Can iPhone Be Used in Japan?

People love their iPhones, so I'm not surprised when visitors ask me if their phone will work in Japan.

White-iphone-japanPeople have heard that their cell phones won't work in Japan for a variety of reasons, but it's mostly old news. By now, just about any smartphone you buy can be made to work in Japan.

So yes, your iPhone can be used in Japan. 

Still, there are a few things to worry about if you do decide to bring your phone over, such as:

  • Which models work
  • Roaming fees
  • Data roaming
  • Changing your data usage
  • Why WiFi won't do

There's a lot to cover, so let's get down to it.

Which models work
Any iPhone 3G or better can roam on Japanese networks.  This includes both types of antennas, GSM (AT&T) and CDMA (Verizon, Sprint).

Roaming fees
You'll have to pay a fee to just have your cell phone on an international network. Thankfully, it's not expensive. Paying for international roaming also allows you to make or receive calls on your phone at slightly less exorbitant rates. This is ideal for emergencies or for very short calls when trying to meet up with friends.

Data roaming fees and data usage
This is where they get you.  Your iPhone consumes a lot of data, so you have to very carefully measure and use what you pay for. There are several do's and don'ts.

Do
Turn off push email and push notifications
Use the Usage page (under Settings) to monitor your data usage
Use Onavo to compress your data 

Don't
Watch videos over 3G (like on YouTube or Netflix)
Make Skype phone calls using 3G (a long-distance phone call is cheaper)
Download email attachments
Load photos
Use GPS for navigation or Location Services

Don't go over your limit
Once you go over your data limit, prices get insanely expensive very quickly.  There are specific guides for both carriers below.

What about WiFi?
Sadly, there's not much free WiFi in Japan to go around. Hotspots are rare, so you shouldn't expect to be able to rely on free WiFi as you travel. That said, if you're staying in a higher-end hotel that offers WiFi (typically that'll be the Western hotel chains) then you can rely on that.

AT&T users
International Data Roaming is an additional feature on top of your normal data package. Click here to see a chart with international data rates. Current prices are:

50MB: $24.99
125MB: $49.99
275MB: $99.99
800MB: $199.99 

Log in to your AT&T Wireless account to add an international data package.

Verizon users
Global Data is an additional feature on top of your normal data package. Here's your chart with Verizon data rates, but in short here are the current prices: 

50MB: $30
150MB: $75
300MB: $125 

Visit Verizon Wireless to log in to your account and add an international data package.

Data too expensive?
Overseas data is really expensive. It's much cheaper – and there's no overage fee – when you visit an internet cafe. Read the Konnichiwhoa Guide to Internet in Japan.