Monday, 3 November 2014

Changing Phone Carriers in Japan

Aaand, I'm not now longer with Softbank. Or have an Android phone. I'm now using an iPhone!

If you remember my old post about my first handphone, I mentioned I chose it because the specs seemed better. *rant ahead, feel free to skip to the next paragraph* But, my phone ended giving me a lot of problems. After a while (probably 6 months?) It started to crash randomly, and its battery life was horrendous. I mean horrendous in the "I put it on airplane mode at 90% at night, and when I wake up at 2am randomly it's completely flat* horrendous. AIRPLANE MODE. And I could never figure out how to update the software. So, I switched over to Apple, which is simple to use (I can forgo to customisation stuff), and I can control app permissions better.

But this post isn't going to be an Apple vs Android post. I want to share how to change phone carriers in Japan. I found it to be really tough, and for some reason, with very little advice for students (unless you're willing to go search through all the forums).

Do I want to change phone carrier?

According to my senpai, the reason why all the foreign students went to Softbank was because the first few students went there, and then it was cheaper for everyone to use the same provider. Because sms was free and calls were cheaper. But now, we have LINE and Whatsapp and all that other stuff, so it's no longer a concern.

I decided to change carriers because it was too difficult to renew my contract with Softbank. They wanted at least 2 years left on my visa. The first time I tried to renew the contract/buy a new phone, they did all the paperwork, then told me that they couldn't sell me anything because I only have 6 months of my visa left. This was despite me telling them that I was staying there till graduation and giving them my university card as proof.

AU, on the other hand, only needs 5 months. So that means I can get a new phone anytime before six months before my visa expires. Wheeee!

Another reason was the transfer discounts. There was absolutely no financial incentive to stay on with Softbank. But, if I changed over to AU, the different discounts would have let me save 1100 yen a month, which adds up to a fair amount over the years (I wonder how the telcos here ensure customer loyalty).

Ok, so what do I do?

This was easy. If you don't need to reserve a phone (like me), I think you can get things done on the same day. Apart from the normal documentation like gaijin card, passport, credit card/bank account, what you need is something called a MNP 要約番号 (youyaku bangou):

Apparently, I'm not supposed to have the MNP number out in the open.
Please enjoy my failed attempt to troll (another) hacker.
Did I mention I can take screenshots now? WHEEEE
All you have to do is go to the shop (that you currently have a contract with) and say "すみません、乗り換えたいので、要約番号が欲しいです"and that should do the trick. If that seems obvious, I'm writing it down because I really had no idea what to do. I was told to get a number (the youyaku bangou), but I wasn't sure what to do. I asked my classmates and we were googling in Japanese, but we just got confused ><

Bear in mind, the number only lasts for two weeks (and if you cancel your contract midway, you may incur charges), so make sure you can get a handphone within two weeks before you get this number.

Everything else from there is a snap. Enjoy your new phone!

I'm like YAY! Panorama on demand!