I bought myself an Nokia N800 last year when I was in New York. Nokia does not sell those in Japan and does not send them here even when I order it online. It looks good, it works well, has a usable RSS reader and web browser and PDF reader. No keyboard (the N810 has one), but that’s not a big loss to me.
The biggest problem in using it on-the-go in Japan is how to connect it to the Internet. The N800 is named “Internet tablet” and it’s half-as-useful when not connected. Using WiFi hot-spots works, but you are fixed to your current location. The better way in my opinion is to use your 3G phone to connect. However there is a problem here in Japan: that’s ridiculously expensive when using the normal voice provider like Docomo/SoftBank/au.
For the next lines I’ll assume 500MB transfer/month (that’s 4 million packets a 128 byte), as this is what I roughly expect me to move around per month by reading email and news/blogs/etc.. All prices as of today 2008-05-05 and are without any discounts and tax.
- NTT Docomo: 9,000 Yen/month for Plan 90, totaling 60,000 Yen. If you happen to have only a Plan 30, then it’s totaling at 130,000 Yen.
- SoftBank is comparable as their blue plans correspond to the Docomo plans quite well. Cheapest plan is the Packet 90 which is 9,000 Yen/month, again totaling at 60,000 Yen for 500MB.
With their Connect Card, you have another possibility: 11,130 Yen for their “Data Value Pack Super” which includes 3.5 million packets, plus 6,000 for the remaining 0.5 million, totaling to 17,130 Yen. Unfortunately the N800 has no slot to plug a data card in.
- KDDI’s au: The PacketOne Super Pack is 8,500 Yen/month and includes 45,000 Yen packets (at 0.1 Yen/packet), and 80% off for anything in excess, totaling to 79,500 Yen for 500MB.
- Willcom is a traditional data provider, thus their data plans make more sense for anyone who is moving lots of bytes around. Additionally they are far easier to understand. 12,915 Yen/month flat for 256 kbit/s. Their only Bluetooth capable phone, and thus the only connectivity for the N800 Willcom can offer, only does 128 kbit/s, which would reduce the price to 9,765 Yen/month.
- emobile is relatively new, thus their network does not cover a lot of Japan, but the large cities are covered which is good enough for me. Their data plans are easy to understand to: 5,980 Yen/month flat with a fast 3G connection, or 4,980 Yen for up to 1GB (with a cap at 10,980 Yen in case you use more than 1GB/month).
Until recently they did not offer voice service at all, however they now have 2 phones and both support Bluetooth: this one runs Windows Mobile and I have yet to see a Windows I like, and this which looks more like a normal phone.
All companies offer discounts for various reasons, so the prices above are not necessarily accurate for every customer. And they can change any day.
I don’t understand why data via cell phone is so expensive in Japan: in other countries it’s far cheaper: e.g. in Germany’s Deutsche Telekom’s case, they charge 34.95 Euro/month (that’s less than 6,000 Yen) for data connection. Flat and fast. Up to 10GB/month, then it’s throttled. E-Plus charges you only 25 Euro/month (about 4,000 Yen) with similar conditions.
There are affordable flat rates available as long as you only use your cell phone to request and display contents. But the small screens on phones make reading any PDF not an experience you’ll like. Some phones like this would fit the bill perfectly, except I already have an N800 and I’d like to keep it. YMMV.