27 September 2004

Japanese Cellphones

I just returned to Japan, and cellphones (or 'keitai' as they're called here) have changed dramatically since I was here in May! I spent several weeks in Japan in May of this year, and I was amazed by the keitai culture -- everyone in Japan has a cellphone, and uses it constantly, rarely for talking! The most common use of the keitai is for instant messaging, but the next most common is for photos and after that comes games (Japanese talk on their cellphones way less than Americans actually, the prohibition against annoying others is much stronger here!).

Anyway, between May and now there was a noticeable change in Japanese cellphones. The camera-in-phone craze had just started then, and between then and now it has bloosomed mightily, as has GPS-in-cellphone and cellphone-as-picture-archive. As a result, Japanese cellphones today are noticeably larger than May's versions were; they have a good camera, tons of capacity for storage, a nice big display and lots of features as compensation for the extra size.

After I returned from Japan in May, I had cellphone envy so I went out and upgraded to a cool new Sony-Ericsson T616. At this point that phone (my American cellphone) is smaller than most Japanese cellphones! On the other hand, it doesn't have the multi-megapixel camera of the latest Japanese phones, or a built-in GPS either ;-).

four comments from old blog site:

Are Japanese celluar companies more expensive than the states?:-I

Sweety (godsbabylove_1 at hotmail dot com) - 12 June '05 - 20:50

Nope, if anything somewhat cheaper. Like here, there’s a huge variety of plans and discounts with service, but they weren’t more expensive particularly when I was there in Oct. 2004.

Leo - 15 June '05 - 02:48

I have a Samsung Triband cell phone. Does anyone out there knows how I can make my cell phone work in Japan?? I will really appreciete an answer. Thank you.

Ron Thompson (randolph.thompson bnet dot net dot tr) - 18 June '05 - 00:06

No, it won’t. Although the Japanese phones use the GSM standard, they use it on a different frequency band than the rest of the world (see, for instance, http://www.geckobeach.com/cellular/artic..).

If you’re going to be in Japan for more than a few days, the cheapest thing to do is to buy a prepaid card phone from Vodaphone once you arrive in Japan. It’ll set you back about $50 if you buy the dead-cheapest one, and after that you’ll use up the prepaid cards as you call. Most combinis (convenience stores) have new cards.

If you’re only there for a few days, you can rent a phone at the airport, I’ve used Telecom Square before http://www.telecomsquare.co.jp/sights/e_.. (they’re half the price of the Vodaphone rental service), but it’s about $5/day and the per-minute charges are much higher than the prepaid phones.

Lastly, my US provider (AT&T Wireless) actually has a plan where they’ll rent you a Japanese phone here in the US before you leave. It’s not a great deal, mostly because it’s a handset that roams on your US number—meaning anyone in Japan who wants to call you has to call the US (and get charged), and then you get charged the roaming fees. But if you must-must-must be available at your US number while you’re gone it’s a way to do it.


No comments: