Japanese text messages. Nothing but mojibake?
July 15, 2006 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Cell phone help: I want to send/receive Japanese text messages/email from my cell phone in the US. Is this possible?

Basically, my girlfriend lives in Japan I would love to be able to send/receive Japanese text messages from my US cell phone.

However, I visited a cell phone store in a Japanese area of town and I was told that even if I have a Japanese cell phone (Toshiba 904t from Vodafone, for example (tri-band phone that works in the US)) I can send messages in Japanese but because of the way the American (T-Mobile/Cingular) network is setup, I will not be able to receive messages in Japanese; they will show as garbage (mojibake) or just question marks. Is that correct?

The salesperson suggested I get a Windows Mobile 5.0 MDA (PDA with a built-in phone) and then install a hacked version of the Japanese IME and that that would allow me to send/receive in Japanese. However, 1) I already have a PDA (Windows CE 2003SE, Japanese edition) and I don't really need another, and 2) the per-month cost for an MDA w/internet access is very expensive ($50-70 for T-Mobile). That's a lot of money to pay just so I can text-message in Japanese.

I know I can send messages in English, but that's not what I really want to do. Plus, I've never liked the "text prediction" function of English cell phones (it takes forever to type a message out because, as far as I know, you have to type every character).

Is there anything else I can do?
posted by yasny_jp to Technology (6 answers total)
Response by poster: Another option: I just thought of this. Maybe I could get a regular Bluetooth enabled cell phone and then connect to the Internet, though the cell phone, with my PDA. Then I could check email on the PDA and have no problem with the Japanese.
posted by yasny_jp at 4:34 PM on July 15, 2006

Using email might be your best bet - T-Mobile offers an unlimited Pop3 gateway service for $6/month, which is pretty reasonable - They don't offer any free phones with BT in my market, though. Cheapest is the Razr, for $70.
posted by Orb2069 at 5:02 PM on July 15, 2006

I have been in this exact situation (and am still in it now). You won't be able to get any messages in Japanese unless you subscribe to a Japanese cell phone service with international roaming in the US -- and have a Japanese-language capable phone. (Don't go the PDA route unless you really like to burn through cash.) You can, however, send English text with no problems (usually). You cannot use SMS, obviously -- email is your only option. Also, some services (Verizon's comes immediately to mind) gave me lots of problems when sending mail to my girlfriend in Japan, since they appended a lot of junk to the end of the body of my emails, and often screwed up the subject line as well. Caveat emptor.

If you truly want to send email in Japanese, I'd stick with sending it from your computer, I'm afraid.
posted by armage at 5:25 PM on July 15, 2006

The T-Mobile Sidekick ($30/mo for data only plan) can receive Japanese email and IMs, though I'm pretty sure sending is limited to Roman characters.
posted by trevyn at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2006

I was looking for something like an email gateway that would convert to/from romaji and found this: http://webmail.to/romaji/. It looks like it might be webmail only, but I thought it was still worth a mention...
posted by trevyn at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks you very much for your responses. I guess for now I'll stick with the computer.

However, I've done some more research and I found that the Danger Hiptop (T-Mobile) will support Japanese messages as long as their in UTF-8 encoding. (At the bottom of the above link, a section called "Japanese-language support"). This is good, except that Japanese emails & cell phones send messages using iso-2022 encoding. If you could convert the messages to UTF-8, you could probably receive it on the Hiptop, but of course, you still can't write in Japanese.

Since the T-Mobile network appears to support UTF-8 encoding, if you have a Japanese phone it might work if the message was sent in UTF-8 (however, most likely, the phone probably wouldn't be able to read the UTF-8).

I'm still looking into my PDA->cell phone->internet solution. As far as I know, it shouldn't cost that much. I'm currently using the Cingular pre-paid plan and my phone has support for GPRS. When I access the internet, I just pay depending on how much I send (receive too?). So, I'm guessing if I get a GPRS/EDGE enabled phone, even with my current pre-paid SIMM card I should have access to the internet.

Anyway, thank you again for the comments!
posted by yasny_jp at 9:16 AM on July 18, 2006

« Older Corporate governance, esp. for small business   |   School of hard....weather? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.