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Some visitors ask us questions like "What is a smartphone?" and "Should I buy one in Japan or just bring mine?" To understand what a smartphone actually is you first need to understand that there are 3 classes of portable devices.
Firstly there is a cellphone. These communication devices connect to a wireless communications network through radio waves or satellite transmissions. And provide the function of voice communication and SMS (short message service.)
Then there is the class of PDA (personal digital assistant). The functionality of PDA combine computing, telephone/fax, Internet and networking features. A typical PDA can function as a cellular phone, fax sender, web browser and personal organizer. These devices are usually pen-based but as this technology has changed they now have keyboard versions.
Given this you might think,"Well then, what is a smartphone?" It basically is a hybrid of a cellphone and a PDA. It's chief function is more similar to a cellphone than a PDA. Smartphones functionality includes the storage of information, e-mail functionality some moderate program installment and of course mobile phone functionality all built into one hand held device.
The most expensive way of getting your internet needs met while being in Japan is to use your standard carrier as you then get whacked with roaming charges etc. So what many people do is to get a prepaid phone. SoftBank sells them and they range from 3,000 to 8,000 yen.
Probably the most common route to using your Smartphone is to buy a Japanese SIM card. You can use them if your phone is unlocked.The big three carriers are NTT Docomo, KDDI au, and SoftBank Mobile. You can also rent a phone but this is really not a viable option if you'll be staying in Japan for a while. Especially if you're going to Japan to teach English and so will be there for quite a stint of time.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are tons of public WiFi places where you can jump on the net. Airports for starters.
Also many convenience stores have public WiFi. Mostly the big chain stores like 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart. Not all of them have free WiFi but most do. Also large chain coffee houses like Tully's and Starbucks usually have free Wi-Fi. Not wishing to be left behind, Ito Yokado, Sogo, Seibu, Denny's also give free access.
Believe it or not now many train stations especially in Tokyo also offer free access. Here is a list of them.
The free Wi-Fi access points are growing all around Japan. Places like Shibuya and Ginza have good coverage as well. Some of most often heard complaints are slow speed and unreliable connections.
Also it is good to keep in mind that there are security risks and privacy invasion issues as well. So if you are using free Wi-Fi hotspots make sure not to use personal data like credit card numbers or logging into your e-mail. Free WiFi is not the same as owning your own portable WiFi. If you want to know the dangers of using free Wi-Fi you might want to read up on portable Wi-Fi as a way or staying connected during your stay in Japan while keeping your personal data safe.
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