Smartphones in Japan: How To Buy, Unlock and Change Plans

Source: Gaijin Pot

A lot has changed in the mobile phone landscape in Japan over the last few years.

Cell phones used to be very heavily restricted. You had a choice of three large companies, all offering near-identical packages and prices, with customer service standards that generally fell well below what you would come to expect from Japan.

To make matters worse, it was nearly impossible to bring a phone into Japan and use it on one of these networks. If you didn’t buy one of the company’s phones on an overpriced two-year plan, then you couldn’t get access to its network.

Thankfully, this all changed a few years ago, when the government brought an end to the restrictive practice that was the blanket ban on phone unlocking in Japan (the process of making a device capable of working on any carrier network). That being said, figuring out the best option for a phone in Japan is still extremely tricky.

In this quick guide, GaijinPot will walk you through the following topics:

Unlocking your Japanese smartphone

After May 2015

Now, any phones bought after May 2015 can be unlocked provided you have been with the carrier for more than 180 days. Some carriers may try to play dumb in this regard. But it is the law, and they cannot refuse to unlock your phone provided you meet these conditions. A phone that has been unlocked should, in theory, work on any network worldwide.

However, bandwidth differences mean that you may not get full functionality. For example, a phone …continue reading