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13 recommended smartphones, SIMs, and mobile carriers for foreigners in Japan

Foreigners are not used to Japanese smartphone contracts?


As of 2018, the Japanese smartphone usage rate is over 70%, and many foreigners living in Japan also own smartphones.
This is not only for contact but also for maps and Japanese translations. So, how can foreigners sign a smartphone contract in Japan?
In this article, we will introduce 13 recommended smartphones, SIMs, and mobile carriers for foreigners.

Foreigners are not used to Japanese smartphone contracts?
Most foreigners are not used to Japanese smartphone contacts.
The reason is that if you don't sign up for two years, your mobile phone will be charged higher or you will be charged a cancellation fee. It's also a topic in Japan and it's not just Japanese who have questions about this.
Also, if you are staying for a short-term studying abroad, you may not be able to make a contract with a major mobile phone company because of the binding system. It is also difficult to explain it at the store for foreign students.

How do foreigners sign up for smartphones in Japan?


Contract with a major mobile carrier
Major mobile carriers are docomo, au, and SoftBank. Although it depends on the price plan, it is generally more than 6,000 yen per month when contracting a smartphone with these three companies. In addition, two-year contracts are often required, which can result in high penalties for those who study abroad for short periods of time or who return home in less than a year.

Buy a cheap SIM card
Cheap SIM cards, unlike major mobile carriers, have a relatively short minimum usage period and can be contracted without any restrictions. Pricing plans are prepared according to the availability of voice call function and SMS function, communication data capacity, etc., so if you choose a plan that suits your purpose, you can literally use it at a low price.
There are three types of cheap SIM cards: a SIM card dedicated to data communication, a SIM card with SMS function, and a SIM card with voice call function.

Buy a cheap smartphone
A cheap smartphone is a form in which a SIM-free smartphone terminal and a cheap SIM card are sold as a set. If you buy a smartphone, you can use it like a major carrier mobile phone.
The feature is that the contract period is short and you can cancel without paying the penalty. Plans with voice calls may require a contract for about one year, but most data communication plans do not have a minimum usage period, so no penalty is required.
The attractiveness of cheap smartphones is that there are many price plans and the price of the smartphone itself is low.
On the other hand, the disadvantage is that free call packs are often not provided, and those who have long talk times can be expensive.

Recommended career contracts for foreigners


For the three major carriers, we will introduce the conditions and rate plans for foreigners to sign up for smartphones.

Softbank
The biggest feature of SoftBank is that there is an Internet service that can be used up to 50GB, unlike the two major mobile phones. In addition, there are packet plans for certain SNS such as Twitter and Instagram that are not counted as communication charges (= it is difficult to limit communication).
However, those who do not have resident status cannot apply, so the hurdle is a little high.
Main price plans:
・ Smart unlimited light: basic usage fee ¥ 1,700 + web usage fee ¥ 300 + data flat-rate mini (1GB) ¥ 2,900 = ¥ 4,900
・ Smartphone unlimited: Basic usage fee ¥ 2,700 + Web usage fee ¥ 300 + Data flat rate (5GB) ¥ 5,000 = ¥ 8,000
・ Smartphone unlimited packet for4G: Basic usage fee 2,700 yen + Web usage fee 300 yen + Data flat rate (7GB) 5,700 yen = 8,700 yen

Docomo
Because docomo is said to have a wide communication area and high quality, it currently has the highest usage rate among the three major carriers. It is difficult to get out of the mountain even in the mountainous area, and it is characterized by a family service and services for people who have multiple devices. Credit card payments can also be purchased online.
In order for a foreigner to sign a contract, a residence card or alien registration certificate is required as identification documents. For foreign tourists, there is also a free "Plan 0" reward plan for the "Japan Welcome SIM" prepaid SIM card.
Main price plans:
・ Simple plan: Basic charge ¥ 980 + Packet basic pack (1GB) ¥ 2,900 + Internet connection service ¥ 300 = ¥ 4,180
・ Unlimited plan: Basic charge ¥ 2,700 + Packet basic pack (1GB) ¥ 2,900 + Internet connection service ¥ 300 = ¥ 5,900
・ Simple plan + Ultra Data L: Basic charge ¥ 980 + Ultra Data L pack (20GB) ¥ 6,000 + Internet connection service ¥ 300 = ¥ 7,280

Au
There is a plan that automatically changes the packet flat-rate according to the amount used, so you can choose between those who use little or many. If you contract for 2 years, you can reduce the fee, and if you make the same electricity rate contract, you will also get points. In addition, there are more models than the other two companies.
au offers a full range of post-purchase support, including multilingual commentary videos so that foreigners can solve problems they need when signing contracts.
Main price plans:
・ Unlimited phone calls + LTE NET + flat-rate data (2GB) = 6,500 yen
・ Unlimited phone calls + LTE NET + flat-rate data (3GB) = 7,200 yen
・ 20 yen per 30 seconds (free from 1:00 to 21) + LTE NET + flat-rate data (7GB) = 6,934 yen

Cheap SIM card recommended for foreigners


IIJmio
IIJmio is a low-cost SIM card company that has won the first place in overall satisfaction. Due to its high reliability, it occupies the top share among cheap SIM cards. Various campaigns are also underway, and the monthly fee is cheap.
There is also a dedicated SIM card purchase explanation page, so it is easy for foreigners to get started. For SIM card with voice call function only, cancellation will be charged for cancellation within one year from the contract.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,240 yen
・ Data communication SIM card (Type D) Minimum start plan (3GB): 972 yen
・ SIM card with SMS function (Type D) Light Start Plan (6GB): 1,793 yen
・ SIM card with voice call function (Type D) Family share plan (12GB): 3,521 yen

DMM mobile
DMM Mobile can be used comfortably in a wide area because it uses NTT Docomo. One of the attractions is the industry's lowest price of 440 yen in the light plan. You can also use surplus data such as carrying over data or sharing with family. There is no penalty and the minimum usage period is one month.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,394 yen
・ Single course (1GB): 480 yen
・ Single course (3GB): 850 yen
・ Single course (5GB): ¥ 1,210

Nuro mobile
Nuro Mobile is a cheap SIM / smartphone communication service provided by Sony Group's leading communications provider "So-net". There are docomo line and SoftBank line, but please note that the charges are different and SoftBank line does not have SIM with SMS function.
The minimum usage period is one year, and cancellations less than one year require a cancellation fee of 12,960 yen.
Main price plans:
Initial cost: 3,394 yen
[Softbank line]
・ Trial plan 0.2GB: Data communication SIM500 yen
・ 2GB: SIM 1,680 yen with voice call function
[Docomo line]
・ Trial plan 0.2GB: SIM 300 yen for data communication
・ 2GB: SIM 450 yen with SMS function
・ 2GB: SIM 1,400 yen with voice call function

Rocket mobile
Rocket Mobile is a cheap SIM using docomo line. It features a unique plan called Ageage Plan, which can be used only when going up, and a God plan that can be used at a communication speed of 200kbps. The price plan can be changed on the same day according to the amount of data, so it can be used flexibly according to the application.
The minimum usage period is one year, and a cancellation fee of ¥ 10,260 is required for cancellation within one year.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,240 yen
[Docomo line]
・ God Plan S (communication speed is 200kbps): Data plan 298 yen, call plan 948 yen
・ 3GB plan (communication speed down 788Mbps up 50Mbps): Data plan 840 yen, call plan 1,400 yen
[Softbank line]
・ God Plan S (communication speed is 200kbps): Data plan 398 yen
・ 20GB plan (communication speed download 400Mbps): Data plan 4,100 yen
* Softbank lines do not have a calling plan.

Aeon mobile
The biggest feature of AEON Mobile is its low price and no cancellation fee. You can also carry over the data. However, the MNP fee is expensive and payment is only by credit card.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,000 yen
・ Data 1GB plan: ¥ 480 / month
・ Audio 4GB plan: ¥ 1,580 / month
・ Shared voice 4GB plan: ¥ 1,780 / month

B-mobile
The biggest advantage of b-mobile is that it can be used on iPhone. Bargain SIM is often not available on iPhone, but b-mobile can use an iPhone with SoftBank SIM lock, so if you are considering switching from SoftBank to cheap SIM, you can purchase a second-hand iPhone Suitable for use with cheap SIM.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,000 yen (excluding tax)
・ B-mobile SIM light plan (3GB): 1,180 yen
・ B-mobile SIM high-speed flat-rate (unlimited usage): 1,980 yen
・ B-mobile SIM Light Plan (3GB) with audio 20 yen (excluding tax) / 30 seconds: 1,980 yen

Line mobile
This is a cheap SIM card provided by "LINE". There are LINE calls and LINE original music plans, and the price plan is slightly different from other companies. Data can be carried forward.
The minimum usage period is one year and the cancellation fee is 9,800 yen.
Main price plans:
・ Initial cost: 3,400 yen
・ LINE Free Plan 1GB: 1,200 yen
・ Communication Free Plan 3GB: 1,690 yen
・ MUSIC + Plan: 3GB: 2,390 yen, 5GB: 2,720 yen

Rakuten mobile
Rakuten Mobile is a low-priced SIM card provided by the Rakuten group provider "Rakuten Communications." Recommended for people who use Rakuten services and people who often make calls.
The minimum usage period is one year and a cancellation fee of 9,800 yen is required.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,394 yen
・ Basic plan: 1,250 yen
・ 3.1GB plan: ¥ 1,600
・ 5GB plan: ¥ 2,150

Y!mobile
Y! Mobile is unique in that other companies use existing lines, but they use their own lines. Since there are many 4,000 stores across the country, it is possible to receive contract consultations and trouble support in person.
However, there are 2 years of binding, so please be careful as it may cost a cancellation fee of 10,240 yen.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,240 yen
・ Smartphone Plan S: 1,980 yen
・ Smartphone Plan M: 2,980 yen
・ Smartphone Plan L: 4,980 yen


UQ mobile
The feature of UQ Mobile is that sent mail is not treated as spam because mail is handled in the same way as carrier mail. High-speed data communication can be switched on and off manually and used according to the situation. You can also tether, charge data, and carry over.
Since it is tied for two years, there may be a fee when canceling.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,240 yen
・ Data communication plan: Data high-speed plan 3GB: 980 yen
・ Data communication + voice call plan: high-speed data + voice call plan 3GB: 1,680 yen
・ Perfect plan S: 3GB: 1,980 yen

A cheap smartphone recommended for foreigners


Line mobile
LINE Mobile smartphone terminals can be purchased at 19,800-39,800 yen cheaper than carrier phones, but payment is only a lump sum payment.
Data can also be added, and can be added according to the monthly data usage.
Main price plans:
・ Initial cost: 3,240 yen
・ LINE Free Plan (1GB): 1,296 yen
・ Communication Free Plan (3GB): 1,825 yen
・ MUSIC + plan (3GB): 2,581 yen
・ MUSIC + plan (5GB): 2,938 yen

Rakuten mobile
With Rakuten Mobile, you can divide the price of a smartphone terminal for 540-2,691 yen per month. Among the cheap smartphones, it boasts the number 1 contract share and is characterized by no automatic renewal from 1 to 3 years. You can choose a docomo / au line and there are many stores, so if you have any questions, you can consult directly.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee: 3,240 yen
[Data communication charge exclusive plan]
・ Basic plan (no capacity limit, communication speed 200Kbps): 567 yen
・ 3.GB plan: 972 yen
・ 5GB plan: 1,566 yen
[Voice call rate plan]
・ Basic plan (no capacity limit, communication speed 200Kbps): 1,350 yen
・ 3GB plan: 1,728 yen

Y!mobile
Y! Mobile is a low-priced smartphone company that has 4,000 stores nationwide and can easily consult about things you don't understand. The tethering function requires no application and is free of charge.
In addition, because it uses its own SoftBank line, communication is good. The reason why it is popular is that various discount services are available.
Main price plans:
・ Initial fee 3,240 yen
・ Smartphone Plan S: ¥ 1,980 (¥ 5,480 if there is no contract deadline)
・ Smartphone Plan M: ¥ 2,980 (¥ 6,480 if there is no contract deadline)
・ Smartphone Plan L: ¥ 4,980 (¥ 8,480 if there is no contract deadline)

What documents do foreigners need when signing a smartphone?
・ Identification documents
・ Valid residence card, special permanent resident certificate, health insurance card, passport, driver's license (excluding international license), etc.
・ Cash card or bankbook
・ Seal / Credit card (not using direct debit)
・ Mobile phone charges (* If you pay in installments, you will be charged the following month.)
・ Contract handling fee (* Charged together with usage fee in the current or next month of the contract month)
Depending on the mobile company, payment by credit card only or cash only in the case of lump sum payment may differ, so it is recommended to check at the time of purchase.

In conclusion
Major mobile carriers have a high share of Japanese, but it is said that they are tied up for two years and mobile charges are high. If you are tied for two years, you may not be able to purchase for short-term study abroad, so it may not be suitable for foreigners.
Bargain SIM / Cheap smartphones may require a cancellation fee if you don't know the details. We recommend that you purchase after confirming the good points of installments and good points of bulk purchase.