Updated Keitai guide

Completely re-did the guide. Hope it helps!

Table of Contents:

What is a ‘Keitai’?
Can I use it outside of Japan?
Will a Keitai work on my network?
Can I unlock a keitai for overseas use? Is it completely unlocked?
What’s with the shape of Japanese phones?
Do they have English-language support?
Do keitais support the T9 text input system?
What are these China Unicom/Fareastone branded phones that look like keitais?
How do I get a keitai?
What if I want to import directly from Japan?
Help, my keitai didn’t come with a power adapter! Where do I get a power adapter/accessories?
How do I use a ‘hypersim’?
I can’t get signal on my phone anymore!
How do I get music to work/transfer media onto the phone?
How do I get a Keitai in Canada?
Will my phone work in Canada?
What sim unlock will work with my SIM card?
Are there any local keitai stores in Vancouver?
How’s the signal strength or reception in Vancouver?

General FAQ

A keitai with a cycloid hinge. Very noticable keitai type. Image taken from Softbank website.

What is a ‘keitai’?

Keitai is the word for cell-phone in Japan, and since we’ll be dealing with them, it’s easier to say keitai than Japanese cell phone every single time, and its the term Japanese cell phone enthusiasts use when referring to them.. The main providers in Japan are Docomo, Softbank, and KDDI. A big difference between Japan and other places around the world is that the phones are specifically made for a provider/carrier by a manufacturer. For example, around the world manufacturers make phones and then a provider will elect to carry it. In Japan, each model is tailored/made for a specific provider. The high specs of keitais are one of the biggest draws for enthusiasts since the Japanese market is more function-phone oriented than the more smart phone-favoring foreign market. Keitais have higher performance hardware, while overseas phones generally have better interfaces as well as software functions in general. However, there are many pains that go with using Keitais overseas, such as the fact that they tend to be extremely locked down.

Can I use it outside of Japan?

Softbank and Docomo phones can be used overseas, while au by KDDI phones cannot. This is because Softbank and Docomo use UMTS/GSM for their phones, while au by KDDI operates a CDMA network. Keitais are also, as mentioned, carrier-locked, so you will need to get it unlocked.

Will a keitai work on my network?

To confirm if it works or not, you need to do two things: First, check what frequencies your provider uses. Second, check what frequencies your phone can pick up. If the two match, then it will likely work. However, if it does not work, it is likely because the unlock is incompatible with your provider (see below).

Can I unlock a keitai for overseas use? Is it completely unlocked?

The method for unlocking depends on your phone:

Phones from Docomo:
The only requirement for unlocking is a ‘hypersim’ or ‘sim unlock’ that is compatible with the SIM card that you currently use.

Phones from Softbank:
You will need a ‘hypersim’ or ‘sim unlock’ just as with docomo, but softbank also adds another lock in the form of a multimedia one that locks down all multimedia functions. You will have to find someone who does multimedia unlocks.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that even when unlocked for use, anything data-related will remain locked. This includes E-mail, 3G/GPRS internet, and GPS, as well as the Japan-only functions such as one-seg TV and IC function.

Another typical keitai, this one with a 2-axis hinge. Notice, it is long, slim, and with a very wide screen. Picture taken from k-tai impress.

What’s with the shape of Japanese phones?

Something people may notice is that most phones in Japan are long and slender flip phones. They may flip differently such as the cycloid on the SH-01A, as opposed to the 2-axis SH-03A, but they are for the most part flip phones Even slider phones keep the long, slender look. If you don’t like it, then keitais are not for you.

Do they have English-language support?

Yes, all the newer keitais have a language to set the language for the interface to English.

Docomo phone manuals in english: http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/support/trouble/manual/download/index.

Softbank phone manuals in english: http://mb.softbank.jp/en/customer_support/manual_download/

Do keitais support the T9 text input system?

Unless you get a phone manufactured by NEC, your phone will not have T9 support for texting.

What are these China Unicom/Fareastone branded phones that look like keitais?

No, these aren’t fake or counterfeited phones,  Sharp actually exports slightly lower spec versions of their phones to Taiwan and China. The big kicker is that they are unlocked so no CPRing or anything, but they do carry a slightly higher pricetag.  Even unlocked though, Taiwanese Keitais do not support American 3G frequencies (850Mhz) but rather only support the international standard of2100Mhz, so you won’t get 3G anyways. Chinese keitais lack 3G altogether since China is only recently getting their 3G systems up and running so in the future it might get added, but still likely in the wrong frequency. That said, you can indeed get data at GPRS speeds so it’s better than nothing. Like I said earlier though, the phones are lower-spec in ways such as screen, camera, and general features. The form factors and designs are largely carried over though, and Sharp has shown an increasing willingness to port over newer features to their Oriental exports.  Examples are the Chinese SH9120C and the Taiwanese WX-T923. Of course, there are plenty examples of counterfeit keitais out there, but they are pretty shoddily made to the point of being obvious fakes.

Usage FAQ

How do I get a keitai?

With other import things, you can either order it online or if you’re lucky buy it from a local specialty import store. One thing to watch out with local keitai stores is that their prices may be quite steep or marked up, which is balanced out by having a place to go to if you have any problems with the phone. This is a key detail, because 99% of the time with overseas keitai, there will be no manufacturer warranty. That is to say, if it dies, you are on your own. This is because of the methods in which the phones are generally sourced.

What if I want to import directly from Japan?

Warning, this is for more advanced users. It is a lot more troublesome to do so but you are rewarded with a much more affordable price. If you are going to physically be in Japan for a trip or something, you’ll want to visit a white rom(白ロム) shop or have someone who lives there help you get it since foreigners in Japan without residency cannot buy cell phones or get contracts.

Importing directly online is as follows: Seller in Japan->Middleman/Proxy Service->You. The reasoning for this is that most of the Japanese websites you can buy keitais from do not ship outside of Japan, or only accept Japanese payment methods. A middleman service will allow you to use their address by proxy and will handle payment to the seller in return for a commission off the sale. Keep in mind you will also have to pay for higher shipping and customs/duty if applicable. In Canada, you’ll probably pay a hefty sum at customs depending on how it is declared, and you’ll be paying for the phone in yen so the CAD->YEN conversion rate might hurt you at times. Even with all the extra fees and hassle though, the price will often be at the very least $100 lower than buying from a local store. Once again, if you go this path, there is no warranty on the phone whatsoever for you. Here’re some middleman service providers:

http://www.rinkya.com/
http://www.shoppingmalljapan.com/
http://www.japantodoor.com/

A keitai, charging cable, and headphone adapter. The plug shown here is used by all keitais made within the last few years.

Help, my keitai didn’t come with a power adapter! Where do I get a power adapter/accessories?

An oddity of keitais is that they don’t ship with power adapters. This is because in Japan all phones use the same data and charging port, which is also used for headphones. Because they all use the same port, they expect you will already have a compatible one from an older phone. If you don’t, you have to buy it separately. Another note is that I recommend you get a spare battery to go with the phone, especially the newer models, since they have lower battery capacity and quickly drain the battery if you use the functions a lot. Keitai’s also very rarely come with a 3.5mm jack for headphones, so you will require an adapter.

Cutting a corner off your SIM card will not damage it, since there is nothing but plastic in that area. Also, pretty much all hypersims require it due to a chip as you can see in the picture.

How do I use a ‘hypersim’?

If you notice, the hypersim is shaped exactly like a SIM card. This is because it will sit between the SIM card and the contacts inside the SIM card slot. You will have to cut off a corner of the SIM card in order to fit the hypersim, but that’s normal. Just place both inside the phone and turn it on, and it should work.

As you can see, the hypersim sits between the SIM card and the phone in the SIM card tray.

I can’t get signal on my phone anymore!

If you can’t get signal on your phone and it says (圈外) in the top, that means you need to do CPR on the phone. This is another one of the drawbacks for keitais since it pretty much means you have to have two phones with you at all times, and the second one has to be a local phone which may be your old one. Here’s the procedure for CPRing:
1. Take your simcard out of your keitai and put it in your local phone, and turn it on.
2. Make a call to make sure you got a signal, and after that turn the phone off and put the simcard back into your keitai.
3. Turn the keitai on and you should have signal. If not, try restarting the phone a few times. If it continues, rinse and repeat.

Another note is that your sim unlock might not support 3G communication at all or only outgoing calls and not incoming. In that case, go to the keitai settings menu and make sure the phone is set to connect to GSM only. With newer phones and sim unlocks, the CPR issue has been cut down for the most part. One more thing is that you have to set the SMS provider number for your keitai, otherwise you can’t receive SMS messages.

How do I get music to work/transfer media onto the phone?

Keitais rarely have large built-in storage and thus rely on microSD cards. There are two ways to transfer media onto a keitai:

For the first, which applies to music, you need to buy a USB data cable in order to be able to connect it to your PC. To transfer music, just set your phone into MTP mode and sync through a program such as Windows Media Player.

The second way, which applies to any sort of data such as video,pictures, or ringtones, is to just directly transfer onto the microSD card. The annoying part is ensuring that the data is in a format the phone can read, and that it is also placed in the right folder on the microSD card. To check what kind of data will work and where to put it, please refer to your manual.

Canada/Vancouver FAQ

How do I get a Keitai in Canada?

As mentioned, you can buy it in a local specialty store, get it online from a specialty website or import directly from Japan. The keitai stores in Canada are generally well-stocked with newer phones, and usually source their phones directly from Japan. In fact, Canada is one of the few countries with a decently-sized keitai enthusiast crowd, which makes it much easier to obtain one. Vancouver and Toronto are generally the only places with keitai stores however.

Will my phone work in Canada?

For a phone to work in Canada, it must be able to pick up 850Mhz/1900Mhz frequencies on GSM or UMTS. However, currently only Rogers and Fido are compatible with keitais. Telus and Bell SIM cards are currently unsupported by hypersims.

This is what a Rogers SIM card looks like, except for the numbers I removed. The 3rd row that says 3040 indicates the model number of the SIM card. The exception is the U2.0 version, which has that printed on a bottom row.

What sim unlock will work with my SIM card?

In Canada, the only guaranteed provider that will work with keitais is Rogers/Fido. Telus/Bell have recently launched HSPA 3G networks but there are no sim unlocks that are currently available which will work with their sim cards. With Rogers/Fido SIM cards, you need to check what version you have. The version will be printed on the SIM card somewhere. Here’s some common sim unlocks that are floating around:

i-smart-phone: Everything but the 4000 series. 3G might be available when used with a 3040 series simcard.
3G-SIM: Everything but the 4000 series. 3G is not available.
iNex: All versions. A note of caution, this sim unlock is very thin and many users accidentally break or snap theirs. 3G is available with docomos. However, this is the only sim unlock that is virtually guaranteed to work with any Rogers/Fido sim.
Mr.Sim: All versions. This sim unlock is a bit different because its ability depends on what firmware you use. It does support 3G depending on the firmware. However, you need a SIM writer in order to take advantage of it. It may be cheaper price-wise, but I do not recommend it for beginners.
CNsimcard: All versions. 3G is not available. One of the most reliable sim unlocks, will also work with pretty much anything. This one is notable for how infrequent CPRing is required.

Are there any local keitai stores in Vancouver?

There are some stores in Vancouver that carry Keitai goods. However, they do not carry much stock on hand, and stuff often has to be ordered:

Times Digital: Located in Crystal mall in Burnaby, this store has virtually everything you need to get started with a keitai. They carry phones, sim unlocks, and accessories such as chargers and adapters, as well as screen protectors. However, as mentioned their prices may be a bit steep.

Mobile DNA: This is the store that used to be on the 2nd floor at yaohan, they moved into lansdowne centre and rebranded themselves as a Bell store. They sell phones and unlocks, but do not carry many accessories.  Also, their inventory consists mostly of China-market keitais. As stated, they are located in Lansdowne Centre in Richmond.

Some notable websites:

http://echigoya-honpo.com/ A keitai website with a local rep in Vancouver. In fact, he is probably the only provider of Softbank software unlocks in the area. They’ve been in the keitai business for quite a while and are very knowledgable, and often have the newest stuff in stock.

http://www.canadajphones.co.cc/ This is a newer keitai seller that is based in Vancouver. They have a local representative to buy from.

http://www.unlocklink.com/ A Toronto-based keitai website that offers local pickup in the area.

How’s the signal strength or reception in Vancouver?

If you have 3G, the only places you won’t get signal are deep underground or in the skytrain downtown. You’ll rarely lose signal in a building on 3G. With GSM, the signal is much weaker and you may lose it indoors or in basements.

Anyways, that’s it. If this does help you in any way, all I ask is that you drop a line here saying that so I can feel gratified >.>”

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~ by Taku on May 24, 2010.

11 Responses to “Updated Keitai guide”

  1. Wow such helpful information I like that you added pictures now.
    I’m going to Vancouver soon so this was very helpful to me ~

  2. Thanks a lot! That was especially useful since I live in Vancouver~ I have been searching the net for the whole night to find exact answers…== and then i stumble across ur post~

    Couple things I’m still confused about:

    So with the multimedia lock, under what circumstances does it relock itself? When it does, do I have to pay to get it unlocked again everytime?

    Also, I’ve read somewhere that it only works for 1 SIM, once i remove it the multimedia functions will lock again. Does that mean everytime I have to CPR it will lock itself again? Or does that mean if I were to use a new SIM with the phone?

    Finally, just wondering if the above 2 places you mentioned provides the mulitmedia unlocking and for how much.

    Thanks a lot!

  3. Hello. Thanks for the blog! It was really helpful since I’m a first time keitai user. I just have a question I wanted to clarify with you. Does the U2.0 version simcard from Rogers work with keitai? Thanks!

  4. Wow, this helped me so much! however I am interested in the p905i with the i-SmartSim 2008 hypersim. Would it work with my 4000 series sim? What would be the pros/cons with switching to an older sim or changing the hypersim if not compatible? if you could answer these that would be great!

  5. thanks for the blog. it was really helpful except i still have one question. will docomo keitai work with wind mobile? i’d rather not go wtih rogers or fido, and i’m only using those in the event that keitais don’t work with wind mobile. thanks in advance!

  6. Hello just haveing a problem sending msg. I accedentally change my SMS setting – SMS center to docomo. i have no other problem with the phone other than I cant send any msg. Wondering if you can help me

    • Go to your SMS center settings and choose User Settings and input 15149931123 for fido and 17057969300 for rogers.

  7. Hi, You recommended to get an extra battery, where can I?
    Btw, great Guide. Love it

    Thanks

  8. Could you clarify which NEC phones have the T9 English input system and not just the Japanese one if possible? Also, I have just retired a slightly older Toshiba 811T phone from Softbank which had a great T9 system. I know that probably most Toshibas dont have the T9 English and not only Japanese system but obviously some did. I’m coming up short trying to find answers to this question. I even rang Softbank and the only phones they told me about were their HTC models and of course the iPhone but I dont want to pay 5000 a month for internet so that was useless information.

  9. Very helpful! I live in Vancouver. Thank you very much!

  10. Hi, I have a docomo N01A, and I was wondering if it was possible to software upgrade? It tells me I can’t because I don’t have the FOMA (I’m on Telus).

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