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Getting a Softbank Mobile Phone in Japan

Updated on November 28, 2010

Upon arriving in Japan the thing you realize most in this strange and awesome country is a mobile phone. You have a choice between 3 big mobile phone companies in Japan. AU, Docomo and Softbank. Which to choose? I recommend Softbank. So if you are like me and planning on going with Softbank, here is what you need to know. 

What Kind of Cell Phone Company is Softbank Mobile?

Softbank right now has a very sexy and stylish image in Japan. It's THE mobile phone company to go with these days. And the reasons are abundantly clear.

First and foremost, Softbank is the only company in Japan that has iPhone and iPads in their smartphone lineup. So if you are an Apple fan and you gotta have your iPhone then you have to go with softbank. Nuff said. Plus they have special price plans and discounts just for the iPhone.

Softbank also offers data plans especially designed for iPads. You can use their network anywhere in Japan with your iPad.

If you aren't a big Apple fan, there are plenty of other devices to choose from. Softbank has a big selection of regular yet stylish mobile phones. Some of softbank's more interesting models include water proof handsets as well as cell phones with built in solar panels that charge the phone anywhere with sunlight.

Still In the Market for a Smartphone?

Fortunately Softbank has not put all it's eggs in one basket. If you are not interested in a getting an iPhone there are plenty of other smartphones to choose from. Most notably Android smartphones from google. Softbank was one of the early adopters of a Android smart phones in Japan and currently have one of the best models known as the HTC Desire. Softbank is planning to launch more Android models as soon as next year.

How to get a Softbank Phone

If you are a foreigner coming to live in Japan, you will definitely need a phone. Especially if you want to have any kind of social life. Japan is very much dependent on it's cell phones so definitely plan on picking one up. And the company I recommend most when it comes to getting quality phones is of course Softbank. Other phone companies are fine, but I've found that Softbank has great straightforward service, the most advanced phones, and pricing systems that you an easily take advantage.

But first you must sign up for a 2 year contract with softbank. For many people long term contracts are a turn off. But 2 year contracts help to make your bills a lot less. Softbank Mobile offers a lot of discounts and one of which is a discount on phone price if its paid for over the course of 2 years.

What to bring with you to Softbank:

  1. Foreigner Registration - This is the card you are given by the local government in Japan. It's basically your ID card. You must have one of these to get a phone from softbank.
  2. You need to know your address. Make sure to have it written down somewhere. It's really difficult to remember a Japanese address when first arriving in Japan and it may be better to have the Softbank employee help you fill out the forms.
  3. Bring your pass port - This is not always necessary, but it should be brought just in case.
  4. Edit: Bring Lots of cash or a credit card. Softbank has been recently implementing an up front payment for phones purchased by foreigners. Don't worry, you still receive the same discounts you would through monthly payments. 
  5. Bring a dictionary - You should be able to get a phone without one, but just in case, bring a Japanese dictionary if their are any problems.

A tip to getting Cheap Bills from Softbank Mobile

Softbank makes a lot of money from the phones it carries. Unlike a lot of phone companies, Softbank phones aren't heavily subsidized. You end up paying a lot for the phones. That being said, their overall service plans are very cheap. You can get the most basic service about 1000 yen or 10 US Dollars. Also they have a nice data plan system for smartphone users. Basically you pay a flat rate of about 1000 yen for a certain amount of packets. If you go over the amount of packets you pay more for each packet. But it's capped at about 6000 yen. No matter how much you use you cannot go over this price cap.

This above plan has the advantage of being flexible. If one month you don't use your phone much you wont be charged that much. But if you use it alot the next month it's only then that you are bumped up to an unlimited packet account. All of it is done automatically.

The best tip I have is to find a used phone. If you can find a phone that is capable of being used on Softbank's network you can buy it and then bring it to Softbank. They will charge you for a new SIM card and setup fees, but you will then you will have a contract all setup with a phone that is completely paid for. 


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