Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to get a new iPhone with an old data plan

(Short answer: Don't switch to or stay with Docomo.)

All of the Japanese carriers have followed Docomo's lead and introduced new plans with unlimited calling and shared data. A comment on a previous post pointed out that this adds more complexity to the typical Japanese carrier strategy of throwing cash and discounts at people to induce them to switch because of increased minimum monthly costs. To be honest, this year's iPhone release was really boring. I was hoping to see some whacky promotions, but they just never happened, perhaps because the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications asked the carriers show a bit of restraint.
“But excessive cash-back promotions and extreme sales competition that create a sense of unfairness for other long-term users aren’t desirable.”

Cost of old and new plans

Comparison of old and new data plans
Old data plan New data plan
Basic voice plan
¥934 (¥743)
ISP charge
Data plan
¥5,200 (7GB)
¥5,000 (5 GB)
¥6,434 (¥6,243)

The above prices are without tax. I haven't bothered to separate by carrier because they all charge the exact same price. The only difference is in Docomo's old voice plan (shown in parenthesis), but that's only a minor point because it doesn't exist anymore.

The difference in price between the old and new plans is ¥1,566, which equates to about 40 minutes of outgoing calls (at ¥20/30 seconds). Note that the old plan as shown doesn't include any free outgoing calls, even to users of the same network. For someone who makes zero outgoing calls, that's an increase in price of ¥37,584 over a 24-month contract. However this is only the case if you are getting your shiny new iPhone from Docomo.

Docomo forced "upgrade" to new data plan

Not only had docomo discontinued the old data plan as of September 1st of this year, existing customers MUST upgrade to the new data plans to be eligible for a monthly handset subsidy (月々サポート). There is no mention of the voice plan, but (as you may have guessed), getting the new data plan also requires getting the new voice plan. Yay.

The monthly subsidies are what allow you to walk out of a store with a new phone for somewhere between nothing and ¥20,000. The actual cost of the phone is often upwards of ¥100,000, split over your monthly bill for 12 to 24 months. Then the subsidy (typically an equal amount) is subtracted. Remove that subsidy and you will be charged ¥99,792 for a Docomo iPhone 6 Plus.

Softbank and KDDI still offer old plans – for now

You may have been told differently by random Softbank shop staff, but it IS still possible to get a brand new subsidized (and shiny) iPhone with the old, less expensive data plans. (See here for example.)
Unlike docomo where the only reasonable choice is a new data plan, both AU and Softbank offer the old plans, even for new new users who port over a phone number.
The Softbank white plan is available for new contracts until November 30, 2014. The AU LTE Plan was previously shown to be available until the end of February next year, but there is currently no restriction displayed.

When porting in a new new number (MNP) to either KDDI or Softbank, the old plan base fee (¥934) is waived for two years. These two carriers will also buy back your old docomo iPhone 5S or 5C for about ¥30,000 or so.

Trade in a Docomo iPhone 5S

I'll consider a 1 year old 16GB Docomo iPhone 5S that was bought by an existing customer (no MNP discount). In that case, you probably owe about ¥40,000 on the phone, which is the amount you will be billed for if you cancel you contract and port out your number. Add to that about ¥10,000 for early termination, and the cost to leave Docomo becomes ¥50,000.

KDDI will buy that phone for up to ¥31,000, and the waived base fee (old plan) totals about ¥22,000 over 24 months, offsetting the cost of leaving Docomo assuming you don't then jump to Softbank when the new (and probably shiny) iPhone 6S Plus XL is released next year.

If you stay with Docomo, while they will buy back your iPhone 5S, they won't give you a discount for being a loyal customer, and they will force you to upgrade to the unlimited calling plan, a roughly ¥2,000 monthly increase over the current least expensive voice plan (an additional ¥37,584 over a 24-month contract).


  1. How does that work for auto-renewal? Will they just renew on the terms of the original contract, leaving out the monthly support? Is the monthly support something that ends anyway after having payed off the phone?
    I already was planning on going to a MVNO but this news makes that choice necessary.

  2. > Is the monthly support something that ends anyway after having payed off the phone?
    Yeah, the monthly support ends after you've paid for the phone. So yes, they will just renew on the terms of the original contract, sans the monthly support if it has been already paid for.

  3. Yea, so what you can do is just get a "sim free" iphone for this year, and next year when the iphone6splusXL is released, re-evaluate the situation...
    At least that's what I'm doing this time.

  4. Any news whether the iPhone 6 will be added to the VoLTE list?

  5. Wow. Did they really put the data plan up to ¥5000 for 5GBThat's crap! I'm glad I switched last year. I wonder if I'll be able to change the APN to SPmode next year without changing the plan.

    Right now I'm paying just under ¥7000 a month for everything with 7GB of data. Not a chance in hell they're getting any more than that.

  6. Has anyone tried the new Platinum SIMs from bmobile? They still have the 7GB plans and the rates are attractive... Just wondering about the speed...

  7. My Japanese level sucks. It's unclear to me whether the 500kbps limit applies during your data allowance, or only after you exceed it.

  8. It applies all the time ! the OCN 4gb plan is much better as the speed limit is the same if you were with docomo or softbank. 7gb plan is cheap but with the speed limit useless

  9. OK but so if you do regularly use 7GB (I do - streaming Hulu for ~1hr on train every day), then b-mobile does have an advantage... provided the speed is OK. I previously read that only the "fair" SIMs from b-mobile had same speed as Docomo. How do the Platinum cards go?

  10. I use the OCN data sim and 050+ on my iphone and my wife uses the Bic Sim Family Plan with a phone number on her Galaxy Note and Nexus tablet. Both work really well. My wife has never complained about speed.
    The only problem we have found is on the edges of a reception area, we will both lose reception before someone who has a Docomo sim from Docomo. Nobody has been able to explain this to me.

  11. That is very useful information. Neither OCN nor Iijmio support staff suggested that as a possible reason

  12. Thanks for the info.
    I am considering to move away from Softbank and not sign up for another 2-year lock-in contract (with any provider), but rather get an unlocked phone and use an MVNO. If IIJ's service is reliable and doesn't have limitations I would certainly consider their voice/data plan.

  13. Can any one tell me if the emoblie Nexus 5 is sim locked ?? thanks

  14. I have just tested the above theory regarding bands and it is correct. Thank-you so much. If I put either the OCN or Iijmio sim into a Docomo branded Galaxy Note it continues to have reception after the overseas unlocked Galaxy Note loses reception. From now on I will buy 2nd hand Docomo models, rather than sim free models, and have them unlocked for overseas travel. Now I just have to figure out how to remove all the extra Docomo software I don't need or want.

  15. http://www.japanmobiletech.com/2013/08/root-docomo-xperia-so-04e-and-disable.html

  16. if you want to charge your phone with solar energy, check out


    Whichever type of phone you have, Sprout will keep it powered up!

  17. TL;DR Version:
    * New Docomo Data Plans are pretty bad (depending on your usage type)
    * try to force Unlimited Voice Calling
    * No unlimited calling is available by going with only a data plan (rather than data plan + voice plan like before)
    --> NO calling incoming nor outgoing
    --> Tsukitsuki support discount may or may not be given. They said no but then gave it to me anyways.
    * Xperia Z3 is good; good for ingress.

    Full Version:
    What a bad experience it was with docomo's new forcing plans.

    I picked up a new phone last month in October and with it came EFT because I cannot keep the same data plan (I don't mind EFT all that much because I really wanted to get a new phone). They've been taken to court about their EFTs and docomo's response to that is that they will try to implement something by the end of the year.

    Everything will auto-renew; voice and data plans might auto renew separately. They have difference prices for whether you make a 2-year contract for a plan or not.

    So ideally, when your 2 years is up but you are waiting for the next batch of phones to be released, perhaps you can go and switch your plan to a non-contract one so you don't get charged with an EFT while you are waiting the 2 months for new phones.

    7GB-then-throttle and 3GB-then-charge-more Xi 2nen plans are dead and less-data-for-more-money data plans are left in their wake (no pun intended).

    Docomo will try to force you to take their unlimited calling plan. I like to be able to make a couple phone calls a year and to be able receive a few phone calls a year so their previous plan was great for this where you pay per outgoing call.

    Now, it's either their unlimited calling plans or no calling plan.

    What I didn't know and they didn't actually tell me (despite saying that I make a few phone calls a year) is that without their unlimited calling plan (adding a data plan without adding an unlimited calling plan) you actually get NO calling capability at all -- No incoming nor outgoing calls at all (Hopefully emergency numbers still work)

    They told me that without the calling plan, you cannot get the tsuki tsuki support to reduce your monthly payments but I went ahead without the unlimited calling plan anyways and they gave me the tsuki tsuki support anyways (after 30 minutes earlier telling me that I can't get tsuki tsuki support without the unlimited calling plans)

    After 3 hours could finally leave the the docomo shop with a new Xperia Z3 (which is quite nice and does about 4 1/2 hours of constant ingress before hitting 10% charge)

    Ridiculously more expensive compared to the unlocked Xperia Z3 in other markets and a lot more carrier bloatware (although it does support NOTTV and 1-Seg/Full-Seg)

    But no voice capability at all. Looks like I may be moving to an MVNO instead.

    (If anyone has any SIP service recommendations?)

  18. IIJ's speed will be slow (200kbps?) but won't use up your data allowance. When you activate it in their app, you will get normal speeds but it will use up your data allowance. I think then the coupon might be like a turbo boost option that should give you higher priority or less throttling (as is the case with some data providers.....

    or the coupon is the NORMAL mode that uses up your data allowance and no coupon is a super throttled mode for saving your data. (2 modes or 3 modes)

    In the app switching modes is easy. However, the one in my household who uses it says that the slower speed is only really fast enough to check your email and that's about it. There are probably other ways to change your mode; Maybe they have a web interface, but I haven't heard any complaints about just using the app to do it.

    The IIJ website numbers you've linked may now be out of date.

    From October 1st
    1GB -> 2GB
    2GB-> 4GB
    3GB Shared -> 7GB Shared


    It looks like you will get throttled if you use more than 366MB in 72 hours? (might be a problem for ingress players)
    whereas I think most MNOs usually have something like if you use more than 1GB or 2GB within 72 hours they will severely throttle you. Not sure the exact number for the MVNO definitely seems to have a lower threshold for this. At 366MB it might be nearly impossible to use up the 7GB shared limit if usage is not split between more devices. 1 device if it's straddles the line before getting throttled, could only really use about 3 1/2 GB of data a month with the 366MB restriction.