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SIM-free smartphone w/ Softbank, Docomo or b-mobile

zoomingjapan

Japan Travel Expert
Joined
18 Jun 2012
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Hi.
I've been in Japan for several years now.
I've been with Softbank for all that time. I have a pretty old Softbank phone (never got a new one) and am on the standard white plan.

I really need the functions of a smartphone when traveling, but I'm almost 100% sure that I won't stay another 2 years in Japan.

Getting a smartphone with any of the "typical" providers would mean that I have to pay a cancellation fee (that's not too bad) and a lot of money for the phone (whatever is still left to pay) and then I can basically toss that phone because they're all SIM-locked and can't be used abroad.

Instead I've done A LOT of reading and researching to see what other options I have.

It seems that you can get an unlocked smartphone from abroad (that fulfills certain requirements) and then just put your SIM from your current phone (in my case that's Softbank) in there.

You have to change the contract online accordingly and a few other things need to be done, but then it should work.
B-Mobile offers 3-months contracts, so that would be an option, too.

Docomo seems to be ridiculously expensive when using a phone that they have not listed.

What I want to know now is:

Can I use my current SIM card of my normal Softbank phone (that is not a smartphone) for a smartphone that I purchased abroad or do I already need a Softbank smartphone (and SIM) for this to work?

Does anybody have any experience with this?

Here's a good guide: japandroid: How to Use an Unlocked (SIM-free) 3G Phone in Japan

I'm currently looking into getting either the HTC One X or the Galaxy S3, but I don't want to spend roughly 50.000yen on a phone that I can't use in Japan in the end.

Any other ideas?

I could just keep my current phone and try to get a Wifi plan for my iPod Touch instead ... though I have no idea if that would work.

Thanks a lot in advance!
 

Kenjikun

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My brother had a blackberry from the Philippines and brought it here. He then put in a softbank sim card in it and it worked fine. Though it had problems with smart dialing since it was dialing (The first digits +63, area code of Philippines) automatically. I do not know if that applies to some others phones (The smart dialing option). If not then probably you will be fine.
 

zoomingjapan

Japan Travel Expert
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18 Jun 2012
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Thanks for your comment, Kenjikun.

Meanwhile I got a lot more information after researching like crazy.

I think I'm going with the Samsung Galaxy S 3.
I have 2 options.

Either go with Docomo and get the Docomo version of the Samsung Galaxy.
Docomo unlocks their phones for a small fee of 3150yen since April 2011, so I would be able to use the phone even after leaving Japan.

The other way is that I purchase an international SIM-free version of this smartphone and put my old Softbank SIM in it.
As that phone uses a micro SIM, I would have to cut the SIM first.
Or I use a contract with b-mobile and cancel my Softbank plan (I don't break my contract, been there with the same phone for many years now).

I'm still trying to figure out which is the better way to go.
 

zoomingjapan

Japan Travel Expert
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18 Jun 2012
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Hi.

God, I had a busy week, researching, asking, calling etc. .....
In the end I just went with the easiest, but not cheapest solution.

I purchased a shiro-rom Docomo Galaxy S3 (that means the phone is not stolen, but is also not attached to a number).
I then went to the Docomo shop and got the phone SIM unlocked for a small fee of 3150yen.

After that I ran from Softbank to Docomo to some other stores and ended up signing up for a plan with Docomo.
I cancelled Softbank (stayed with them for 5 years) and used MNP.
I didn't have to pay any cancellation fee.

The plan I have now also doesn't come with a cancellation fee, so I can end it at any time!
That's why I decided to go with Docomo.
The plan is quite cheap (a minimum of 6800yen), but the phone is already mine, I can use it once I leave Japan as it's not SIM-locked and I can leave Docomo at any time without having to pay any fees.

If Docomo is getting too expensive, I'll try one of the various b-mobile SIMs.
 
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