My friend has a pocket wifi for sale. I’d like to buy it but I’m not sure about connecting service options. All of the advice I can find online is geared to visitors. I’m a longterm resident and I’ll only need the service not the device. Any ideas as to which companies I should consider? Thanks in advance.
I am a resident in Tokyo since October 2015 (until September 2017) and I use a pocket wifi. I don’t have a Japanese phone number, so I use internet for all communications (calling and messaging with Line, Whatsapp, Messenger). This has never caused any trouble. People at work know they can contact me on Line,… Everytime I have to give up a number somewhere, I give the general phone number of the building where I live. For me it is convenient and I don’t have to buy an expensive combined smartphone - phone contract (when I informed for this in Yodobashi Kamera, I was surprised by the high prices).
I bought the phone I wanted (LG G3) on Amazon.co.jp. I don’t use a SIM card and carry my pocket wifi router all the time with me.
The pocket wifi I use is from WiMAX.
You have to sign a contract, the one I signed was for 2 years.
I pay around 4700 yen monthly (the first 3 months were at 3500 yen or so).
Advantages about this pocket wifi:
- A foreign credit card is acceptable.
- The connection is fast and most of the time I can stream without buffering.
- I don’t have and don’t need a phone card (although I understand that certain people probably need it for professional reasons).
- I use it for both my smartphone and laptop, so I don’t need an extra internet connection for my computer.
A few drawbacks however:
- I have the “unlimited contract” of 2 years, which is actually not unlimited because you can use up to 3 gigabytes in 3 days. When you use more than 3 gb, it goes very slow for a day or so.
- If you stop the contract before the ending periode (2 years in my situation), you have to pay a fine (around 10000 yen if I remember well).
- The battery dies after 6-7 hours (it decharges more slowly when you use it less I have the impression) but I guess that is the same for all pocket routers, so on a day out you have to switch it off to save battery or take your charger with you. After 1 year of usage, my battery works still like one year ago (and I charge it every day).
- Outside of cities the reception is less reliable.
- In the subway tunnels I have no reception.
Buying a pocket wifi from someone is a little bit strange. He probably has some kind of contract, no? Be sure you don’t have to pay some kind of fine.
Linus - thanks for the detailed reply. I just wonder if WIMAX will have a plan to offer if I go in with my own WiMAX 2+ unit? Cheers.
I think they will offer the same plan probably. I paid 1 yen for my wifi device. So you actually pay only for the contract.
Great - thanks.
I’ll be going into a WIMAX office soon.
Let me just add that I don’t recommend the WiMAX pocket wifi any longer. Mine didn’t charge anymore because of bad connection between my cable and charger port. I went to the store in Yodobashi Kamera where they told me I had 2 options:
Stopping my contract prematurely (= paying a high penalty) + starting a new contract with a new pocket wifi. I don’t remember the exact price but this came to paying 20 000 - 30 000 yen.
Sending the pocket wifi to the company, where they’ll check what is wrong with it and make an estimation of the repair costs.
I chose option 2. Even though I showed them what was wrong with it (the connection), it took them 3 weeks. In the meantime I had a replacement device luckily. The repair costs were 15 000 - 20 000 yen. Since I leave Japan in a few months, I decided to take my pocket wifi home and I fix my charger cable to the charger port with tape in order that it is in the right position to charge.
They could not give a new pocket wifi because they don’t make this device anymore. I think they update their devices almost yearly.
They told me I could have taken an insurance (pay around 500 yen extra a month). In that case I would not have to pay the repair costs. So if you decide to get a pocket wifi, it might be better to take this insurance, even though it also comes to approximately 12 000 yen for 2 years.
I wouldn’t recommend going with any 2 year contract. There is a 1 month period after 24 months when you can cancel it without charge. If you forget to cancel it, it renews for another 2 years. I made the mistake and had to pay 10,000 yen because I was 1 week into the new contract.
One thing to be careful of is if the pocket WiFi device is SIM locked. I’m not sure about WiMax (it’s a different standard) but most units have a SIM - just like a phone. If you know someone with an MVNO SIM, try it in the unit to see if it works. You can shop around for data SIMs - for example DMM Mobile has up to 20GB for around 4,000yen (usual disclaimers about MVNO network performance).
Sakuramobile seems good and looks cheap. Stay away from them.
They take a $500 deposit for a wifi and sim card, and the sim card does not work. Incoming calls are blocked and text messages never make it. I took the phone to the Apple store here and they said my phone was in perfect working order, and it worked on one of their SIM cards perfectly. SakuraMobile seems to fudge on data too. I ended up using 3gb in two minutes after turning on my computer, and iCloud was disconnected and mail and Safari were closed.
Find anyone except SakuraMobile to get your SIM cards and Wifi.
They talk a good game and will seem nice on the phone, but their “rules” change depending on the agent, and even of they promise something, they never follow through.
Interesting…I used Sakura Mobile for the past year and had no problems at all using their sim card in my iPhone. Of course your phone has to be unlocked from your home carrier. You also have to make sure to put in their APN information manually, but they have very specific information on how to do that. Their APNs and the ones I had in Korea didn’t seem to want to automatically setup like other standard carriers do. That could be why Apple’s SIM worked while another one wouldn’t. It could be an MVNO thing.
As for data usage, there I had no problems either. I could check my data usage everyday via their website and often tethered my computer to my phone. 3Gb sounds like a lot, so I wonder what else was sitting in the background eating your data.
BUT like I said, I had a sim for my iPhone for 15 months and never had any problems. They were really easy to get ahold of via email and I always got a prompt reply during work days. As for physical help, that’s where there could be a problem, but they do write that they have a pickup desk at the airport. So Im guessing you could get any connection help there as well.
Maybe the service was better for you and now it is spotty. I have used SIM cards in other countries and other than SakuraMobile in Japan and never had a problem.
I turn off any iCloud or other streaming options when overseas, and I purchased the phone unlocked from from Apple Japan. The APN setting was easy.
The customer service operators at SakuraMobile contradict themselves and then take a long time to make another excuse for what might be wrong, just biding time and trying to blame the customer.
Apple checked the phone and used several SIM cards and it worked fine. SakuraMobile’s solution of sending them the phone for a week or more to replace the SIM or to spend a day at their office and then pick up the phone later is not an acceptable solution considering the prices they charge.
All in all, SakuraMobile is poor choice of service in Japan. If they would be more sincere, take the time to listen, and then provide a practical solution, I would be a loyal customer. For now, I can’t say anything positive about my experience with them.
I had been using the service for the past year…July 2017 - October 2018.