


    To modify your APNs there are many ways. I like this one: www.unlockit.co.nz because it's perfectly legal and very simple. But any other method will work.

    ReplyDelete
  103. Hy everyone!
    My name is Eleonora and I'd like to have some advice.
    On October I'll go in Japan for 6month and I need a Japanese number. On December 2012 I bought a Sony Xperia S which, following the features on Sony's site, cover Japanese networks (here's the networks covered by my phone:networks GSM GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 UMTS HSPA 850, 900, 1900, 2100), or at least is what the site report.
    I tried to ask to Softbank but their sim are normal size so they're not the right one(my phone needs a micro sim). I'd like to ask you some info: first of all wil my phone work in Japan? What kind of plan can you recommend me? I need something that allow me to communicate by email and text, or phone calls. I saw the U300 micro 6 month..how do you think about it? second:how can I buy the sim? There's a shop in Japan or I must order it on line?
    Please answer me as soon as you can. I'm really worried about this question. Ah, my android phone as the 4.0.4 android version.
    Thanks to all for your attention.
    Regards

    Eleonora

    ReplyDelete
  104. http://www.japanmobiletech.com/2013/03/improved-data-plans-for-b-mobile.html



    This will be the best for a short stay. The phone supports This plan (HSPA 2100), however you need to make sure it is unlocked. Check with the shop that sold you the phone. If it's not unlocked, you'll have to ask the seller how to do that. If you bought it from a mobile carrier, it might be very difficult to unlock it.


    You can probably buy this SIM card at a shop in Akihabara, tokyo like Yodobashi camera. You will need a credit card, though. It doesn't have to be a Japanese card, though.

    ReplyDelete
  105. Thank you!
    I bought it not branded on a shop site. What do you mean for unlocked? that can support not just a type of sim card? or that can support the networks? Oo

    ReplyDelete
  106. Hello SBS,

    Your guide has been awesome to me and I am seeking further advice.


    When I visit Japan, I stay with my family in the inaka (Its as inaka as you can get) and they have neither a cellphone or internet access. When I went last year I purchased that Chameleon plan but it turned out to be a disaster because I was limited to using only 360MB for every 3 days due to bmobile's data throttling. I looked into using other providers such as emobile, but I cannot get their reception at my place. The only networks that I have access to are FOMA, Softbank 3G and AU.


    My question to you is that is there a bmobile plan that does not have the 360MB/3 day throttling? My only way of accessing the internet is through my phone so I cannot work with only 360MB of data transfer. Also if b-mobile is not a good idea for me, then do you know if Docomo or Softbank offer plans that don't require a 2 year contract?


    Thank you very much!

    ReplyDelete
  107. I don't know if Docomo forces that on the MVNOs, but Docomo FOMA plans technically have the same restriction.

    http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/charge/packet/pake_hodai_f/notice/
    "Depending on network traffic conditions, communications may become slow or connecting may become difficult. Furthermore, communications may become slower for especially heavy users (amount of packet communications during the last three days including the current day is 3 million packets or more) compared to other users. Please check (Check and pay charges) of My docomo (PC version/i-mode version) for a rough estimate6 of the amount of packet communications you have used over the last three days. Communications may be interrupted if a large amount of data is transmitted within a set amount of time or during a single connection, if the connection time is long, or if you connect continuously within a set amount of time."

    3 million packets is 360 MB. B-mobile just makes it -h (human readable).

    I think most of these MVNOs mention the same restriction:
    http://www.japanmobiletech.com/2013/03/comparison-of-all-japanese-mvnos.html



    The ones that don't are probably just omitting it.

    ReplyDelete
  108. Hi,

    I don't understant all things.I would like to now, Can I use French Samsung Galaxy S4 in Japan ?
    regards

    ReplyDelete
  109. I forgot, I will stay 1 year.

    ReplyDelete
  110. NTT trying to make the free wifi experience for foreign travelers suck less...

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nttbp.jfw

    ReplyDelete
  111. Tommaso SantojanniJanuary 8, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    Hello SBS & happy new year to everyone.

    Just for your information, The Softbank LTE network uses these 2 frequencies:
    1700MHz
    2100Mhz



    Frequencies in Japan
    LTE


    Docomo: 1500, 2100 MHZ
    AU: 800, 2100 MHz
    Softbank: 1500 (DC-HSDPA), 2100 MHz
    E-Mobile: 1700 Mhz
    AU will rely on the CDMA-based n

    ReplyDelete
  112. This Topic is quite interesting also for mobile consumers that want to break away from Mobile carriers, I would be happy to introduce the company that I work for that offers smartphones unlocked to a lot of Japanese consumers in Japan. I'm trying to reach out also to the foreign community in Japan, since a consumer has a rightful choice to opt in or out an find alternatives in the market.

    ReplyDelete
  113. I read your blogs regularly. Your humoristic way is amusing, continue
    the good work!http://www.lowermyom

    ReplyDelete
  114. Has Docomo Xi been discontinued? On the website it states "New
    applications for Type Xi Plan are no longer accepted as of Sunday,
    August 31, 2014."

    ReplyDelete
  115. Okay, I went to the store and got a Kakehodai plan with the M data pack (5GB).
    I know that many people here were talking about plans at Docomo in the 7000 Yen price range, but mine costs 10,500 Yen without a cellphone! Have I been screwed over?

    ReplyDelete