Nexus One + Softbank Rental SIM + Japan = Affordable data access?
November 3, 2010 12:38 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to do, or what do I need to be aware of, to use mobile data on a Nexus One using a Softbank rental SIM card in Japan?

I'm leaving tomorrow for a 10-day trip to Japan. I've reserved a rental SIM card from Softbank Global Rental, and I'll be picking it up at the Central Japan airport in Nagoya after I land.

According to Softbank's rental plan page, data costs 0.032 yen per 128 bytes, or roughly $0.60 USD per kilobyte, which of course is extremely expensive. However, the page also states that the data costs are capped at 1500 yen per day (roughly $18 USD). Although expensive, I find this acceptable, as I may only need data access 2 or 3 days during the trip, and if I use it heavily on those days I wouldn't have to worry about getting a $10,000 USD bill.

My phone is a Nexus One (the T-Mobile compatible one), and by all accounts it'll work with Softbank. Just to confirm though, I called the rental company to confirm. They told me that yes, the Nexus One will work on their network. I then asked them to confirm the data price... and they didn't seem to know anything about it. They asked where I was getting my information. I told them it was on their website. The man I was speaking to told me that usually the phones they rent don't have data access because "we don't have the APN information".

I suspect the man was uninformed and that the data access will work as advertised on the Softbank site. However... I'm worried. I'll confirm as much info as I can when I pick up the SIM card, but I'd like to know:
  1. Has anyone ever successfully used data on their Nexus One or other smartphone using a Softbank rental SIM without paying astronomical fees?
  2. In the event that the rental company in fact does not have the APN information, what are the dangers of trying to enter the info myself? If I enter the APN info shown here, is it likely to work? Would it be a different APN for a rental SIM/plan than for a "normal" SIM/plan? I don't really know much about APNs, so I don't know if they're the same network-wide, or if different users get different APN info.
This page is about people's experiences using the Nexus One on regular month-to-month contract Softbank plans in Japan. It doesn't directly address my specific concerns (regarding rental SIMs), but the fact that more than one set of APN information is listed makes me doubtful that the rental sim will use the same APN.

In a nutshell: How can I make data access work on my Nexus One in Japan using this rental SIM, and how can I make sure the data charges won't require a bank loan to pay?

posted by Vorteks to Technology (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: It seems nobody knew the answer to this. I always meant to follow up about my experience but hadn't gotten around to it. Today, however, somebody e-mailed me to ask how things turned out because they too needed to rent a SIM in Japan. I replied to that person, and I'll repost my message here on MeFi in case it's useful to anybody else:


Here's what happened to me - I went to the English SIM rental page for Softbank rentals, and reserved a SIM card. The title on that page says "iPhone SIM Card/3G SIM Card". I thought that meant there was 1 SIM card that anyone can use no matter if they have an iPhone or any other 3G handset. But apparently the iPhone SIM and the "regular" 3G SIM are different, and only the iPhone SIM is rate-limited. I rented the iPhone SIM by mistake, and the person at the rental counter didn't catch it.

The iPhone SIM worked fine in my Nexus One, but there was no data access initially. The Nexus One wouldn't auto-detect the APN settings for Softbank's network. But I found the settings for the SIM card I was using by searching online (I used the APN settings for the black iPhone SIM, the "smilemms" settings mentioned on this page, third on the list in the first post), and managed to get data access working too. To save money though, I left the data access turned off most of the time.

One day I used the data lightly - just to check e-mail and look up a couple things on the web, then I called Softbank Rental to see what my current charges were, just in case. They said "well, since you have an iPhone, the data charge is limited to 1500 yen per day". I told them "I don't have an iPhone, it's a Nexus One". They panicked. They told me that the SIM card I had could only be used in an iPhone, and I had to return it immediately. They offered to let me rent one of their cell phone for the same rate, and I agreed. They even sent a courier same-day to collect the SIM card from me and give me the phone. They really seemed to be upset by the idea that I had an iPhone SIM card but no iPhone, as if I was somehow endangering their business by doing something so heinous.

I ended up using their provided cell-phone and spent the rest of my trip with no data access. The data charges for the time I was using the iPhone SIM ended up being about $40 for minimal access over 1-2 days time. I don't think it was rate-limited. Whether this is because the network detected I didn't have an iPhone, or because I told them and they manually adjusted it, I can't say for sure.

After renting from Softbank Rental, I did find this other provider, JCR, which offers unlimited data access SIMs (with optional tethering), and at least one person told me that their service was good. You might try them if you're looking for a data-friendly SIM rental. I can't vouch for them myself though. Their rental page is here:
posted by Vorteks at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Correction: The APN I used was the "" APN mentioned on this page by j.prufrock (about a third of the way down the page). Same SIM card, but the one I mentioned above is only for MMS messages.
posted by Vorteks at 9:57 AM on January 4, 2011

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