Things to Know: Cellphones (part two)Tokyo, Spring 2012
In this post I would like to discuss both the IES method of procuring a cellphone, and the method I used when I was last in Japan.
1. The IES Method (Picell)
Pros: Incoming calls are cheap. SMS messages (incoming & outgoing) are cheap. Free calls to anyone else using the same plan (I’m not entirely positive on this, so don’t quote me!). You can make international calls (but they’re expensive!). IES brings the company to you, so signing up is super easy!
Cons: Ugly (friends complained about quality…and it is a really ugly phone), rented phone (if you break it, you buy it!). Outgoing calls are not so cheap. No data usage.
All in all, this method is probably the best if you don’t intend to talk on the phone (particularly to your Japanese friends). If you simply text back and forth, you’re good to go! I had a few friends that got by paying very little on this plan (around 15 dollars a month?) and then other friends who really paid for it (over a hundred dollars for a month). So, before you chose this plan, think hard about whether or not you intend to use your phone like crazy.
2. My method (prepaid phone)
Pros: Your very own pretty phone! Free incoming and outgoing SMS! Free email from phone to phone, or phone to computer (VERY helpful for when I wanted to just shoot my mom a message and didn’t have access to a computer. She could also message me back to my phone, so it was like we were texting each other!). Free incoming calls. You control how much money you use.
Cons: Initial phone cost is expensive. Outgoing calls are (very) expensive. No data.
A few of us used this method during my first semester abroad and we all loved it. We got to buy our own phone, which meant if we wanted a really awesome, high tech phone, we could get it! My phone (the cheapest option!) cost me around $130 dollars, but it had a super nice camera, tons of features, and was sleek and cool-looking. I got to personalize it with all the stickers I wanted, too. I was able to control the amount of money I put on the phone ($30 and $50 phone cards available) and as long as I didn’t make any calls, my level of money stayed the same. However, if you intend to use this method, there is one thing you should know: you must apply for the phone WITHIN the airport (at the Softbank center). This process can take up to 2 hours and they usually don’t speak great English. If you don’t apply for it in the airport, you will have to wait until you get your foreigner registration card, which may not be issued until after the deadline IES has set for procuring a cellphone. I had a few friends who got the Picell phone first, then got their card, and then went to buy their own prepaid phone – so you can do it that way as well. Oh, and I almost forgot. You must be 20 years of age OR have a friend willing to put the phone under their name for you (I had to do it for a friend).
For those of you who are going to be in the same program as I am and would like to use the second method, I will be more than happy to meet with you and step you through it.
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