Sunday, May 3, 2015

KDDI SIM unlocking conditions are better than docomo's

Both KDDI (PR) and docomo (PR) have announced their respective unlocking conditions in compliance with the new Somusho guidelines. At this point in time, there appears to be some major differences in the KDDI and docomo conditions. Media inquires indicate that docomo will only unlock phones for the original owner, where as KDDI has responded that it will unlock any phone, irrespective of the current owner. (This of course won't apply to stolen phones). Additionally, the rumor is that docomo will only unlock phones for three months following termination of service, even for the original owner.

However, keep in mind the following two points:
  1. Neither company is actually unlocking phones under the new guidelines yet.
  2. Such glaring differences in service conditions have a way of leveling out. (Remember the debacle that was Softbank's tethering and 1.2 GB data cap)
So by the time six months have passed from the release of the docomo summer lineup, it is entirely possible that docomo will match KDDI's conditions (though on the other hand this is docomo who is used to being the ones to dictate conditions to the other carriers – so we'll just have to see). There were (are) no similar restrictions on the unlocking period for docomo phones to which the old guidelines apply.

KDDI docomo
Free (¥3,000+tax in store) Free (¥3,000+tax in store)
Applicable to devices released from
April 23, 2015* May 1, 2015
Wait time to unlock
180 days 6 months
Unlock possible after cancel service
forever for 3 months
* The "Galaxy S6 edge SCV31" on sale from April 23 from KDDI is subject to the new guidelines and will be unlockable 180 days from purchase. (This phone is also currently unlockable now from docomo but for ¥3,000.)

So is this a good or bad thing? It depends on how you look at it.

Previously, docomo was the only option for obtaining an officially-unlockable phone, and that cost money and time, lots of time if you ended up with incompetent shop staff. It was also difficult to figure out which bands a docomo phone supported. And most incredulously, unlocking your phone pretty much voided the warranty. All that crap will be finished, but there could now be a finite time window during which a docomo phone can be unlocked.

KDDI frequency bands

KDDI has already published a page showing WCDMA and LTE band support of its unlockable phones. Also, I can't help but roll my eyes at the "SAMSUNG" prefacing "Galaxy S6 Edge" ;)

As can be seen here the "Samsung" Galaxy SG Edge will work fine in most of the world except North America, where it lacks support for "GSM" carriers AT&T and T-Mobile. Maybe it'll work on EDGE, but the experience will be horrible.

What about Softbank?

As usual, there is no word at all from Softbank, and the only phones they list as unlockable are the same shitty ones that no one ever bought. They blatantly ignored the old guidelines for quite some a long time. I assume they'll comply this time but not sure when.


  1. Hey, just wanted to comment and say that this site is a hidden gem. I can't thank you enough for covering these important tech topics in Japan, because I don't see them covered anywhere else on English websites. I'll always be a reader of this site, thank you so much.

  2. Thanks for reading! These days, I try to at least write something on the major things, like new government guidelines and whatnot, but I personally have a lot work responsibilities in daily life and that cuts into my time for writing posts.

  3. Hi, I was just wondering if you could provide me any information on unlocking my Docomo Arrows NX F-01F. I'm traveling back to the US, and wanted to have Docomo unlock it. I was wondering if you knew which company/network back in the US (Sprint, ATT, Verizon, TMobile) I should use, and if swapping out SIM cards will actually work. I read some of your posts on this, but it was so long ago, so wasn't sure if there's any new info. Also, should I make sure that I get their unlock code or encryption code? Or should I just try to ask friends abroad if they have a old phone that I can borrow instead of going through the trouble of unlocking the one I have here? Thanks in advance for any info you might be able to help me with!

  4. The last 3 or 4 times I have gone into Docomo shops to remove the sim lock on "white-rom" phones, it has been nothing but smooth sailing. No question on when my contract ended (this was before I got a Docomo contract, and during), or how old the phone was (did it on my brand new phone), and no mention of voiding warranty. In fact I have also brought unlocked phones in for warranty work (no problems of course), and on receiving the phone back, they dutifully reapplied the unlocking procedure (for free) after I mentioned the fact it had been reset (Many cases it was)

    So why does it sound like Docomo is *tightening* their unlocking restrictions after the release of these guidelines? Could the person you spoke to be mistaken?

  5. "Could the person you spoke to be mistaken?"

    I didn't talk to anyone. This post is based on a combination of the docomo press release and two separate Japanese-language articles that followed up. It won't be until December or perhaps January when docomo actually starts unlocking phones under the new guidelines. By that time, KDDI would have already been unlocking, and it is entirely possible that docomo with morph it's conditions to mimic KDDI's. Or not.

    Regarding smooth sailing, it has always been a mixed bag. If you are doing it multiple times, and if you are going to the same shop to do it, then you know for a fact that particular shop has some experience with the process.

    It was painfully obvious that the shop I went to had zero experience, and I had to wait for them to figure it out as they muddled through the process over the course of an hour.

  6. I have been to a few shops, but i guess since it is Tokyo they are all fairly used to it by now. I wonder if their press release was referring to the iPhone specifically (since thats the only one that cant be unlocked right now).

    Having said that, i guess there arent all that many people who bother unlocking their phones, since you dont need to unlock to use MVNOs (which are almost all Docomo based), and using a foreign SIM card while travelling is "mendokusai". So perhaps they will tighten their belt... Hoping not.

  7. So let me get this right. If I get a Galaxy 6 from Docomo, the band coverage will have better compatibility in the U.S. versus the KDDI one, correct?
    However, I would have to enter into a 6 month contract with Docomo before I could get it unlocked right?
    That's a new contract, even if I'm already over 2 years as Docomo customer with different Samsung phone, right?

    If above the case, any way to get unlocked Galaxy 6 immediately (having the Docomo bands)?

  8. No, not necessarily. I didn't say what the docomo bands are because I have confirmed that. They could be the same at the KDDI model for all I know. Docomo is unlocking the galaxy under the old guidelines, meaning that they will immediately unlock it for a 3000 yen fee.

    Docomo only has 2-year, automatically renewing contracts.

  9. As a SB user I am not surprised by their lack of support for unlocking. Typical. Does anyone know if you can buy a SIM-free Android phone, get an OCN voice SIM, and then move the old 090 number to that instead? I really want to reduce my monthly fees and be able to swap the SIM for travel.

  10. I was thinking maybe to get a Samsung Galaxy 6 (Unlocked) from one of the U.S. carriers due to a greater compatibility in the U.S. (If I ever go to the U.S.), I'd have more options with prepaid SIMS vs. a Samsung Galaxy 6 made for the Japan Market.
    I was thinking of then signing up for the BIC SIM (through iijmio, which looks to use Docomo frequencies)
    >> Any thoughts on that?

    I looks like compared to all the carriers in the U.S. it seems the greatest coverage potential of a Galaxy 6 comes from AT&T model, which supports:
    4G-LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 20, 29 and 30
    3G - UMTS 850/1900/2100MHz
    GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz

    Note the 4G-LTE Band 1 and 3G-UMTS 2100MHz

    Both of which seems to be covered under docomo and iijmio.

    If you have any thoughts on the compatibility please let me know. thanks! ;)

  11. Cristian Glenn BacalJune 24, 2015 at 7:13 PM

    My mom got me an iPhone 5 from Japan when she went home. Unfortunately, she didn't know about this unlocking thing so I'm stuck with an iPhone that works as an iTouch. If I asked my mom to get it unlocked in KDDI, do I need to send the device back to my mom to have it unlocked or if I send her the IMEI, will that be enough?

  12. Current iPhone models are ineligible for unlocking, period. KDDI will not unlock it. The next iPhone released will be eligible.

  13. please so they have a link for unlocking requests on kddi site ? seems unlocking iphones started already

  14. err, I just sign up with Docomo and took Iphone 6 mobile. I did it based on the understanding that the phone that are being sold after 1st of May 2015 will be eligible for unlocking after my contract finished. So basically, any Iphone in Japan even though they are being sold after May 2015 would not be able to be unlocked?