Sunday, February 27, 2011

Docomo SIM unlocking from April, effect on handset price unclear

All sorts of news from Docomo's Friday new model announcement. First and foremost, SIM unlocking is happening sooner than previously reported, from April (not June).

Regarding other details surrounding SIM unlocking, there is no real new information to present. All handsets sold from April will be eligible for unlocking even immediately after purchase. There will be a service charge for unlocking, but Docomo is still working out exactly the price. They are currently considering something in the ball park of "several thousand yen."

How will SIM unlocking effect handset price?

As usual, we have dueling opinions from Son and Yamada. Softbank's Son says:
[SIM unlocking] will result in various problems. The price of unlocked handsets will increase to by around 40,000 yen.
While Docomo's Yamada says:
SIM unlocking is unrelated to handset price.
It media points out that there is more to consider here, namely the cost of the phone versus the total cost for the phone and service.

While I was at sea, Docomo announced a new "monthly support" plan(月々サポート)aimed at buyers of new smartphones. The deal appears to be that if you pay in monthly installments over 24 months, the exact cost you pay every month for the phone is discounted from your service fees. As soon as you've finished paying off the phone after 2 years, your monthly service fees will increase to normal, but since you are no longer paying for the phone, there will be no effective change in the price of you bill.

Docomo has not said if unlocking a phone would result in the cancellation of the discount. And because of this convoluted way of administering the discount - not discounting the phone cost, but the cost of service - even if Docomo were to cancel the discount, technically the price of the phone won't increase.

In the image below, on top are the service fees, on bottom, the cost of the handset in installments.


  1. >> さまざまな不具合が出てくる。解除した端末は単価が4万円ほど高くなる。
    I think it means the price will go up by 40.000 Yen. Especially since 40.000 would be rather cheap for a japanese phone.

  2. You're right, that's exactly what that means.

  3. Speaking of unlocking. My HT-03a is successfully SIM-unlocked as of today, via code bought from

    Since I moved my Desire HD to Docomo network, I was stuck with using a jailbroken iPhone 3G on Softbank - while my poor HT-03a wasted away. Then the iPhone started acting weird. So after a little research I found some Japanese guys who used the site-provided code. I figured I had a 50/50 chance that it'd work.

    $25 (Euro into USD) later, I can finally toss my iPhone, and give my ht-03a some love again :P - even if it has to endure SB's network.

    Last thoughts: I can't really recommend anyone doing what I did. I could never get SB's Desire HD to use Docomo's 800Mhz band. So the implied benefits of Docomo's network (at least for me wanting good indoor voice reception) were never realized. I learned that the radios are customized to each carrier. I'm still happy with the setup, just not ecstatic like I thought I'd be.

    At least now _hopefully_ we'll be able to buy a new smartphone, and get it unlocked after having PAID for it over 24mos, right? That's all I ever wanted. Anyone else have a bunch of sim-locked phone paperweights in your drawers?