Clog the drain

Name your favourite telecommunications company.

Congratulations if you were able to name one. Have a cookie.

How much is your phone bill?

I have been late to the game on many things, cell phones being one of them. I got my first cell phone, and also driver’s license, more than 3 years after most of my age cohort had gotten theirs. It was a feature phone with maybe 100 minutes of phone calls, counting both outbound and inbound calls, and maybe 300 local text messages, both sending and receiving. It was the standard rip-off oligopoly offering for $42 per month. Paying to send and receive, like paying to drink and pee.

When I moved to Korea, I found that receiving texts and receiving phone calls was free! Amazing deal! You could have a pre-paid card go to $0 (KRW), and still receive calls and text messages.

Over the years I went through various feature phones for a similar cost. Finally, many years later, I moved to Japan, 7 years after the initial iPhone, where everything is awesome! I was so excited that I signed up for a 2-year contract with Hard Softbank and the brand new iPhone 5s for about $80 per month. You know, that company that designs in the USA and makes in China? The company that proudly announced copy-and-paste functionality years after the original iPhone.

I had 7GB of data per month that I tried to burn with Netflix, Youtube, Podcasts, the works, but could only use about 4GB as a maximum.

It was an all-time high for my monthly fee and somehow I didn’t care much at the time of signing. I believe that I have told this story before on the blog but long story short, I didn’t know that I initiated my contract in the last year that phones were sim-locked in Japan. I thought that I was going to be free with my unlocked phone after 2 years of pain right up until I tried to unlock the phone 2 years later, at the end of the contract. And at $80 per month I was already dying to get out of my contract after about 13 months or so.

Once burned, twice shy.

I set out to get a better deal and a same-size or smaller phone. That left the iPhone SE with UQ Mobile. A 2-year contract again but at $35 per month (half the price!) or so for 1GB of data. This was 2.5 years ago, and people were shocked when I told them how little I was paying per month for my phone. And, in Japan, when you run out of data in the month, you go don’t have to sell your house to pay the bill like in Canada, they automatically throttle your speed down to basic needs speed (texts and slow browsing possible) and don’t charge anything extra. Can you believe it?

Again, about 13 months into my 2-year contract with UQ, a coworker mentioned that you could get a sim card contract with an unlocked phone for less than $20 per month, coupled with her brand new $1,000 voice, finger, and facial recognition iPhone X.

I wanted that super monthly deal so bad during my contract that I excitedly told my spouse about it who was still paying $70 per month with an iPhone 7, more than a year after the original 2-year contract expired and rolled into a monthly plan with AU. We got that changed as soon as we could. It turns out my whole in-law family of 5 is still on the same $70 plan, each. One house.

Finally, my 2-year contract ran out with UQ Mobile and I was free with my unlocked iPhone SE thanks to the Japanese government order back in 2015. I quickly switched my plan to more than half my already halved plan (over 4 years).

These sim plans are available in Japan with a few providers, I think that I was choosing between Rakuten, Line and Mineo, and ending up going with a Mineo plan for 3GB and $16 per month. I told my family about this back home in May and they were in disbelief as this kind of plan does not seem to exist among the Canadian oligopoly of Telus, Bell and Rogers, and such.

No one should be paying more than $50 per month, and you can pay even less if you look around!

Go the way of old and use your phone until it dies. No need to upgrade to the latest iPhone with 4 cameras!

Eventually, I’d like to kick it old school like the locals and have just a landline home-phone / fax machine combo, but I might just ruminate on that as a fantasy.


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