Cell Phone Tips for New JETs
After orientation and arriving at your placement, many ALTs will want to pick up a cell phone. Here are some basic tips for working with the Japanese carriers.
2 Year Contract
The large carriers, Softbank, AU, and Domoco, all offer various plans with 2 year contracts. They generally vary on cost based on data, just like US contracts. General advice splits into two camps. One suggestion is to sign up for one of the lowest tiers for data, utilizing the many free WiFi spots prevalent in Japan, and set up a hard line for your internet service (bbapply.com makes this quite easy to do!). The other is to forego an ISP, and sign up for a high tier of data with your cell phone provider, and ensure your phone has the capability to broadcast a WiFi Hotspot.
All of these contracts have a cancellation fee, which normally sits around $100 USD. The service will terminate immediately, and some minor additional charges might be incurred based on the cancelation date relative to the monthly billing date. The best practice seemed to be to cancel your plan as close to the billing date for a given month as possible without going past it. Communicating with Senpai JETs who have worked with the same carrier, as well as visiting a carrier location with competent English speaking staff will ensure this process goes smoothly.
Cancel “Free” Features
Long before this, many carriers bundle optional “free” features non-native speakers are highly unlikely to use. The cost of these features will kick in a month or two after your contract begins. To avoid a spike in your billing cost, it’s best to have your Supervisor, or even the store’s staff, disable these additional features ASAP.
What Kind of Phone?
Each carrier has a long list of phones on their websites, which are worth browsing through to determine which features you want out of your phone. Phones in Japan are generally purchased outright at the beginning of a contract, rather than leased over the period of the contract. This means a large additional upfront cost for you at the store. Many JETs went for one of two options for phones. Some went for the bare bones option, going for an inexpensive phone which does just what they need, relying on tablets or laptops they bring with them for higher end features. Others went for top tier phones and used them as their primary means of communication, photography, and entertainment.
Something to consider is all phone models manufactured after May 2015 are required by Japanese law to be unlockable by your carrier for the equivalent of $30 USD. Depending on the cell carrier bands, your new Japanese phone could be compatible with SIM cards of your home country’s carriers. Upon your return home you could save quite a bit by unlocking your Japanese phone and continuing to use it post JET.
Mobile WiFi Routers – The Other Option
This option might not be viable for many, as your placements might request for you to have a Japanese cell phone number for contact purposes, but some people have been known to not get a cell phone contract in Japan. Instead they get a contract for a mobile WiFi router through the cell phone carriers, and connect their current cell phone to that device. While calls cannot be made to your phone in this configuration, mobile apps like Line, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Google Voice will work. The plus side of this option is you also will have a portable router which any wireless device can connect. Those who went this route did not get a land line ISP, using their WiFi hotspot for their cell phone, laptop, and other devices.