Why Is Every Month’s Phone Bill So High? How to Lower Your Phone Bill!

how to lower your cellphone bill

The current number of users on NTT docomo, au, and SoftBank in Japan is quite high. Within this number of smartphone users, there are those who are thinking, “Is it me, or is my cellphone bill pretty high?” or “Is there any way to lower my monthly cellphone bill?” Have you had any of these thoughts or similar ones cross your mind when staring at your cellphone bill? Such as…

“I barely used my phone and my monthly bill every month is 10,000 JPY!?!”

“Even if you think the bill is high, in the end, it continues every month.”

Every month’s smartphone/cellphone bill is no laughing matter. If possible, you want to bring down the bill as much as possible. For those who has this thought constantly go through their head, we want to proclaim to you…

“There is a way to lower your monthly smartphone and cellphone bills!”

Let’s get started!

Unless otherwise specified, all posted prices are tax-excluded and as of the time of writing this article.

Table of Contents

Skip to the area you want to read

The Average Monthly Smartphone and Cellphone Bill Is What Now?!

Before we get into how to reduce your monthly smartphone and cellphone bills, we need to cover the average monthly costs for smartphones and cellphones. By understanding the average monthly costs, you can use this as a base for your monthly bill and lower your own bill to this base amount or less.

The common agreed to amount for average monthly bill amounts for the 3 major carriers, au, docomo, and SoftBank, are around the ballpark of 6,000 to 8,000 JPY. This number varies depending on the plan, etc.

Let us check out the average monthly amount for each of the three major Japanese carriers.

Average Monthly Costs for docomo, au, and Softbank

Now we will go over the average costs for these three carriers. Our calculation will be for a data plan of 5 – 7 GB per month and a phone option of unlimited 5-minute calls.

The calculated costs of the above are based on the data as of August 2020.

※This is the charges in the case of no two-year fixed contract

 

For docomo

docomo

For docomo, there is a tiered rate plan called “Giga Lite,” which goes from 5 GB (5,150 JPY) to 7 GB (6,150 JPY). The 5-minute unlimited calling option is an additional 700 JPY.

docomo Average Costs

Giga Lite plan (~5GB) 5,150 JPY + 5-minute unlimited calling option 700 JPY = 5,850 JPY

 

For au

au

For au, if the data plan is 5 to 7 GB, the tiered rate plan that you would choose is called “New au Pitatto Plan.” Up to 7 GB will cost 6,150 JPY. If you add the “Call Flat-rate Light 2,” this allows you to make free domestic calls up to 5 minutes. This option costs 800 JPY.

au Average Costs

New au Pitatto Plan (7 GB) 6,150 JPY + Call Flat-rate Light 2 Plan 800 JPY = 6,950 JPY

 

For SoftBank

softbank

For SoftBank, for data usage of 5 to 7 GB, the “Mini Fit Plan” is the plan you will use. Up to 7 GB is 7,480 JPY. The “Semi-Flat Rate Option” is 800 JPY and allows for free domestic calls for up to 5 minutes.

SoftBank Average Costs

Mini Fit Plan (7 GB) 7,480 JPY + Semi-Flat Rate Option 800 JPY = 8,280 JPY

※1 year discount and family discount are not applied at this time

For this article, the calculated monthly average costs do not include the price of the phone which averages to around 6,000 – 8,000 JPY.

Now that we have shown the rough average costs of the above plans, we will now go over ways that we can reduce smartphone and cellular charges.

Possible Reasons for High Monthly Bills for your Smartphone and Cellphone

For people who feel that their monthly mobile bills are high, let us find out the reasons why the monthly smartphone and mobile bills are high.

Depending on your current smartphone and mobile plan, the reasons listed below may be applicable. Having your bill with you while looking over the following reasons may help to determine if they apply to you.

Checkpoint 1: Have you added any additional unnecessary options to your contract?

The three major carriers (docomo, au, SoftBank) offer various options that you can add to the base plan. If the option is necessary, then that is no problem. However, there are cases where some people do not completely understand the options and the conditions that are added to their basic plan. This is then added to their monthly bill.

Among these additional options are “voicemail” and “call waiting” functions. There are also melody calls (docomo) and call waiting songs (au) options that play music for people who are on hold. It is always a good idea to check the billing for any additional paid options/features that may be added to your monthly bills.

Although each option may only be a small part of your monthly bill, if you have multiple options added to your basic plan, they tend to add up quickly. These additional features plus your basic plan can cause your monthly bill to be higher than you initially expected.

Possible ways to reduce charges (if applicable)

Go over your monthly bill to see if there are any unnecessary options or functions that are on your monthly bill. If you find any that you do not need, cancel them. If you are unsure of any of the options, we recommend that you ask your carrier for more information about them.

Checkpoint 2: Are you talking on your phone after using all of your free minutes? Or are you using an unlimited calling plan that you do not need?

There are two types of calling plans for smartphones: “Unlimited calls with unlimited time” and “Unlimited calls for a set period of time.”

If you have subscribed to a free plan, in the event that you call over the designated call time, there will of course be additional charges incurred. These charges for calls (common to docomo, au, and SoftBank), are 20 JPY/30 sec. If you tend to make long phone calls, the charges will add up and your monthly bill will be quite high. It is possible that your monthly bill for your smartphone may be high because of the high amount of phone calls you may have been making. 

Conversely, those who have subscribed to the “Unlimited calling plan” (All-you-can-make phone call plan, all-you-can-call, etc.), should look back on their calling habits and see whether this plan is really for you. Recently, most individuals do not make actual voice calls, but rather use VoIP services such as LINE calls to make any phone calls they may need to make. The number of people using such services is increasing every day. You may find that you are using such VoIP services or you may use them in the future, in which case you may no longer need the unlimited phone calling plan.

Possible ways to reduce charges (if applicable)

Consider changing your plan while considering your calling habit and taking a look at your carrier’s unlimited plans and costs.

If you look at the list of calling plans below, you can see that if you change from docomo’s Unlimited calling option” to “5-minutes call option,” your monthly bill will be reduced by 1,000 JPY.

Plan Name

Cost

Details

docomo

All-you-can-call Plan

1,700 JPY

Domestic calls are free 24 hours a day

5-minute call option

700 JPY

– Each call is free up to 5 minutes

– Calls that exceed 5 minutes are charged 20 JPY/30 sec after the initial 5 minutes

au

Flat rate Calling

1,700 JPY

Domestic calls are free 24 hours a day

Flat rate Calling Light

700 JPY

– Each call is free up to 5 minutes

– Calls that exceed 5 minutes are charged 20 JPY/30 sec after the initial 5 minutes

SoftBank

Flat rate Option

Call basic plan: 1,500 JPY

(Automatically renewed every 2 years) + 300 JPY

Domestic calls are free 24 hours a day

Semi flat Option

Call basic plan: 1,500 JPY

(Automatically renewed every 2 years) + 500 JPY

– Each call is free up to 5 minutes

– Calls that exceed 5 minutes are charged 20 JPY/30 sec
after the initial 5 minutes

Checkpoint 3: Is your data plan too much? Or maybe too little?

For home internet, such as optical lines, there is really no upper limit on the amount of data you use and the amount you pay per month does not change. However, with smartphones and other cellular device plans, the charges change depending on the amount of data you select for your contract and use per month.

Now would be a good time to check your current contract’s data amount. Having too much data that you do not need may be a reason why your monthly bill is high.

On the other hand, if you have a small data plan and are constantly in need of adding additional data every month, this is also a factor that can contribute to your high monthly bills. The prices of additional data purchases are particularly high when you view the cost for 1GB.

Either way, it would be good to check your current contract details to see if it is suitable for your needs.

Possible ways to reduce charges (if applicable)

Typically, you can check your current monthly data usage on your mobile account page for your network carrier. If you see that you are not using all your monthly allotted data, you can change your plan to a smaller data plan. However, if you find that you are using more data than your plan allows you to every month, you may want to select a plan that allows you to use more data.

Also, if you have a fixed internet line at your home, you can make use of your home internet WiFi by making sure your phone is connected to your home network. You can use your home internet instead of your mobile data.

docomo

Giga Lite Plan

au

New au Pitatto Plan

SoftBank

Mini Fit Plan

1 GB

3,150 JPY

1 GB

3,150 JPY

1 GB

3,980 JPY

2 GB

2 GB

5,980 JPY

3 GB

4,150 JPY

3 GB

3 GB

4 GB

4,650 JPY

4 GB

5 GB

5,150 JPY

5 GB

7,480 JPY

7 GB

6,150 JPY

7 GB

6,150 JPY

SoftBank’s fees include a web usage fee (300 JPY).
No special discounts are applied and shown in the above table.

Checkpoint 4: Is the cost of the smartphone, tablet, or cellular phone being paid in installments?

The split payments for your device could be one of the reasons why your monthly bill is high.

Did you purchase a device from your carrier (au, docomo, SoftBank) when you signed up for your contract/plan?

In most cases, when you purchase the device from the carrier, the device is paid in installments over the contract period, as opposed to paying the entire cost upfront.

It is easy to forget how many installments you must pay and the cost every month. The payments seem to go on forever with no end in sight. Check your bill to see how much your monthly installments are, how many payments you have made so far, and how many more you have to pay.

Possible ways to reduce charges (if applicable)

If you are currently paying off your device in installments, unfortunately, there is not really anything you can do. However, knowing how many more installments you have to pay will allow you to organize your household budget for the future.

You may also want to consider purchasing a secondhand device instead of purchasing a new one from your carrier. Popular places to purchase secondhand phones and tablets in Japan are BOOK OFF, GEO, Iosys, etc. You can find high quality used devices at low prices.

If None of the Above Reasons Apply…Are There Any Other Ways to Lower My Monthly Phone Bill?

 

Will Changing Smartphone Carriers From My Current One to an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) Help to Reduce Costs?

If none of the reasons above matches your situation, you may already be on a plan that is tailored to your needs with no extra costs.

However, if you would like to make your smartphone/tablet or cellphone bill even cheaper than what you are paying now, you may want to consider switching to an MVNO that offers the same service at a lower overall price than the major carriers.

Even if you change your contract from one of the three major carriers to another, the costs are pretty much the same. Therefore, it is difficult to reduce your bill further than it already is.

Switching to an MVNO is a reliable method to reduce costs even considering the discounts that the three major carriers provide.

Are MVNOs really cheaper for smartphones?

For MVNOs, the data transmission charges are considerably lower than larger network carriers. Let us compare the difference in prices.

Let us use Sakura Mobile (MVNO in Japan specializing in foreign support and customers) as an example.

Comparing docomo’s Giga Lite Plan and Sakura Mobile

No matter what data plan you choose, you can see that Sakura Mobile is cheaper than docomo’s listed plans. For now, we are comparing docomo’s plan with Sakura Mobile’s plan with voice calling, but when comparing strictly data-only plans, the price is even lower than the comparison below.

docomo

Giga Lite Plan

Sakura Mobile

Voice Data Plans

1 GB

3,150 JPY

Mini Plan

(3 GB)

2,980 JPY

2 GB

3 GB

4,150 JPY

4 GB

Standard Plan

(5 GB)

3,980 JPY

5 GB

5,150 JPY

6 GB

Standard+ Plan

(7 GB)

4,980 JPY

7 GB

6,150 JPY

Comparing au’s New Pitatto Plan and Sakura Mobile

It does not matter what data plan you choose. Sakura Mobile is cheaper than au.

au

New au Pitatto Plan

Sakura Mobile

Voice & Data Plans

1 GB

3,150 JPY

Mini Plan

(3 GB)

2,980 JPY

2 GB

3 GB

4 GB

4,650 JPY

Standard Plan

(5 GB)

3,980 JPY

5 GB

6 GB

Standard+ Plan

(7 GB)

4,980 JPY

7 GB

6,150 JPY

Comparing SoftBank’s Mini Fit Plan and Sakura Mobile

It does not matter what data plan you choose. Sakura Mobile is also cheaper than SoftBank.

SoftBank

Mini Fit Plan

Sakura Mobile

Voice & Data Plans

1 GB

3,980 JPY

Mini Plan

(3 GB)

2,980 JPY

2 GB

5,980 JPY

3 GB

7,480 JPY

4 GB

7,480 JPY

Standard Plan

(5 GB)

3,980 JPY

5 GB

7,480 JPY

6 GB

Standard+ Plan

(7 GB)

4,980 JPY

7 GB

As you can see, in the above cases, Sakura Mobile is the cheapest.

 

Are MVNOs Reliable?

In Japan starting from 2010, the number of MVNO operators has increased, and according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there are 1060 MVNO operators in Japan as of the end of September 2019. Along with these 1060 MVNO companies, the number of MVNO users has drastically increased. According to a survey conducted by the MMD Research Institute in February 2020, about 14% of users use MVNOs. ※1

Communication Service Mainly Used

 

MVNOs are becoming one of the more popular options that Japanese people are considering when making a mobile contract. If this is the case, is there a difference in the quality of calls and data communication between the major carriers and MVNOs?

Each MVNO company does not have its own communication network. They provide mobile services by renting communication lines from the major carriers. Call quality is the same as that of major carriers, providing clear and uninterrupted calls even with cheaper SIMs. However, regarding the quality of data transmission, MVNOs are inferior to Japan’s 3 major carriers.

If You Want to Save a Lot on Your Smartphone and Mobile Phone Monthly Bill, Switch to an MVNO!

Therefore, we recommend the three major carriers for those who want to enjoy continuous high-quality videos and playing games that use large amounts of data for long periods of time.

On the other hand, MVNOs are recommended for those who use little to moderate amounts of data and are looking to reduce their monthly mobile phone bills.

Major Carriers

MVNOs

Rates of Plans

Few choices, comparatively high

Many choices, comparatively low

Data Speeds

High speed regardless of the time of day

Depending on the time of day, speeds could be lower

Contract Period

The contracts have a set period and a penalty fee will be
charged if you cancel midway through the contract period

There are plans available that have no contract periods

Physical Stores (Shops)

Many

Few, in some cases there are none

Switch to Sakura Mobile Campaign

Currently, Sakura Mobile is running a “Switch to Sakura Mobile Campaign,” that will continue until the end of October. If you change to Sakura Mobile from another carrier by the end of October, you can receive 3,000 JPY back!

If you are interested, please check the details in the link below!

https://www.sakuramobile.jp/lp/switch_to_sakuramobile_campaign.php

switch to sakura mobile

※1https://mmdlabo.jp/investigation/detail_1852.html

返信を行う