Mobile services: Japan vs. Canada
This is part 2 of a 3 part series about how we got our phones, how we get away with paying peanuts for great service, and what our awesome “dumbphones” can do without any kind of data plan.
Yes, yes, I know – Japan has awesome technology and it’s not fair to compare it to Canada – but from a consumer’s point of view I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth here, and not because of the technology. It’s because of the policies of cell phone companies here.
Why I refused to use Canadian cell phones
In Canada it is well-known that Rogers/Bell/Telus will do anything they can to milk more money out of their customers. Over the past few years they have managed to convince Canadians that the horrible options they offer for mobile service are “normal”, when they are everything but. During the time in between the point when I called it quits on the Canadian cell phone industry and when I moved to Japan, I watched the following atrocities get normalized:
- A fee to not only send text messages, but to receive them as well. This is a service that transmits a tiny amount of data with a cost markup of somewhere between 4900% – 7400%. I also watched that fee increase, which gave rise to “unlimited SMS” plans despite the concept of these messages being limited in the first place being completely arbitrary.
- The establishment of rules about what time of day people were allowed to use their phones. Prices outside the “special hours” skyrocketed in exchange for the special hours being “unlimited” (or, free). Then I saw those hours change…they started to disappear. 5:00pm became 6:00pm, then 7:00pm, then 8:00pm…is it at 9:00pm yet?
- The cost of price plans rose past the point where DOUBLE what I paid in 2006 became a “good deal”. If Canada had 50% inflation we might consider using zim dollars.
Japan gets it right
- “Free” long distance in Japan. It costs me the same to call someone at the northern tip of Hokkaido as it does to call someone in my living room, whether I am at the northern tip of Hokkaido or in my living room. If I am calling a SoftBank number, it’s free. If I’m not, it does not matter where the phone is physically located, as long as it’s in Japan.
What does this mean? People don’t say things like “sorry I couldn’t answer my phone, I was outside my [arbitrarily defined] ‘calling area’, and I didn’t want to pay for long distance”. They also don’t say things like “oh, I can’t call that number, it’s long distance for me.”
- “Free” incoming calls for everyone. The cost to send and receive each phone call is paid by the person who is making the call, according to that person’s price plan. For me, that’s ¥21/30 seconds.
What does this mean? Phones get answered! Regardless of price plan, of location, of time, when a phone rings it is safe to answer it. No one is afraid of what a phone call might cost to receive. Today I received a brief phone call from my friend and IT guru Anthony, he was in Canada. I could not talk for long because I was in someone else’s car at the time, but his overseas phone call cost me nothing.