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Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/3 22:21
I'd like to ask your help once again!

I'll be in Japan for 3 months from 28 March - 24 June this year. I'll be travelling around quite a lot, so I'd like to have access to cheap, low usage mobile communication (preferably a phone, but I'm not too worried about the kind of device). I'll be using most of my savings for the trip, so I'm desperately trying to find ways of not spending huge amounts of money!

I live in the UK and I have a really cheap Pay As You Go (non-contract) SIM and phone , neither of which can be used in Japan. I've looked at buying a more up-to-date phone and Pay As You Go SIM, but fees for making and receiving calls in Japan are too expensive (about 1.50/US$2.25/JPY210 a minute) on top of the cost of the phone and SIM.

My Japanese friend has told me about the Pupuru rental phone service, but the fees for making and receiving calls, as well as the base cost of the phone and rental contract, are also too expensive.

I can't buy a phone when I'm in Japan because I'm not resident in Japan. I've read that some foreign visitors were able to persuade the staff at phone shops to supply them with a pay as you go phone by presenting their passport and the address of their hotel. I'll be doing volunteering in a number of places in Honshu and I won't be staying at hotels. I'll arrive at Sendai Airport and head to Inawashiro to volunteer at an animal rescue shelter, so I doubt there'll be many phone shops with staff prepared to deal with my particular needs! (I can speak half-decent conversational Japanese, but I'm not sure it's up to the challenge of negotiating a semi-illegal transaction!) I've asked my resident American friend if he'd be prepared to buy a phone and SIM for me, but that may be pushing the boundaries of the law a bit too much! I'm also worried about buying pre-paid cards for a phone that isn't actually registered to me - maybe that's just asking for trouble.

Can anyone recommend a safer and (much) cheaper alternative? My calls (incoming and outgoing) will be limited to last minute arrangements with the places where I'll be volunteering, and I'd also like to send SMS text messages to my family in the UK. Is it possible to get this kind of cheap, low use mobile communications for 3 months? I don't own a tablet or smartphone, but I'd be willing to look into getting a cheap second hand device if there's any way of using its wi-fi connection for cheap (or perhaps even free) communication, such as Skype. It seems that many of the places where I'll volunteer will have wi-fi even if they don't offer the use of a computer.

Any help or advice will be very gladly received!
by Hairyneville  

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/4 08:38
You can buy phones in Japan without being a resident. However, you then need to buy/rent a SIM.
Usually, if you buy a phone nominally supplied for one network (let's say DoCoMo), and you go to different network (Softban) for a SIM (for example Softbank Roppongi) they will almost certainly NOT sell you a SIM.

What will you need, voice or data? Usually, you can't get a short term voice + data SIM without a contract (without being a resident)

If it's data only, you could use a 3 month B-mobile SIM.
by Sandy (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/4 21:23
Thanks for the info, Sandy.

I must admit I'm a bit (very) behind the times with technology! The phone I use in the UK is an absurdly simple Samsung handset which doesn't even have an in-built camera, let alone 3G capability or anything like that! I have a Pay As You Go SIM which I use for only emergency phone calls and the occasional SMS text for last-minute arrangements and things like that. The phone cost about 8 a few years ago and I put 5 credit on the SIM every three months or so!

I'm pretty sure such a cheap and cheerful package isn't available in Japan, and my phone is too simple to be compatible with Japanese mobile networks, but I just need a relatively cheap way for people to be able to contact me (and for me to contact them, of course) to make last minute arrangements or in case of emergencies. What I want to say is that I won't be using the phone on a regular basis, but when I do use it I'll probably be discussing plans with people, so our conversations may last five or ten minutes or more. I think a voice-only SIM would suit me, though I'd also like to be able to send SMS texts to my family back in the UK in the absence of any guaranteed internet access during my stay in Japan.

Is that kind of thing possible with the phones and call plans available in Japan, or am I hoping for too much?

I'm also wondering if a cheap secondhand smartphone with wi-fi and Skype (with some Skype credit) might be the solution I'm looking for. I know I wouldn't be able to use it everywhere, but I think I could use it to access open wi-fi networks without a SIM, so I'd probably be able to find ways of arranging to go to a wi-fi hotspot expressly in order to call people! But how would that work with incoming calls? Is it possible to set up a Skype number that people can call from mobile and land lines?

All this technology's making my head hurt! Please help!
by Hairyneville rate this post as useful

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/5 07:30
1. For voice only, go with Softbank Prepaid. Softbank Roppongi will usually sell you a simple phone and prepaid SIM.

2. For data only(so you could use Skype), you can use a B-mobile SIM with a smartphone you buy in Japan (Akihabara, IOSYS.com). Some people have said that they've had problems with skype on B-mobile. I've used it, and sometimes it was good, other times not so good.

3. Paid WiFi device to be used with a smartphone. These are usually on a contract however.

by Sandy (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/6 05:43
Thanks again Sandy!

I won't be going near Tokyo (other than to pass through on my way to other places) until late May, so I unfortunately can't take advantage of the helpfulness of Softbank Roppongi's staff! I visited the Softbank shop in Motomiya, Fukushima (near where my trip will start this year) back in 2009 and they were adamant that they couldn't sell me a phone, though they were at least very kind about it.

Happily my parents may have come up with a solution! Their desktop PC is old and slow and uses a lot of electricity, so they're thinking of getting a budget tablet to replace it - which would also help prevent my dad's incessent mouse clicks while playing cards from driving my mum to murder! They said that I could take the tablet to Japan with me in order that we have a way of keeping in touch with each other - and hopefully for me to keep in touch with my friends and contacts in Japan, too.

I've just spent some time looking into tablets (I can't believe how behind the times I am when it comes to technology! My understanding of mobile technology is stuck in 2005...) and I think the Nexus 7 best suits their needs and budget. But it doesn't have 3G/4G capability, meaning I'd be reliant on wi-fi hotspots and I've heard they're pretty limited in Japan. It may be all right for me, though, because although I'll be travelling from one end of the country to another I'll be spending 2-3 weeks in each place (people's homes, generally speaking) and they all seem to have (free!) wi-fi networks. I've looked at pre-paid wi-fi devices (specifically the ones offered by eConnect Japan) and they seem too expensive to justify the limited uses I need them for (namely updating people on my plans and getting hold of them in emergencies).

But I'm new to the joys of tablets and fairly confused about them, so I'd be really grateful if you could let me know if taking advantage of my parents' kindness and hijacking their Nexus would be a workable solution to my problem! Having reasonably reliable access to e-mail would be a huge help in every conceivable way. I'd guess that using Skype and Skype credit to call people's mobile and land lines may also be cheaper than getting a 3G/4G capable device and pre-paid SIM (again taking eConnect Japan's prices and products as a guide).

Many thanks in advance!
by Hairyneville rate this post as useful

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/8 17:56
A tablet would be a very workable solution as long as you are not too limited to being restricted to free wifi hotspots (which are more and more prevalent). You could also get a paid wifi service for very cheap (a few hundred yen a month), that while not mobile as true mobile internet, is more prevalent than free wifi. Skype is a good solution for contacting friends and family, although you will not be able to receive incoming calls from regular phones without purchasing a skype phone number (or two, if you also need to receive calls from Japan).
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/9 19:32
yllwsmrf, thanks for the info.

I've just had a look at setting up a Skype number in Japan, and it's exactly the same situation as getting a mobile phone - I need to be resident in Japan! Luckily most of the people I need to stay in contact with have mobile phones with e-mail accounts anyway, so reliable access to Gmail is probably all I really need. I'm going to look into getting Skype credit so I can use their service to call mobile and land lines, too.

I'm going to go with the tablet solution to my problems because I think most of the places where I'll be staying will have their own wi-fi networks. I've had a look at eConnect Japan's wi-fi device rental prices and they seem a bit steep for my needs.

http://www.econnectjapan.com/products-page.html#wtg

I haven't completely abandoned the idea of renting a wi-fi device, so I'm wondering if you know of any other companies that offer similar services so I can compare prices. I'm trying to keep my costs down, so I'm not really interested in paying over the odds for the sake of convenience when cheaper options will just involve a bit of extra effort!
by Hairyneville rate this post as useful

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/11 10:52
I've just had a look at setting up a Skype number in Japan, and it's exactly the same situation as getting a mobile phone - I need to be resident in Japan!

I think you could easily do without a Japanese phone number, but if you really need one I think it might still be possible despite not being a resident.

I've had a look at eConnect Japan's wi-fi device rental prices and they seem a bit steep for my needs.

http://www.econnectjapan.com/products-page.html#wtg

I haven't completely abandoned the idea of renting a wi-fi device, so I'm wondering if you know of any other companies that offer similar services so I can compare prices.


Econnect's prices are toward the cheaper end of the spectrum. If you need cheaper than that you'll probably bet better off getting a device that supports a sim card and then get a prepaid data sim from b-mobile:

http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/lineup.html
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Re: Cheap 3 month mobile communication 2013/3/13 21:12
Thanks for the help again, yllsmrf!

My parents have got a tablet now (an Android-powered CnM 10.1" Dual Core wotsit - too big to serve as an everyday phone, but just about right for my fat fingers) and they'll be entrusting it to me for my three months in Japan!

My next challenge is to work out how to type in Japanese on the bloody thing! I'm planning to post a question about just that, but if you know of any posts about it or if you have any tips then please let me know.
by Hairyneville rate this post as useful

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