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A trip to Japan

Discussion in 'GENERAL Wireless Discussion' started by dmapr, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Just came back from a two-week trip to Japan and figured I'd write things up before I forget. Things naturally being wireless-related :)

    I opted to get both for myself and my wife 1GB SIM; it was reasonably priced and didn't have daily limits on data. I had the SIM cards shipped to the post office at the terminal, so we were up & running pretty soon after we arrived.

    On my Nexus 6P I popped the new SIM in, configured the APN as documented and was up and running. On my wife's iPhone I popped in the SIM, installed profile when prompted and she was up and running as well.

    I ended up using about 600MB and my wife about 850MB. Our usage was uneven, ranging from 20-30MB on the low end to 150-170MB on the high end (daily), showing that I was right in avoiding the 100MB/day plan.

    On my Nexus 6P I had HSPA+ almost everywhere we went (there was one place near the Tokyo Edo Museum where I briefly had LTE). My wife had LTE everywhere on her iPhone 6. It didn't really matter as both the LTE and HSPA seemed to be capped pretty low (about 2 down, 0.5 up).

    When we came back, I popped my AT&T SIM back in and I was up and running as the phone has switched to the AT&T APN automatically. Then I popped my wife's AT&T SIM back in and naturally she had no internet. Took me quite a bit of digging to find where that other profile was and to delete it. No, I don't remember where it was but I'm confident I'll be able to find it again if needed (I did not have to install/remove any profiles while swapping to and from the Russian SIM).

    The variety of the phones in Japan is staggering. There were a lot of iPhones, but the Android landscape was not nearly as heavily slanted towards Samsung as I've seen in Europe and see here. I've seen a few Xperia phones, some Samsungs and a lot of different brands I wasn't able to identify. Plenty of flips (Android), some weird Android something that when unfolded resembles a T (the horizontal being the screen) and other Androids ranging in size from <4" to 6"+.

    I think that's all of my observations in the wireless world :)
     
    JFB, RadioRaiders, palandri and 4 others like this.
  2. KevinJames

    KevinJames WA's 1st retired mod
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    @dmapr: Great review. Maybe you'll start a trend of others sharing their offshore experiences with wireless. I really wish I could but I've had to resign myself to the fact that my days of travel are long over.
     
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  3. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Thanks for the kind words, but I think @charlyee has been doing that from time to time ;)
     
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  4. palandri

    palandri Former Palm Guy

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    Curious, did you feel any of the recent earthquakes in Japan?

    The last few years in France, I've been using Bouygues Telecom. We get 500MB of data and that will last me two weeks. My wife eats up 500MB in a week. She has a habit of watching every CNN video that pops up on her phone.
     
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  5. palandri

    palandri Former Palm Guy

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    Take those curlers out of your hair and live a little ;)
     
  6. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Nope, they were on a different island. With BT, do you buy a new throwaway SIM every time? How much?

    My wife has a habit of posting everything she comes across on Facebook, so data is mighty important :)
     
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  7. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    A few random questions:
    -How much did the SIM package cost?
    -What operator?
    -Why so little LTE coverage? (You said mostly was HSPA+)
    -...or did your phone not work on the LTE bands they use there?
    -I heard/read they use TDD more there than EU/US, was there any indication of that?
    -How's the free wifi there? Is it a viable alternative for tourists?
     
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  8. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    • About $30 per SIM
    • NTT DoCoMo
    • Lack of bands on the Nexus 6P, the iPhone 6 was on LTE all the time.
    • Can't really say, I wasn't trying to see which bands are actually in use
    • There's free Wi-Fi in a number of places: subway, JR stations, supermarkets and so on. But as there aren't offline maps for Japan (at least in Here maps) I would want to have the coverage all the time, so I would say not a 100% viable.
     
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  9. palandri

    palandri Former Palm Guy

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    Yes I buy a new SIM card each time. The SIM card is 10€ Then you add a plan
    10€ you get unlimited calls and SMS in France and 500MB of data that is good for 7 days.
    20€ you get unlimited calls and SMS in France and 500MB of data that is good for 15 days.

    Last fall with my Asus Zenfone 2 and my wife's Nexus 5, we had LTE in every major city for the first time, so they must have expanded their LTE coverage over the last year.

    For calling to the states when I am in France, I still have a Skype account and I use that.
     
    #9 palandri, Apr 22, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  10. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Thanks! Is there an option for top up? The Japanese SIM I bought had a top up with 500mb for about $12 and 1gb for about $18. Or do you just buy another "plan" for another €10 or €20?

    Oh, and I use Hangouts or Vonage to make calls from abroad. Vonage also allows me to make international calls.

    Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
     
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  11. palandri

    palandri Former Palm Guy

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    Top up on Bouygues was easy. You can get top up cards at any supermarket or tobacco shop. 10€ will get you another 500MB of data.

    There's also SFR and Orange in France. I've never used SFR. I've used Orange a few times in the past, but they were more expensive and the coverage was the same. I think they all share the same towers. Someone told me with Orange the only option now for tourist now is an Orange Holiday card. It's 45€ you get 1GB of data and unlimited calling and SMS, but it's only good for 7 days
     
  12. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Hmm, so with BT you can either get 500MB for two weeks for €20 or you can get a 1GB for two weeks for €20 (500MB/€10 + 500/€10). Sneaky :D

    Orange Holiday card sounds like a rip-off.
     
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  13. JFB

    JFB Gold Senior Member
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    @dmapr Excellent information - thanks.
    I was confused by this part:
    Russian SIM?
     
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  14. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Ah yes, when I go to Russia I put in a local MTS SIM in both our phones. Both Android & iPhone didn't require any additional action to have the internet working when I did that. In contrast both phones required an extra config step for the data to work on the Japanese DoCoMo SIM.
     
  15. palandri

    palandri Former Palm Guy

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    The 10 + 10 trick might work. I don't know; I have never tried it

    My phones always change to the French language when I insert a French SIM card. Did your phones change to the Japanese language when you inserted a Japanese SIM card? If so, was it hard to figure out how to get it back to English?
     
  16. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Nope, both our phones stay in English when a foreign country SIM is inserted, but I haven't tried French SIM cards. Russian/Czech/Hungarian/Japanese, although the Japanese was a data only.
     
  17. viewfly

    viewfly Mobile RF Advisor
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    @dmapr. Nice report! I always looked forward to my trips to Japan;spending a free day looking at the array of mobile phones (and other electronics) was one of the highlights.

    The first time that I had a working cell phone, I did a bit like you: prearranged for a DoMoCo SIM and local phone for pick up at the airport. Couldn't have been easier. No USA phones had 3G at the time and GSM is not used in Japan.

    A later time, I had my first and new iPhone 3G (WCDMA). The surprise on my coworkers face when I had the only usable mobile over there. At that time I just used ATT roaming ( I think. Actually I don't remember).

    At any rate, later, I mostly used ATT roaming, and stayed under the 300 MG limit that set for myself.

    Thought it was cool, but not too useful, when my Google mobile maps would have most everything in Japanese. Ha!

    Thanks for the report. It is good to hear that travel is so easy. Question: are the 'Flip Phone' still really huge in screen sizes? They were super long (better use for Japanese and gaming I guess). And what is the status regarding trains, subways? First cell phones were fine, and then only headphones were allowed. Are they banned now?

    Vf


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  18. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Good questions, @viewfly. Yes, roaming with AT&T is definitely a possibility, but prohibitively expensive compared to what we did. In fact, if I were going alone I'd probably opt to rent a portable Wi-Fi which costs about $65 for a two-week period IIRC. With it's 1GB/per day total limit (14GB for two weeks) with no actual daily limits and connecting up to 10 devices simultaneously at blazing fast speeds it out-values the AT&T roaming deal by a huge margin. The only ability I lose in this scenario is sending messages to international numbers which I don't use all that often anyway. And the 300MB limit for two weeks is completely unrealistic for my wife as she used over 800MB while also hooking up to every Wi-Fi spot we came across :) I could have possibly pulled it off but I would have felt severely constrained.

    Flip-phone screen size: huge compared to old flips; relatively small compared to modern day smartphones. My estimation is with the exception of that T-shaped one (regular flips) were all at about 3.7-4" screen sizes.

    Phones in public transportation: they're not banned, but there's an etiquette to using them. They're "not allowed" next to priority seating (elderly/pregnant/etc.) and in general they ask you to mute your phones or if you're talking to step outside the car. The latter is very easy to do on the Shinkansen, less so on local trains or subways where there are practically no vestibule. But everybody has their phone out and are playing/reading all the time.

    Also, these days Google Maps have most everything we looked at in both English and Japanese, which made asking the cab driver to take you somewhere pretty easy :) We only took one cab ride, but the driver's English vocabulary consisted of the name of the person who reserved the taxi and thank you so without the Google Maps we would have been forced to ask the hotel staff to translate for us. They never have a problem with it, but it seems like it exceeds their normal duties and since they don't accept tips I never felt comfortable asking them to do anything that wasn't their actual job.
     
  19. viewfly

    viewfly Mobile RF Advisor
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    Thanks @ dmapr for the quick reply.

    Don't you love the politeness of the taxis? With the white dollies ( white gloves too) on the seats and that hidden lever that opens and closes the rear passenger door?

    I alway made it a habit to take the hotel room match box, or hotel card with me so I could show it to the taxi driver, to get me home, if my 'taxi Japanese ' failed

    Yeah, I guess my data usage creeps up with time. When I was there it was a working trip, so most of my days were at the office and on wifi. But if my wife came along....

    The ATT card made it easy for my kid to text me. Always surprised me how fast we went texting back and forth, half way around the world and through ATT too.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  20. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    We were texting using the Google Voice number, so it was just as easy :) My wife was in constant touch with the kid throughout. I suspect she could have used the iMessage as well, although I don't know that for a fact.

    I got a chuckle out of how easy it was for her to use the iPad. She didn't even realize that the phone went into the hotspot mode as she was chewing through the data :D That day was her highest usage, nearly 200MB as she has found some deal that allowed us to save about $50 by rebooking our hotel with a new promo. It probably didn't make any difference that she wasn't using the AT&T SIM except for the amount of data used.
     
  21. viewfly

    viewfly Mobile RF Advisor
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    That's true. Back in 2005-6 there wasn't iMessage or anything else for that matter,other than ATT texting. Even in 2008 with the iPhone.

    Still amazed it worked so easily. DoMoCo to USA carrier and back in a split second. I know the physics, but figured the software would get in the way.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  22. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Well, the software did get in the way, at least on the iPhone :) Only on the way back though. All my other swaps before were completely transparent, with APN being auto-configured by the phones without my knowledge. I suspect it may have something to do with the way the DoCoMo SIM is programmed, but if Android could figure it out I'm sure iOS could too. Not sure why they chose to not to.
     
  23. viewfly

    viewfly Mobile RF Advisor
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    Undoubtedly the SIM, and probably wasn't a choice, but an oversite on someone's part.

    Using an ATT SIM on the DoMoCo network required no setting changes. Just worked. It was important to
    remind ATT that you were planning to use the network— sometimes the
    Wizard behind the curtain forgot to move that big knife switch for you.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  24. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Naturally you won't have to change anything if you're using AT&T SIM, technically it's not any different than roaming domestically. But since with all other foreign SIM card I used I didn't have to change anything either it was a surprise that it didn't "just work" as usual.

    I'm surprised you had to remind AT&T you were planning to roam — back in the day when I did use roaming I never had to do anything.

    Sent from my SM-T320 using Tapatalk
     
  25. viewfly

    viewfly Mobile RF Advisor
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    It's not so natural, dmapr. After all data and cellular is connecting via DoMoCo
    not ATT.

    Back in the early days, e en before the iPhone, things didn't go smoothly all the time. Most times, but not all. A smart user back in 2001-4 would double check before arriving in the foreign county.

    No need to linger on about this; just pointing out it a small miracle that it works, when it works, mixing foreign carriers together.

    At least it went smoothly for you upon arrival.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    #25 viewfly, Apr 24, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
  26. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    You're right, I'm used to taking these small miracles for granted :D
     

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