Bob is a writer that lives in Japan since when he studied abroad in Waseda University in Shinjuku, Tokyo. He loves cofee, craft beer, cycling, and dogs.
6 min read
Pocket Wifi vs SIM Card. Which suits better for your trip to Japan?
Why do you need your own portable internet in Japan?
If you have been to Japan, you'd probably know that you can't rely on public free wifi spots in Japan. It's true that you can find it in some places and you might have seen some places in Japan say that they have free wifi, but you shouldn't expect something you have in your home country. Free wifi spots in Japan are slow, not secure, and asking for your email address and have limited time(ex. 30 minutes).
Especially if you are visiting big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kyoto, they all have a complicated transportation system. Imagine you don't know how to get to a place you want to go and trying to figure it out in a station in Japan. If you don't have your own mobile internet and don't know how to speak Japanese, you'll probably be lost. Most of the Japanese people do not understand any other languages other than Japanese. This is why you should prepare your own mobile internet when visiting Japan.
To help you decide whether you should get pocket wifi or a sim card, I will show you the pros and cons of each.
It can be confusing since it's called in different names. Pocket/mobile/portable wifi, mobile/portable router, wifi dongle, MiFi, wifi egg, mobile hotspot, etc.. They are all the same. It works really simple if you think this way. It is a wifi router that's portable. You must have one at your home, school or at your office and it has an SSID(access point name) that can be found in your gadgets' settings and you just type in the password to connect to it. Just like a wifi router in your home, you can connect to it from more than one device. This means that pocket wifi suits you if you are traveling in your group, family or friends.
Large data (GB) allowance
Ultra-fast 4G/LTE network
Allows multiple devices to connect, up to 15 devices
No configuration ( just connecting to a WiFi with password )
Nationwide network coverage
Needs to be returned to the rental provider after your trip (FoxWifi provides you with a free prepaid return envelope!)
Its battery needs to be charged every night (FoxWifi provides you with a free power bank just in case!)
As you can see, there are not many cons of pocket wifi if you don't care to return and charging it.
I personally use pocket wifi on a daily basis and it is really convenient. I can't live without it.
Prepaid SIM Card
It is true that SIM card is getting popular. SIM card is a small digital chip that can be inserted into a dedicated slot inside a mobile phone or a tablet. It allows the phone or tablet to connect to a cellular network that provides internet data connection. I think it is convenient if you have a SIM-free(unlocked) phone and know how to do the configuration.
You don't have to carry any more devices (all you need is the small SIM card). Less bulk and more mobility.
Disposable and hassle-free (no need to return after your trip)
Setup is more technical as it requires APN configuration
Internet speed is slower than Pocket WiFi
Less data allowance than Pocket WiFi
Cannot be used with a network-locked phone (many US phones have this problem)
Many compatibility requirements
Need to buy one for each person in your group (Tethering is slow and drains the battery really fast.)
Need to remove your own SIM card from your unlocked device’s SIM slot so that you can put in a Japan SIM card
Need to modify your device settings
If you are familiar with using a prepaid SIM card and don't want to carry any extra device with you, the SIM card is a good option for your mobile internet needs in Japan.
It is actually up to your preferences, but here is my opinion.
If you are a solo traveler and sure you can activate SIM card and don't want to carry extra devices, SIM card works for you. Other than that, in my opinion, pocket wifi does the perfect job for you.