Phone service providers to be required to unlock used smartphones


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Cripes, get with the rest of the world! The Ministry officials who came up with this stupid plan should be thoroughly investigated! These company's have too much influence on them and their policies that end up costing us consumers money!

In 2015, the ministry began requiring carriers to unlock smartphones several months after purchase, but had not set similar rules for second-hand devices.

Right, then you get the carriers that tell their customers after a few months that it is impossible for them to unlock certain types of i-phones, so they have to purchase a different one if they want to unlock it!

Collusion anyone?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All phones should be factory unlocked.

And 48 month contracts abolished.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

 is looking to require

In other words, don't hold your breath.

Won't this hurt the reputation of son of these execs who are pushing their global brand name? This is indeed the era of predatory corporatocracy.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Or in other words, The Ministry if Internal Affairs and Communications, before it makes a decision on whether to go forward with this proposed rule change, is reaching out to said carriers for a handout. This is the Ministry trying to "shakedown" the carriers or else.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I have 5 phones which work perfectly but can't use because I changed companies, also, lost email accounts

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This directly affects me. Softbank's service dept. confirmed that my handset was unlocked when I was with them. But when I went to Singapore and dropped in a local sim card, a message appeared saying my phone's network lock "cannot be released." Plugging in a release code did nothing.

I had left Softbank, the world's sleaziest company, by then, so now, maybe I can actually put my fantastic Nexus handset to use.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Wonder if the unlocking will enable the phones to work with overseas SIM cards when travelling or only with different carrier SIM,s within Japan.  Remember being told somewhere that when buying a smartphone in Japan and then wanting to use it overseas , the hurdle is not only being able to put the new SIM,s into the unlocked phone but also the transmission frequency used in Japan being different from most overseas networks and hence the phones are not guaranteed to work even when unlocked.

Anyone has any experience using unlocked smartphones purchased in Japan with overseas SIM,s?

Do they work?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Come to Australia with a used Japan-sourced iPhone and witness local carrier staff amazement at such devices inoperability, not even for a pre-paid SIM.

Did myself a favour and just spent the money on a new one locally and went to the Mac shop to ensure that previous data and contacts were moved over.

One way to avoid kaigai phone-grief.

Now what to do with 2 spare Japan-sourced iPhones? Sell 'em, here or there I suppose.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is also in the hands of the consumer. Stop putting up with Docomo and Softbank's INSANE prices. Check out what is called LCCs, low cost carrier. My bill with softbank, with a phone they refused to unlock, was over 10,000 yen a month. the last straw was when my bill was over 12,000 because I made 5 phone calls to make hotel reservation and they were off softbank network. So it was about 400 yen per phone call. I paid my cancelation fee and went to an LCC. my bill is now 2,500 a month for MORE minutes, more data and an unlocked phone.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Anyone has any experience using unlocked smartphones purchased in Japan with overseas SIM,s?

I have used an unlocked phone bought at a Yamada Denki or some other place overseas with a sim and it has worked fine.  There also is a guy on Facebook that offers to unlock any sim from Japanese carriers (AU, DOCOMO, Softbank) and make it sim free.

When I left Japan in 2015 I had an HTC One from AU that I loved and as I was getting ready to leave I asked them to unlock it.  They told me that they could not since it would not work on their network.  Told them I didn't care since I was leaving and then got the hissing of teeth and they said it may not work on a foreign network, again I let them know that's my issue to worry about not theirs.  Bottom line, they didn't unlock, so my daughter had a very expensive wifi device to play with.  Came back to Japan, went to the Facebook guy, sent the phone and for about 5000 yen it was unlocked.  I put in a data sim bought from an electronic store in Japan, and was able to get LTE service on DoCoMo.

When I moved back to Japan in 2017, tried the process in reverse with an unlocked dual sim phone and none of the providers (AU, DOCOMO) said it would work, even though I had a data sim in it picking up the DoCoMo network but they tried to sell me a phone and a plan.  Finally had to settle for Softbank, since they let you bring an unlocked phone onto their network and I get 4G speeds but the rest of the annoying notes they send via texts are all in Japanese.

I have always said Japan is moving "slow in the fast lane" at times and this is one of them.  I travel to Singapore and many other places with my dual sim phone and it works just fine with a Softbank sim and any other from any GSM network.  Not sure why these companies don't want to allow the customer more options.  I would have preferred to stay with AU and gotten my old number back, but they were playing games when trying to play me with a sim that they said would not work when in actuality the phone was working great on Japanese networks.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Well, it’s about flipping time!

Does this also mean the phones will be able to use SIMs overseas? For example, one could buy a pre-paid SIM overseas and use their phone as normal? Can anybody confirm this please?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have used my unlocked Docomo phone overseas, with a local SIM, with zero problems.

This article is not about that, though.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is great news. Its absolutely criminal that the phone companies here have control of the phones even when the phones are no longer contracted to them. Whilst I enjoy buying smartphones from overseas to avoid all the Docomo/Softbank bloatware on their handsets... the Japaneses used phone market is great! You can find great condition used phones here and the prices are quite low. Restrictive though if the phone is locked, especially if you want to use it overseas. Also unlocking should be FREE! For all the used phones I unlocked at Docomo in the past (when they used to do it), the 3000YEN charge was a disgrace.

@marcelito @Do the hustle

I've used a number of Docomo branded Samsung phones overseas (Australia/Europe) with no issues (after getting them unlocked here)... most big brand phones support a number of bands so you should be fine in most places... there are a few websites which have the information you need regarding device/country compatibility, google "frequency check".

4 ( +4 / -0 )


However dont be too quick to wish for all providers to sell all phones unlocked from the factory. Doing this means the end of all carrier discounts on phones. If you sit down and look at how the contracts work here, you will see that you actually get a fairly decent deal (vs the price you'd pay if you brought your OWN phone to them). Sure, all 3 carriers are grossly overpriced, but they counter this with handset discounts. Many Japanese people get it, and use these discounts + carrier swap incentives to get massive discounts and actual free phones... And its this big scheme of things that keep a steady supply of cheap secondhand phones for the rest of us

And if you dont want to play by those rules, then show them the finger, buy a phone outright (or secondhand) and take it to one of the third party providers.

As for using Japanese phones overseas; if they are unlocked they will work, with varying degrees of success. By that i mean you will probably not have as good signal as a locally sourced phone. Each country, and each carrier in that country has their own frequency bands. There are 40 or 50 to select from. Most countries, and many carriers will support Band 1 (2100mhz), but it will be supplemented by other bands. So you may be fine in the city, but certain areas you will have no signal where a local phone will be full bars. Same goes for foreign phones in Japan. You will be fine in the city, but out in the country a local phone will be better off.

I think that the radios in all phones are capable of seeing all bands, but the selection enabled is fixed by the firmware, and AFAIK none of the unlocks will enable all bands to be used. Not sure how it works for iPhones, but at least that is the issue with Androids, all over the world.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan plans to require mobile phone service providers to unlock second-hand smartphones, enabling them to be used on any network, government sources said Wednesday.

The wording is a little strange. Doesn't secondhand mean "acquired after being used by another" or "received from or through an intermediary". Buying a new device won't turn it second hand.

Or do they mean just "used phones"?.

If they mean used phones (even by the first owner) then what's the difference with having the phone unlocked from the beginning?

If it's secondhand and I have to prove I got my phone from someone else, looks like a law with a loophole is coming...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bought a new smartphone from Docomo a few years ago.

Requested to have it unlocked after a few months.

The store manager refused to unlock it.

Told them I'm not moving from this seat until you unlock it.

They unlock it.

Got a brand new unlocked phone in the US.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Anyone has any experience using unlocked smartphones purchased in Japan with overseas SIM,s?

Do they work?

My phone purchased in Japan worked in the US after switching to a T-Mobile sim card.

In California internet was slow, Vegas and Oregon fast.

My friend's pocket WiFi worked well in those cities.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan 10 years behind on this. I was lucky to bring an unlocked iPhone from America with me, but wow the people at au were so hesitant to activate it on their network as if they had never seen an unlocked phone before.

The big carriers have way too much control in this country, but most consumers are clueless about MVNO's and keep paying Docomo/Softbank/au whatever they ask

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Unlocked phones in Japan don't necessarily mean that they are 100% usable overseas. I had a Samsung Note 4 phone from Docomo that was made sim-free, but it was barely usable in the US. Making phones calls was about it - the data speed was like 2G, so browsing the internet was a joke.

Since the, I got myself a Pixel phone in the US that works great in Japan on the Docomo network. Best part - no uninstallable Docomo bloatware.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Doing this means the end of all carrier discounts on phones. If you sit down and look at how the contracts work here, you will see that you actually get a fairly decent deal (vs the price you'd pay if you brought your OWN phone to them). Sure, all 3 carriers are grossly overpriced, but they counter this with handset discounts. 

If you are stuck with a phone for two years and are not able to use it on another carrier, you do not really own it. The discount is a mirage since you pay for the phone through your contact.

If this restrictive practice weren't in the phone companies' favour, they wouldn't do it.

Restrictive practices in an oligopoly is always going to work out badly for the consumer.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Thanks guys for the info regarding using the phones overseas.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Firstly, never buy a phone via a monthly contract - they own you

So true.  Last week in Singapore I received a text from Softbank saying that I could data roam there for about 3000 yen a day.  With an unlocked dual sim Samsung I have bought from ebay overseas, I was able to buy a local Singapore sim for 15 SGD and have data and a local phone number for 7 days.  Still able to receive and make calls via Softbank cell number but not using the data.  Just paying the paltry amount in SGD compared to the daily jack up rate that Softbank will charge for data is why you see Japanese smartphone companies hesitant to unlock phones.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So, if I were to get a prepaid iPhone in the US, will it work in Japan? My provider is Mineo. Sorry if this might be a bit off topic, but I just want to know. If so, how? Regarding this article, I'm finally glad this is happening. This is definitely behind the times as I have seen other countries already doing this.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


I did unlock an Iphone on the carrier's (AU) website after the six month period and while traveling to New York, I did insert a local SIM card and it worked flawlessly. If the Ministry can force the carrier's to unlock all phone it would save consumers a lot of time and money.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So, if I were to get a prepaid iPhone in the US, will it work in Japan? My provider is Mineo. Sorry if this might be a bit off topic, but I just want to know.

If you bought a sim free iPhone in the US and brought it back to Japan, as long as it is not locked to the US Mobile company then it will work in Japan.  You could use Mineo if they allow you to bring your own phone.

If you go to the Straight Talk or Tracfone web sites they have the option for you to either BYOP 'Bring Your Own Phone" of buy one of theirs and put in the sim card to activate.  Those phones are normally low end in regards to performance and may not have all of the bells and whistles but they do allow you to make calls and surf the net.  Bring one of those back and it should work.

The big difference between the US and Japan is that there are more Japanese that travel out of Japan to foreign countries (percentage of population that is) than there are Americans going overseas.  So the US carriers will offer some better deals on global roaming.  However there is much competition among carriers so they started a few years ago going with unlocked phones.  So one would buy a phone not sold by one company (AT&T) and use it on another network (Verizon, etc) and they got a little smart about that and started to try to cash in.  I guess here in Japan they will try to maintain their steady numbers and try to lock you into a plan and service and not allow you the flexibility to change.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

2018, and still a mess. I can at least use my USA T-Mobile iPhone in Japan at 2frickenG speed! Calls for $.25 a minute. Typing on it right now. It connects to docomo or SoftBank randomly. For USA residents, T-Mobile is the way to go for international travel. For Japanese residents, yappari, a mess. BS.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the US, use T-Mobile's one week data pass 1 GB for $10. 1 GB was sufficient for email and internet, no vids. Drove for a week using Google maps so added another GB. Most US states were 4G LTE, Northern Cali was a bit slower.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Thanks HenryK. I tell Japanese friendo to get that when he goes to Beikoku soon. Yoroshiku douzo.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks HenryK and Alphaape!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most testing time in my marriage was when my husband was helping me navigate through phone company policies while trying to get m first smart phone in Japan.

Once I got that, I had so many problems with it! Y!mobile told me it's not their problem because it's a Huwaei phone, and Huwaei told me it's not their problem because I bought the phone through Y!mobile!

What a messed up cluster....

Thanks for saving me (and my marriage BIC mobile!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is so easy to buy an unlocked phone now and it is even easier to check the bands ! Check Amazon (both jp and com), Expansys, (used phones). I have been doing the SIM free route for around 7 years. Have bought from all 3 - some great deals on with low import fees. maps the tower frequency so you can see say NTT docomo uses band 1 near my house but band 3 close to my work. Both bands are the most common in Japan.

There are 1000s of sites eg: - that list the phones and what bands they have.

Some bands are more important eg: in buildings.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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