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osakavamp
April 12th, 2014, 07:26
I'm sorry to start a thread on a topic that's sort of been covered/asked before, but my question is a little different than the other threads I read through on here.

I bought an unlocked iPhone 5S in the US, the whole reason being I thought I would be able to take it to Japan and use it with a carrier in Japan. However, recently I read an article that said it won't work with any Japanese carrier, despite being unlocked and purchased from Apple directly.

Last year when I was in Japan studying abroad I was able to use my iPhone 4 on the Softbank network (bought in America, locked to AT&T) while I had an international plan with AT&T for the first few days I was in Japan, but I knew I couldn't use it with SoftBank directly for heaven knows what reason.

I don't really know the technicalities and the whole thing confuses me. I've been getting conflicting information and I am just trying to figure out if I can use this expensive piece of equipment when I get there. :( Can anyone help me make sense of this?

Gizmotech
April 13th, 2014, 08:44
Which iphone 5S model did you purchase? One model is missing LTE channels for Japan, so it can only connect on GSM networks (which they might not let you do).

ScoobyDoobyBoob
April 13th, 2014, 11:50
Which iphone 5S model did you purchase? One model is missing LTE channels for Japan, so it can only connect on GSM networks (which they might not let you do).

Unfortunately, the only models that are sold unlocked in the US are A1533 which have LTE bands for ATT, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The A1453 model is the one that has the bands for all 3 major carriers in Japan, and in America it's the one for Sprint.

I'm researching this whole topic myself at the moment, but I know for sure that the model OP has will not work with LTE in Japan. I'm not sure at this point about the ability to make calls or connecting to 3G not working, but as soon as I find out I'll post it.

osakavamp
April 13th, 2014, 12:14
Yes, I got the A1533. It seems like, yes, LTE won't work, but 3G and maybe 4G would work on Japanese carriers.

osakavamp
April 13th, 2014, 12:17
Which iphone 5S model did you purchase? One model is missing LTE channels for Japan, so it can only connect on GSM networks (which they might not let you do).

Yes, I got the A1533. It seems like, yes, LTE won't work, but 3G and maybe 4G would work on Japanese carriers...

webstaa
April 14th, 2014, 08:37
Copy/paste from the other thread:

It depends on what carrier you get your iPhone from. Apple - iPhone 5 - View countries with supported LTE networks. (http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/) Match up on with a Japanese carrier. Note that LTE is only 1/2 of the phone's connection (but the more important half - data. 3G is generally on UMTS and "4G LTE" is on FDD-LTE and TD-LTE)

Double check with Japan Mobile Tech: Japanese mobile frequency bands (http://www.japanmobiletech.com/2012/03/japanese-mobile-frequency-bands.html) and you'll be fine. (Beware, the second link isn't up to date - it doesn't have all of Docomo or AU 4G bands on it).

Ideally you'll want a Model A1453 (iPhone 5s) or Model A1429 (iPhone 5). You could use these in either country, but outside of the major cities in the US you may not be able to connect to 3G/4G if/when/where it is available. If you have a US iPhone Model A1533 (GSM) or Model A1533 (CDMA), you can use Docomo pretty well (there are three usable bands - other carriers only have one).

In summary: Scoobydoobyboob hit the nail on the head. You will be able to make voice calls, but are unable to use 3G or 4G (LTE.) You may be able to trade it\sell it to someone going back to the US for a new Softbank/Docomo iPhone. The options for buying a phone through Softbank/Docomo are pretty good, even for iPhones, so bring some extra cash and get one when you come. But you will get have to get a 2 year contract...

Gizmotech
April 14th, 2014, 10:51
I would just get the free iphone here in Japan (or almost free) tbh. If you're only here for 1 year, that kinda sucks, but if you're here for two there's no sense in not getting the phone. I mean hell, I got a free (completely) iphone 4, and my iphone 5 I think I will pay about 60$ total by the end of the contract next year.

osakavamp
April 14th, 2014, 10:58
Copy/paste from the other thread:

It depends on what carrier you get your iPhone from. Apple - iPhone 5 - View countries with supported LTE networks. (http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/) Match up on with a Japanese carrier. Note that LTE is only 1/2 of the phone's connection (but the more important half - data. 3G is generally on UMTS and "4G LTE" is on FDD-LTE and TD-LTE)

Double check with Japan Mobile Tech: Japanese mobile frequency bands (http://www.japanmobiletech.com/2012/03/japanese-mobile-frequency-bands.html) and you'll be fine. (Beware, the second link isn't up to date - it doesn't have all of Docomo or AU 4G bands on it).

Ideally you'll want a Model A1453 (iPhone 5s) or Model A1429 (iPhone 5). You could use these in either country, but outside of the major cities in the US you may not be able to connect to 3G/4G if/when/where it is available. If you have a US iPhone Model A1533 (GSM) or Model A1533 (CDMA), you can use Docomo pretty well (there are three usable bands - other carriers only have one).

In summary: Scoobydoobyboob hit the nail on the head. You will be able to make voice calls, but are unable to use 3G or 4G (LTE.) You may be able to trade it\sell it to someone going back to the US for a new Softbank/Docomo iPhone. The options for buying a phone through Softbank/Docomo are pretty good, even for iPhones, so bring some extra cash and get one when you come. But you will get have to get a 2 year contract...

I was following you until the very end there. I'm confused about the Docomo thing. If I have three bands on Docomo, shouldn't I be able to use voice and data with my A1533? Or am I totally confused? I know it won't be LTE. That doesn't bother me. I just want to be able to use data and voice if I can. (I really appreciate the help btw.)

osakavamp
April 14th, 2014, 11:01
I would just get the free iphone here in Japan (or almost free) tbh. If you're only here for 1 year, that kinda sucks, but if you're here for two there's no sense in not getting the phone. I mean hell, I got a free (completely) iphone 4, and my iphone 5 I think I will pay about 60$ total by the end of the contract next year.

I understand the value you're describing, but I already dropped $800 on this unlocked phone at the apple store thinking I would be able to use it in Japan. :(

Gizmotech
April 14th, 2014, 11:15
I understand the value you're describing, but I already dropped $800 on this unlocked phone at the apple store thinking I would be able to use it in Japan. :(

Resell it and use this as a learning experience about how to research before hand unfortunately. We all make mistakes like this in our life.

ScoobyDoobyBoob
April 14th, 2014, 17:44
I understand the value you're describing, but I already dropped $800 on this unlocked phone at the apple store thinking I would be able to use it in Japan. :(

When did you buy it? Apple Stores are usually awesome with returns. Ask for a manager, explain your unique situation, and hopefully they can give you your money back.

Not to hijack the thread, but I had a similar question to OP. Just because LTE won't work on the A1533 GSM model, does that mean 3G won't work either?

Also, I heard only DoCoMo is good with giving/selling sim cards. Would someone be kind enough to explain that a bit? Can I do that for an iPhone? Sorry for all of these questions.

ihatefall
April 14th, 2014, 19:41
Just saying I got my 64GB 5S with $0 down payment and have to pay less than 1500 yen a month for two years for it. (I can check my bill when I get home.) Japanese mobile carriers are total bitches about unlocking iPhones or using unlocked iPhones.
I can look into the bandwidths that the various "data" sim companies use. But you'd have to get a Skype number to get calls. It's not ideal but it's 3000 yen a month verses 7800.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

osakavamp
April 17th, 2014, 09:51
Okay so I have an update on this situation!

I called the Apple store to explain my situation and after a lot of negotiating they are willing to sell me the model that should work on Japanese carriers -- the Model A1453. Apparently it's just known as the 'Sprint model' in the US. It will be unlocked, so it should work okay, right? I'm only worried because you guys said that guys at Docomo can be real asses about letting you sign up with a phone you bring in.

I know I might be beating this topic hard into the ground when you guys are all like, just get B Mobile and get a Skype number, but the cell phone culture in Japan is so different -- you can't do a lot of shit without a mobile email.

ScoobyDoobyBoob
April 17th, 2014, 15:44
Okay so I have an update on this situation!

I called the Apple store to explain my situation and after a lot of negotiating they are willing to sell me the model that should work on Japanese carriers -- the Model A1453. Apparently it's just known as the 'Sprint model' in the US. It will be unlocked, so it should work okay, right? I'm only worried because you guys said that guys at Docomo can be real asses about letting you sign up with a phone you bring in.

I know I might be beating this topic hard into the ground when you guys are all like, just get B Mobile and get a Skype number, but the cell phone culture in Japan is so different -- you can't do a lot of shit without a mobile email.

You're totally fine dude. I've been frantically searching myself. As far as the Apple Store goes, that sounds a little sketchy. Unless I'm mistaken, I think they mean that they are willing to sell you the Sprint model "Device Only", but what they failed to mention is that it is still locked to Sprint. Make sure you also talk to Sprint support, explain the situation to them, and do your best to have them unlock it for you.

Like I said, I've been researching this topic a lot myself, and in doing so I got in contact with the guy that runs Japan Mobile Tech (http://www.japanmobiletech.com). According to him, the unlocked A1533 model should be ok for the b-mobile plan:

"Docomo uses LTE Band 1 and WCDMA Band 1, both of which are supported by A1533. 2100 MHz."

That being said, right now I'm planning on taking my current iPhone (after unlocking it) to Japan and getting a b-mobile SIM, using data only for a month or so until the new iPhone comes out, and then sign a contract.

One of my friends also works at SoftBank and I've gotten into contact with her about what I could do, so I will update you guys with that as well.

All in all, just make sure that you are getting a truly unlocked A1453 model and not simply a "Device Only" sale. If the case is the latter, MAKE SURE that Sprint is willing to unlock it for you. I've heard they can be pricks when it comes to unlocking.

Good luck and keep us posted.

osakavamp
April 18th, 2014, 04:10
You're totally fine dude. I've been frantically searching myself. As far as the Apple Store goes, that sounds a little sketchy. Unless I'm mistaken, I think they mean that they are willing to sell you the Sprint model "Device Only", but what they failed to mention is that it is still locked to Sprint. Make sure you also talk to Sprint support, explain the situation to them, and do your best to have them unlock it for you.

Like I said, I've been researching this topic a lot myself, and in doing so I got in contact with the guy that runs Japan Mobile Tech (http://www.japanmobiletech.com). According to him, the unlocked A1533 model should be ok for the b-mobile plan:

"Docomo uses LTE Band 1 and WCDMA Band 1, both of which are supported by A1533. 2100 MHz."

That being said, right now I'm planning on taking my current iPhone (after unlocking it) to Japan and getting a b-mobile SIM, using data only for a month or so until the new iPhone comes out, and then sign a contract.

One of my friends also works at SoftBank and I've gotten into contact with her about what I could do, so I will update you guys with that as well.

All in all, just make sure that you are getting a truly unlocked A1453 model and not simply a "Device Only" sale. If the case is the latter, MAKE SURE that Sprint is willing to unlock it for you. I've heard they can be pricks when it comes to unlocking.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Thanks for being cool, friend. I hope we can figure this out together. What I don't understand is why our A1533s could get data on Docomo (even if it isn't LTE) like other people on this thread have commented, but they're at the same time saying we wouldn't be able to get voice calls?

It doesn't make a lot of sense to me considering that I used my iPhone 4 on Docomo/Softbank last year to make voice calls... but maybe that had to do with the model? (It was locked to AT&T and I had an international plan for the first few days I was there just to have something before I got settled.)

Your plan to do B Mobile until the iPhone 6 comes out sounds okay, but at the same time, what will I do with this useless iPhone 5S after that? I feel like it would be harder to find a buyer for it after that if I'm gonna sell it in an attempt to get back some of the money I spent on it. But now I'm just thinking out loud.

webstaa
April 18th, 2014, 08:27
I was following you until the very end there. I'm confused about the Docomo thing. If I have three bands on Docomo, shouldn't I be able to use voice and data with my A1533? Or am I totally confused? I know it won't be LTE. That doesn't bother me. I just want to be able to use data and voice if I can. (I really appreciate the help btw.)

So, each carrier has a network of towers (that they own or lease). Each tower has a couple different types of transmitters on it, but usually, in rural and urban areas there is only one or two channels available at any one tower, for a number of reasons (might not have enough space on the tower for all the necessary transmitters, might not have enough power available to run all the transmitters, the channel might be at/near capacity resulting in it dropping you constantly.) If you go with a carrier that has only one channel compatible with your phone, you run the risk of not being able to connect (as that one channel might not be on that tower.)

The Sprint model (if unlocked) is your best bet for buying one early. But it might have issues - if you have to pay for it, I'd suggest buying one here - if you plan on staying only one year, foist it off on your successor.

LTE is "4G." (the G stands for Generation) LTE is called 4G (its not really but that's a more technical discussion). UTMS and HSPA+are the backbone of the 3G networks - they run mostly voice, and slow speed data. Some 3G channels are restricted to what sort of data can be transferred (ie voice only) for stability reasons. The biggest thing is that "3G" can be what you'd expect from the US networks (fairly OK) or terrifyingly slow. "4G LTE", while it isn't as fast as it should be, is much faster and is used for data connections.

You can use AT&T phones for roaming because of cooperation between Japanese and US tellcoms to provide that service. The same isn't available to Japanese carriers because they cooperate much less between themselves than they do between foreign companies. (Consider that Softbank has designs on buying US carriers.)

The iPhone 4 you had most likely had different channels available. Every time a manufacturer updates its phones, the available channels change (as the tellcoms are constantly changing and upgrading their networks).

If you go a major carrier, and/or are in a fairly large urban area, its fairly likely that their wifi network will be made available - Softbank has one (wifi in pretty much every conbini/train station.) Most of you data in the cities will be on these networks (but they aren't free access.)