Please help a fellow gaijin make sense of Softbank mobile phone plans.
Well, seems like my stay in Japan is going to be longer than I had originally planned, so I'm getting ready to settle down a bit. As part of that process, I have decided to make the jump from my lousy, barely audible and expensive to run prepaid Softbank mobile to a proper contract phone. Which sounded like it shouldn't be too difficult until I actually tried. I've been trying to make sense of the system for two weeks and the tears still haven't stopped.
My requirements are as follows: I'd like to stay in Softbank, for convenience and because all my friends use it too. I'll be staying for less than two years, so I know they'll probably make me pay for the handset upfront. I'm OK with that, but I don't want to spend a fortune on a mobile phone unless I can easily unlock it for use in Europe.
I'm not terribly interested in an iPhone - too expensive, hard to find right now and potentially difficult to unlock when I go back. I would love to get myself a nice smartphone, but it seems like Softbank doesn't do unlocking even after you reach the end of your contract, and that kind of makes the purchase a lousy investment.
So, with all of the above in mind, I have a ton of questions:
- How easy is it to get out of a two-year contract with Softbank before it runs out, assuming you have already paid for your handset? Is there a penalty fee for early cancellation? Is it possible to put a contract "on hold" for a few months and resume it afterwards if you're temporarily leaving Japan but expect to come back soonish?
- Is there any way to unlock Japanese mobile phones, assuming I get a model that would actually work outside of Japan?
- Is it possible to purchase an unlocked multiband phone, such as a Nokia E71 from Expansys
, and ask Softbank to provide service for it? Do they sell such things as SIM cards here, or something equivalent? If affirmative, would I be restricted to prepaid call and data rates or can I sign up for something like Softbank's White Plan?
- Failing that, is there any specific phone on Softbank that you'd recommend and which wouldn't be prohibitively expensive? I'm usually a capable gadget nerd, but Japanese specs sheets baffle me to no end. Right now, the 821sc
seems to be both cheap and capable, but when compared to other models there just doesn't seem to be any correlation whatsoever between features and price.
- Am I missing out by staying on Softbank? Should I be paying more attention at what the other operators have on offer? It seems like Docomo and Au have made great progress in catering to the gaijin lately, so it's not looking as impossible to get a phone with them as it one was.
I know this is a ton of questions and some of them have been asked at some point in the past, but things move pretty fast in this country and my Japanese is nowhere near good enough to ask at an actual Softbank store. If my dear Hivemind can assist this prospective Japanese student in this time of need, I'd be eternally grateful.
Thanks in advance everyone!