A friend has brought up a very important question recently, which was regarding the best options for cell phones in Japan. I thought maybe its nice to share this. Apologies for this being a very long answer, but there’s a lot of options to consider and these are some of the most common to review.
Some options to consider are the following:
1. Use a International Data plan with your current provider and be aware of how to activate it and which carrier network to use in Japan. That said, activate this before you fly over to Japan.
2. Purchase a SIM card and data plan in Japan on a unlocked cell phone.
3. Purchase or rent a basic phone in Japan
4. Purchase or rent a Pocket WiFi device to use in Tandem with your phone and other portable devices.
Each of these has their own pros and cons.
The biggest question you need to ask yourself is “what will you be using the phone for”?
If it’s for constant data usage while out and about, then consider a pocket WiFi. However, if you can stand to use your phone only in WiFi selected areas, which are very common in Japan, then an International plan is worth considering. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal budget. My opinion on the matter is that I’m flying to the other side of the world and given that expense, will pay a little extra for the convenience of an international plan.
No matter which you choose, the two tips I would recommend for using your phone are the following:
1. Turn off WiFi Assist on your cell phone. This feature will pull data in areas where WiFi is weaker, thus using more of the data you’re already paying for. This can easily cause you to go over your pre-paid limit if this feature is left on.
2. Use apps for voice calling. This way, you can take advantage of the above-mentioned WiFi options, while rarely if ever tapping into your International or rental plan minutes. This way, you can save voice calls on your plan for when they’re absolutely needed. As mentioned before, the app Hello Talk is definitely one I’d consider for this option, as well Skype and other WiFi voice related apps.
3. Coordinate times when you really need to use the phone. If you’re traveling with friends, use text as it’s cheaper than calling. Stay off of apps like FB and IG as they chew up data very quickly.
Also, save your data, when WiFi for when you’ll really need it, like GPS or accessing sites pertinent to your current plans. Also, save phone calls to overseas relatives for when you get back to your hotel. Because of the time difference, you’ll be generally making those calls late at night or really early in the morning.