Cell Phones on Okinawa, Part 2

CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER GELORMINE

Technology moves fast.  Lightning fast.  So quickly that the iPhone 4s that my husband and I got when we PCS’d back to the US last summer and which had just been released are now old news; a year later the iPhone 5 is almost here and my phone is now practically a dinosaur.  Let’s not even talk about the Kindle I purchased in the summer of 2009 for more than what their fanciest tablet now costs, and all I can do on mine is read books.  I digress…

My point is this: back in August of 2007 we asked our readers what cell phones and companies they used here on Okinawa, and up until the summer of 2010 we had responders chiming in to ask questions and providing answers.  But I don’t think I’m too far off when I say the information in that post is now past its prime.  Obsolete.  In need of some updating.

That’s where you come in.  Tell us, please, about your experiences with cell phones on Okinawa.  What company do you use: SoftBank, AU, Docomo – and what do you like/dislike about it?  Do you have a monthly plan or do you buy pay-per-use phone cards?  Are you addicted to your does-everything-but-the-dishes smartphone or is that good old flip phone still working for you?  (And if it’s the former, you know that we have a mobile version of our site available for your reading pleasure, right?)

Thanks for helping us out!

Note: The comments in the post linked to above have been closed in an effort to begin a new conversation here.


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61 Comments
  • October 19, 2011

    I use Softbank and have an iPhone 4. As far as convenience goes – I absolutely *love it. The price may be a little steep for some: a 1 person plan with unlimited data ranges from $80+ and the 2 person plan ranges from $180+ — all of course, dependent on call use. However, it has made life so much easier. With one touch, I can call using the 3G network to the States using Skype, check my email, get directions, google directions from OkinawaHai for a certain restaurant, and “drop a pin” to a friend to let them know where to go to meet up with me. I moved here in 2009 and initially bought the cheapest phone I could find thinking to myself, “I don’t need it”. And yes, when it comes to want vs. need, I really don’t. But if you’re like me, I’m an instant gratification kinda gal, I would recommend considering all options thoroughly.

    Down sides–
    First, phone calls are charged by the 30 second marks here, not minutes. I believe this goes for the other companies as well. It has been a while since I have actually had to review the plans. This charge applies to non-Softbank users and DSNs. If you’ve ever been put on hold, either the vet or the clinics, you know the wait can be long. I usually hang up after more than a couple minutes and try my call again later to see if someone will answer me immediately the next time around. Those 30 seconds add up really fast.

    Second, if your original method of payment expires – they won’t notify you. I received 2 late payment bills via the mail (of which 80% was in kanji) and I had to go to the store and make both payments in full – yen only. If you don’t, they will allow you to continue making calls, but eventually I had a coworker max out at about $500 phone bill and they cut that person off.

    Third, if you know your spouse will be gone frequently, make sure you have a POA prior to leaving or that you are the primary account holder to the phones. If an issue comes up with bills, they defer you and won’t allow you to do anything with the account. A friend wasn’t allowed to close an account bc their spouse was the primary and they did not have a POA to present to the Softbank rep. A POA had to be mailed from the States before they were allowed to do anything. Very inconvenient.

    And lastly, cell phone service is pretty sketchy out here. I’ve had voicemails pop up but never receive the call but I have full service/bars. If you go to certain areas, you get no service at all. I’ve had a few dropped calls, but nothing I’ve really had too much of an issue with – I had the equivalent to dropped calls in the States.

    Overall though, having a smartphone out here has definitely trumped having a regular phone. I don’t have to wait to get home to contact friends from home or send emails to loved ones. It has definitely made me feel like I’m still “in the loop” with their lives, and I can’t put a price on that.

    Jen M
    Reply
    • October 23, 2011

      I arrived on island a little over two weeks ago and we immediately signed up with Softbank because as you can see, most people have softbank. I have the Iphone 4 and the service is ok. The softbank that we signed up with had ran out of the black iphone so they delivered it to our hotel, fully charged ready to go within three hours. I thought that was pretty good customer service. I have not gotten the first bill yet…..

      Dawn
      Reply
  • October 22, 2011

    i have softbank and hate it. i love my iphone but the lack of service compared to friends that have the other companies is rediculous. I live on Foster so i really dont see the reason why there are so many dead zones in such a heavy populated area. even in Naha i dont have service most of the time.

    maggie
    Reply
  • October 23, 2011

    I also have an iphone from Softbank. This is my first smartphone ever and it’s really become quite invaluable to me. I agree with all the things Jen said about it. I’d also like to add that the iphone has been a lifesaver when I’m driving around lost. I’m still figuring this out, but you can click on the map ap and sort of figure out exactly where you are so you can eventually get to your intended destination. This really helps on this Island of Unnamed Streets! I have not had much trouble with dead zones, but I think this might depend on where you live and mostly use the phone. I’m also suspicious that some of the phones might some interesting quirks. My friend was over at my house and we both took out our phones, and mine worked just fine but her’s did not. Hmmmm……

    I’d say that the biggest negative is the Softbank customer service and the billing. The account is set up so that every month our credit card is billed automatically. Well, this is the second month that the card has been “declined” by Softbank (although it hasn’t been declined anywhere else.) This just means that you have to go in and pay the bill in person (in yen) but it’s kind of a pain. Also, I hate that I can’t read the bill since 95% of it is in Japanese. I think this is probably the same no matter what phone service you use, but I wish I could see exactly what my usage was. Like I said, the customer service at the store is not all that helpful either.

    Finally, I’ve just heard that AU is now offering the iphone as well….so if that’s what you’d like then now there is another option. I’ve heard the AU service is better throughout the island, but that it’s also a lot more expensive.

    Laura
    Reply
  • October 25, 2011

    I signed up for Softbank when I first got here because they were the only ones to offer the iphone (or any smart phone). We absolutely hated the service. Data speeds are horrible and reception around base was spotty at best. Our contract recently ran out and we switched to DOCOMO and could not be happier. Their service is always great and data speeds are awesome. They offer the latest smart phones (minust the iphone) and have stores everywhere on island. I highly, highly, recommend DOCOMO.

    Jonathan
    Reply
  • October 25, 2011

    We have AU and just a basic flip phone. I was not going to pay the crazy prices for an iPhone. AU does have wonderful service and does have smart phones (still can be pricey). I am happy with the service we have.

    Courtney
    Reply
  • October 27, 2011

    Can you bring iPhones from states and use Japanese sim cards?

    A. Hoke
    Reply
    • May 30, 2012

      In my research, a U.S. iPhone cannot be used in Japan. First, it would need to be unlocked, which voids the warranty… Second, it would need to operate at a different frequency than U.S. iPhones.

      Not sure about other phones, but I thought I would share.

      Stephanie
      Reply
      • August 27, 2013

        Unlocking a phone does not necessarily void a warranty, but do it through the cell phone company. And, most important… your cell phone must be able to work on the Japan cellphone network, because a different band is used there even though the frequencies may be similar.

        blue
        Reply
        • October 9, 2014

          AT&T here in the states will carrier-unlock your iphone (or other smartphone) if you provide them with orders–TDY orders, PCS orders, they seem to treat them the same as long as you give them something with some other country on it.

          I don’t have the personal experience with other carriers to say for certain that they offer a similar service, but they might.

          jason
          Reply
  • October 28, 2011

    Ok so me and my husband will be pcsing to Kadena in March. So we def cancel our plans here and then what do y’all recommend for us phone wise?

    Mallory Carter
    Reply
  • February 11, 2012

    –> A. Hoke…
    No, you can not bring your US iPhone and switch SIM cards. We got here last week and we both have had iPhones for years in the US and recently upgraded to the 4S phones… we tried at all 3 major companies to have them switch SIM cards with no luck. Don’t dispair… good news is that the up-front costs of iPhones (and other smart phones) is very different here than in the US. You basically walk out with the phone of your choice, your plan, and a reacurring bill (no money down if you choose). So… it was not that bad. Also, we at AT&T in the US for both our cell plans, internet at home, and U-verse cable so it was a big bill. We got the biggest package and unlimited data from AU (and the service is GREAT so far… even faster than US) and it is a bit less than we pay for just the phone portion of our bill in the US. So, for us it was a wash… only bad thing is now we have 4 iPhones.
    As far as service, a lot of people have SoftBank but it is because they are on base. If you go off base go to an AU (or other) store. The big AU by American Village has a lot of workers that are great english speakers. The entire experience was pretty easy. :)

    Amber
    Reply
  • February 17, 2012

    You can use a US phone if it is unlocked.

    William
    Reply
    • March 7, 2014

      Hello, I plan to have my iPhone 5 unlocked by verizon before we leave (I”ve already got the okay from the store) and would like to switch out my SIM card and use it in Oki come August. I also did this when we were in Israel. AT&T unlocked my iPhone 4 and I used it with an Israel SIM card. So you say this is doable in Japan too? What service provider was able to help you with this? Thanks.

      Erica
      Reply
  • March 7, 2012

    Can somebody please let me know (for sure) if we could use an UNLOCKED iPhone 4S in Okinawa with AU?? I’m already thinking of buying the unlocked iphone before we pcs to Kadena in July 2012 but I want to make sure that AU will let me do a “sim-only” plan for an iPhone 4s…

    Heidi
    Reply
    • March 28, 2012

      Heidi-We are in the same boat. We’ve got a couple of iPhone 4s from verizon that we know we can unlock. However, we’re unsure as to whether we can then use a “sim-only” plan via any of the Okinawa providers. Would be great to know.

      Matt
      Reply
      • March 7, 2014

        Matt, Did your unlocked verizon phones work?

        Erica
        Reply
  • March 20, 2012

    William, could you please let me know how to use a unlocked phone from the states. We arrived with two unlocked phones from apple and have gone to all three providers with no luck. Very frustrating…..

    Dan
    Reply
  • April 2, 2012

    As for the iPhone questions, I have been doing a lot of research myself as my wife and I are moving to Okinawa in about 2weeks. Everything I have found says no you won’t be able to use an unlocked iPhone in Japan. For AT&T iPhones; while they can be unlocked and have a sim card replaced, the work on GSM technology and everything in Japan is CDMA. For Verizon; while they work on the CDMA platform, they do not have a removable SIM card.

    I am not a technology guru, just doing some research and this is what I found. If I am wrong, please some let me know. I would love to use my AT&T iPhone 4 if possible.

    Can someone please let me know how bad the SoftBank coverage really is? They seem to be the only one with the iPhone and I really don’t want to get anything else:(.

    See everyone soon!

    Corey
    Reply
    • April 14, 2012

      Corey-the iPhone 4s for verizon definitely has a micro-SIM card. I’ve pulled it out and looked. It’s located on the right hand side of the phone.

      Matt
      Reply
    • June 3, 2012

      Okay, to put this issue to rest based on experience now that I’m on island.

      If you have an unlocked Verizon iPhone 4s (or any unlocked iPhone 4s), you can in fact buy a micro SIM card from FADtech in Okinawa and get contract 3g voice and data services. The FADtech services work off the Softbank network, which admittedly has some limitations. FADtech is located on Kadena and Foster (maybe more, I’m not sure). The plans are not cheap, but if you are committed (like I was) to not buying a new iPhone, then using your unlocked iPhone 4s in Okinawa is 100% doable.

      Softbank, AU, and Docomo representatives are likely to tell you that it is not possible. However, keep in mind that most of the folks working in the shops, though very helpful, are somewhat limited in their technical knowledge. Bottom line, if you have a legitimately unlocked iPhone 4s, you can purchase a micro SIM and use it in Okinawa.

      Matt
      Reply
      • August 18, 2012

        Thanks Matt, be there in 7 weeks!

        Stephen
        Reply
      • January 1, 2013

        Hi, I’ll be arriving there in June and was looking at the Galaxy S3 unlocked…do you know if it’s the same issue…just buy a SIM card? Thanks! :)

        Katrina
        Reply
        • April 17, 2013

          Katrina — did you ever get an answer to your question? I’m also arriving this summer and plan to bring an unlocked Galaxy S3, but want to make sure I can use a local SIM card, preferably with a full voice/data plan.

          Rachael
          Reply
  • April 2, 2012

    Corey-I have AU and LOVE it. I do not have a smartphone. My girlfriend has an iPhone with Softbank and we can literally be standing next to each other in many places all over the island and I will have full signal and she will have no signal. I had a smartphone in the States and wanted one over here, but decided against it. I have a basic cell phone with a camera that has a family plan with texting. Incoming calls are free and calls to a limited number of other AU customers are free. It works well for me and the best part is that it is 2,400 yen a month (at current yen rate=$29.00) Oh, I was in the AU store the other day and they do carry the iPhone now. Good luck with your move!

    LaLa
    Reply
  • July 3, 2012

    Can anyone here explain the same issues for Android phones? Can you bring your phone over and either drop a local SIM for pay-as-you-go voice/data, or add a plan with a local carrier? I’m coming over in a few weeks, and just want to make sure I don’t waste a purchase on a Galaxy III S – I’ve used my jailbroken iPhone in multiple countries with a local SIM and a prepaid plan, but I’m getting the feeling that Japan isn’t like most other countries :)

    El Pacifico
    Reply
  • August 7, 2012

    Hey all – I am trying to authorize my recently purchased Japanese iPhone 4s, but iTunes won’t let me because it’s not a US number. I can’t create a Japanese account because it won’t let me use an FPO. How did you all access the app store?? Thanks.

    SarahN
    Reply
  • December 4, 2012

    I’m thinking about buying a smartphone here in Okinawa… and I would like to use in the states when I PCS back. Which phones can I use in the states? I would like to purchase iPhone5 from AU or the “unlocked” Samsung Galaxy S3 (version Alpha) from Docomo (Docomo will charge extra for unlocking this phone, and will keep the warranty.) Does the Japanese version of iPhone 5 work in the states? Thanks!

    DaisymayR
    Reply
  • December 4, 2012

    Softbank, honestly, shouldn’t be allowed to sell phones on any of the bases here. I just returned a soft bank iphone due to extremely poor reception. It is basically unusable in most buildings unless you are close to the windows. If you live in the barracks, towers at Kinser, you’ll ONLY get reception by the windows. Don’t let the convenience fool you into getting softbank. You will absolutely regret the terrible reception for 8500 yen you pay monthly for a new iphone. Go for AU, it’s a night and day difference in reception quality.

    Jay
    Reply
  • January 4, 2013

    I will be Okinawa for short stay at Navy Hospital. My Blackberry phone has correct frequency coverage and is unlocked with sim card which I am using here in Philippines.

    Is it possible to just buy a sim card for use there and not have to sign up for a contractual use?? If so, what would be the price.

    Also, can one use wi-fi and Skype there?

    Thanks, Tom

    Tom
    Reply
  • January 15, 2013

    I like how NO ONE answered the ladies question about which phone service and went on a tangent about unlocked phones. I will sum it up, my wife brought here iPhone 4S from the states (unlocked) popped in DoCoMo SIM – got service immedatiely. (Had to pay an extra 1,000 yen because it was an Iphone. I bought, and brought an UNLOCKED iphone 4S from Korea, SAME result. Paid extra, and got service. Right now for 300 minutes for each phone, with unlimited DATA I am paying about 22,000 yen a month WITH roll over minutes (L Plan). Only sucks part is that the roll over minutes are only good for three months, then gets erased and you start all over again. COVERAGE, I work close to the flightline on Kadena, and in a building with NO WINDOWS, four bars ALL DAY long. DoCoMo is the way to go. Screw Softbank. AU is good, and would have probably went with them if I didn’t already have my unlocked phones from other places. Hope this helps, Mallory Carter.

    John Doe
    Reply
    • February 23, 2013

      how much is DoCoMo sevice in US dollars.?? My son is coming to Okinawa in 4 weeks

      Lee Toniolo
      Reply
      • February 23, 2013

        also…can u text people in the states with your plan

        Lee Toniolo
        Reply
  • January 15, 2013

    We’ve lived on Okinawa for years and have tried AU, Docomo, and Softbank. They all stink. The few people I know who have Docomo raved about the reception, so we switched to Docomo when our contract with AU was up. We couldn’t get service in our house. I had to stand on the front porch to get a couple of bars. What’s even worse is how much money I was paying to stand on the front porch because Docomo was by far the priciest carrier we’ve tried. Once we switched from smart phones to regular cell phones, our bill when down by two-thirds and we get reception everywhere, even in the middle of the BX.

    Jane
    Reply
  • March 26, 2013

    We got here and immediately got AU smartphones. I am seriously kicking myself for it right now. My husband has an iPhone 5, his pride and joy. I have a Galaxy 3. In the states he had an iPhone and I had a Galaxy 2, I knew what to expect and I like my android phones. A) His iPhone is set up so that it thinks he’s in the US, we just chose US as the country and BAM – it’s done. My galaxy came loaded with so much bloatware that I can’t get it set up properly because I can’t read the instructions. When I ask questions, no one can answer me. I’m not sure if it’s the language barrier or they just don’t understand the phones. Anyway, I have other messaging apps, skype, talkatone for google voice, and textfree so that we can communicate with the states for free. But I cannot bypass their SMS application because they’ve deleted (or hidden or something) the native messaging app on the phone and theirs does not have conversation bubbles so you have to go into each message separately. I’m currently using 3 messaging apps and it’s so frustrating. If I could take the phone back and switch, I would but I don’t even think that’s a possibility and I generally despise iPhones. Oh and I have no minutes! Hah. Their new plans come with free tethering, but no minute plans so we are literally paying every single time we have to call a base number.

    Margeaux
    Reply
  • March 31, 2013

    Hi everyone! My husband is currently stationed in Okinawa and we will be moving there in June. I’m just worried about getting a cellphone (unlike him, I NEED it). I recently purchased an iPhone 5 at the Apple store here in the states with an AT&T 2-year contract (which will definitely be suspended; it was done before we got his orders). I already spoke with someone and she told me I could have my iPhone unlocked and purchase a SIM card when we get there so I can still use my iPhone. A representative from the Apple store said SoftBank and AU don’t sell standalone SIM cards, especially to gaijin. Has anyone been successful? I would hate to have to give up my new toy–er, phone! I was leaning toward AU (my friend who teaches there recommended it). Any suggestions or input is greatly appreciated!

    Jamie
    Reply
    • April 14, 2013

      Do combo carries SIM card, I’m not certain if they have prepaid setup. Likely a postpaid service. You must have you phone unlocked by AT&T first to use it from abroad.
      Most android are unlocked when purchased in Asia. They all should work.

      Andy
      Reply
  • April 22, 2013

    Hey everyone, a lot of good information here concerning cell phones. I”ll be getting there the first week of June and I was just wondering who has the good plans as of right now? I heard a lot of good things about AU. I have 2 iphones right now for myself and my wife and we’d like to get iphone 5s over there. Does AU have those? And what are the prices like? for the phones and plans….

    Nick
    Reply
  • April 29, 2013

    Hello everyone. My wife and I will be moving to Okinawa in July. She will be stationed at Foster and I will be at Courtney/Hansen. I am not sure if we will be living around Foster of towards the northern camps. Is the reception better toward camp Foster since it is less remote?

    Rene
    Reply
    • April 29, 2013

      Maybe some customers of other cell companies like Softbank and DoCoMo will comment but I will give you my opinion as an AU customer. My husband works on Foster and has GREAT reception there and in the surrounding area. He travels to the northern camps for work related issues and never has a problem up there with reception either. I’ve been in caves here and on mountains here and have always had a signal. The only place that I could not get a signal was on the 2nd floor of the BX. That has changed though and I now get one or two bars of signal in there. So, so pleased with AU! Hope that helps.

      LaLa
      Reply
  • April 30, 2013

    We just arrived in Oki last week, we talked to SoftBank and AU – neither of them will take a phone, even an unlocked iPhone, unless it was purchased from their respective companies. And they only have the iPhone 5 available, no 4’s – we are looking at bookoo.com to get a used iPhone. Neither of them will sell you simply a SIM card. We have not talked to Docomo. I have heard from a couple of people that AU has better coverage than SoftBank. We have been without a phone for several days and still haven’t made a decision. It all seems like a big racket – you pay money for every 30 seconds that you call a phone that is not the same service provider you use. Otherwise it’s free from 0100 to 2100 to call someone with the same cell provider. You can pay more money to call free to the same provider 24 hours a day.

    Maria
    Reply
  • April 30, 2013

    Maria,

    Here is how my plan works (I have a basic phone, not a smart phone): My husband and I both have phones with AU. We can text and call each other at any time for free. We have minutes to call other people and we share those minutes. We do not normally go over those minutes. If I used my cell to talk to family back home or something than we probably would. I use Skype at home to talk to family. We also are each allowed to unlimited text and call 2 other AU customers so my husband chose 2 people at his work that have AU phones that he has to talk to about work issues and I chose 2 girlfriends that I have here that have AU phones. Our bill for BOTH phones each month is 4,600 yen. I had a Blackberry in the States and loved it and thought I could never do without a smart phone, but honestly I am doing just fine and love the fact that by not doing the smart phone thing we can build up our savings even more than we already do. If you have any questions, just ask.

    LaLa
    Reply
    • May 2, 2013

      Thanks for the reply. We both want to keept the iPhone since we use many of the apps multiple times a day and my husband uses his as his music source when he works out. So even though it took my a looong time to move to an iPhone, now that we have one, we don’t want to give it up. No one has talked to us about buying minutes, it’s all charge by 30 seconds of a call to someone that is not with the same service provider.

      Maria
      Reply
  • June 14, 2013

    has anyone tried using an unlocked phone with a prepaid service? Are there any prepaid plans?

    I dont want to sign up and get a iPhone 5 next month only to have apple come out with a new one in fall and was thinking about just brining my unlocked iPhone and holding out on getting a contract until the 5s or whatever the new model is.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this idea?

    erin
    Reply
  • June 18, 2013

    We went phone shopping almost two years ago and ended up with AU. Why? Because the girls at SoftBank were honest enough to tell us flat out that we wouldn’t have reception at our house if we went with them. (We live off base)
    There have been some bumps along the way but for the most part, we’ve been good. We have iPhones and I love being able to Viber, or Voxer my family stateside when I want… I can also text family at home who have iPhones because iMessage is free.

    Dawn
    Reply
  • June 29, 2013

    Hi again! Arrived on island a week ago and just HAD to get a cellphone. Went to AU because a lot of people told me it was really good, but once we got to the kiosk at Kadena, the customer service rep was NOT interested in helping us at all (the store wasn’t even that busy). She seemed more interested in making sales than representing her company. Hubby and I went to Softbank and the girl there was very helpful. I don’t know how AU or Docomo is with reception, but I can’t get reception in my house unless I’m by a window (preferably open) or in the kitchen. I’ve had missed calls even though there were a 3 bars. We got the basic phones (read: free). Haven’t been off base much, so I don’t know how it would be off base. I’m kicking myself for not signing up with AU. Oh well, live and learn. We both have the Double White plan with voicemail, so we’re paying about $45-50/month.

    Didn’t seem to need a smartphone like I originally thought since we have internet at the house and can call family back in the states with Skype, Viber, or Facetime. So if you’re strapped for cash, that seems the best way to go: basic cell phone and Internet calls back home.

    Jamie
    Reply
  • July 2, 2013

    Arrived here last week with unlocked iPhone from Sprint. (Sprint was very helpful, as was the Apple store.) We’ve spoken with SoftBank and AU, neither of which was willing to let us use our unlocked iPhone. We were told about FadTech, but have not yet been in to talk with them. It is worth noting that pretty much all of the cell phone companies offer free calling to other customers with the same service (ie SoftBank to SoftBank), but charge fees to call people with service from other companies (ie AU to SoftBank). We have talked with several people here so far, and everyone says that SoftBank has terrible reception. A few people have recommended Docomo, and we understand that all USMC government phones are now Docomo. Lots to think about and consider, but worth researching, because everyone requires a two-year contract. Also note, during the last month of your two-year contract, you can ask to be changed to month-to-month billing, but once you hit your two year mark, you will be automatically renewed for two years, and you will have to pay an early cancellation fee if you cancel prior to the end of your new two-year contract, which will be upwards of $100. We will check into FadTech, but right now leaning towards Docomo…

    denise
    Reply
  • August 29, 2013

    I hate my android with a passion for the sole reason that I cannot understand half the language that came preloaded on it. I went with softbank, which I haven’t had an issue with. (Considering my expectations for service here was already extremely low.) I miss my iPhone I had back in the states, which is currently unlocked, but I’d like to know how much it would be just to cancel my phone and maybe go with Fadtech or a sim from DoCoMo?

    Steven G
    Reply
  • August 30, 2013

    I am really surprised to hear all the things being said about Softbank. We have been here since January and my husband and I both got iPhones from Softbank. We have zero problem with our reception and we go all over the island. Occasionally we will lose service briefly if we are at an isolated beach but that is it. We use our phones every day without any problems.

    Amanda
    Reply
  • December 11, 2013

    Arrived here friday DEC.6,2013,and after talking to all the service providers about iPhone 5s plans,service and Sim cards I have come to this conclusion,hold up a little background i was also told I could unlock me and my wife’s AT&T GSM phones,So i did that 2 days before I left NY,however after arrival it was explained to me by a rep at DOCOMO after 3 days of searching for a true answer of why i could not purchase a sim card,that all of the iPhones have been created with world zone agreements and while unlocked gsm phones will work here it is illegal to sell Americans a Sim card from a different zone,currently american iPhones can only have purchased sims in US,Canada and Europe-to look this up go into Settings,General,About,Legal,and then Regulatory.

    So my conclusion:most people in my shop on Kadena have AU,so that is who I will be purchasing today.The plans between Softbank,AU and Docomo are similar but it should all depend on who you will need to talk to,as well Skype,Magic Jack,What’s app,and Text now can be used to keep in touch with Family in th US.

    Good luck to you all

    Keif Gardner
    Reply
    • January 7, 2014

      Hey I was wondering how much the iPhone5s is going to cost you upfront? I can’t seem to find that online. We will be there in 2 weeks and just wondering how much we need to put aside.

      Amanda
      Reply
      • June 1, 2014

        Sorry I just checked back amada,the price of the phone was broken down in my contract for $4 a month added to my service fee over 2 years,so about $199.

        Keif Gardner
        Reply
  • December 11, 2013

    Bottom line if your going to get an iPhone,don’t make the mistake of bringing it from the states by it here in Japan,and pop an american sim in it when you visit the US.

    Keif G
    Reply
  • January 5, 2014

    Softbank is the worst. I pay more for worse service than any of my friends that have AU.

    Michael
    Reply
  • March 26, 2014

    I am PCSing to okinawa and have an International version Galaxy S4 (model GT-I9505). I wanted to know if it will work on any of the networks out there and if you can do like a lot of other contries and just buy a sim card and get voice or data via pay as you go recharge?

    Nathan
    Reply
    • March 27, 2014

      Docomo off-base will probably be your only option… the JP companies want you to buy your cell phone through them, so if you have an existing one, we found that an off-base Docomo was pretty much the only one that supported this. You cant just buy a SIM like in other countries, unfortunately.

      cschaab
      Reply
  • April 18, 2014

    It is time for the military community to stand up and ask the commands why is there no cell phone antenna base stations constructed on base?

    Currently your signal is bleed over from off base antennas for all 3 providers , a lot of the issues people are complaining about are antenna capacity issues, in saying that military housing will have issue, look at the way the structures are built, they are like bomb shelters not good for signal penetration.

    A particular provider has been trying for near on 5 Years to construct antennas on military facilities in Okinawa to improve signal to the end user ,but when it looks like going in the right direction another piece of red tape is thrown up, however recently this provider was approved and completed construction on Camp Schwab, that doesn’t help Kadena and Foster users.

    A cell phone these days is a small investment, particularly smart phones you shouldn’t have to put up with port signal at premium prices , antennas on base would go along way to improving the current poor service, and I beleive all 3 providers have their weak spots and it is confirmed in comments above.

    It is time the Okinawa commands looked at the CFAY (Command Fleet Activties Yokosuka) example last year they invited all providers on base under one project to construct antennas to improve signal to end users, going by reports end users have seen major improvment.

    Mog
    Reply