Using my Japan Softbank iPhone 7 Plus while traveling in the U.S. – America Houdai

At the end of March I will be making a two week visit to the U.S. for my mother’s 90th birthday. My mother and sister live in Boston.

Since I have an unlocked iPhone 7 Plus I thought of doing what I usually do – get an AT&T GoPhone SIM card and get a U.S. temporary account and phone number. They have plans for $45 per month which seem fairly reasonable, for unlimited talk and text within the U.S. and 4 GB of data at high speed, after which your speed is throttled.

But I ran into some problems, and it was starting to get expensive. For example, the GoPhone plans don’t allow tethering. I was surprised by that. So in order for me to do work on my computer I would need a separate mobile hotspot – more money for a new device, plus pretty expensive data plans with restrictive data limit caps. It was getting costly. I was looking at $45 for the GoPhone plan plus $119 for a mobile hotspot device + $75 or so for a hotspot data plan. All for a two week visit.

I had decided to go with AT&T anyway, because I do every year, but this morning got a notice that my online order had been canceled by AT&T because they “could not confirm my identity.” I don’t know why, since I have U.S. credit cards that match my U.S. address and have been using AT&T every year. But whatever…

While looking for an alternative a Facebook friend told me about Softbank’s “America Houdai” service. I happen to use Softbank for my carrier in Japan. The word “houdai” means “all you can.” For example, if a restaurant is “tabe houdai” (like the Sizzler salad bar) it is all you can eat. Some bars have happy hours which are “nomi houdai” – all you can drink. The Softbank America Houdai plan turns out to be quite a good plan:

  • There is no extra fee for using it. You just change certain settings on your iPhone to make sure you stay connected to the Sprint network in the U.S. because Softbank happens to own Sprint.
  • You get unlimited talk and text with calls made within the U.S. and also calls made to and from Japan. So people in Japan can continue to call me as usual.
  • The plan includes tethering. And currently there is no data cap. That’s unlimited 4G/LTE data for my iPhone and my computer.

The only drawback is that you don’t get a U.S. phone number. So when you make a call in the U.S., it looks to the person receiving the call like you are calling from Japan. And if they call or text you back at your Japan number, they end up making an international phone call. But for people calling me I can just tell them to use my Skype-in number, which is a Boston number, and avoid that problem.

It sounds like a good deal. No extra cost, unlimited talk and text, and unlimited data during my trip.

I think perhaps the AT&T network is better than the Sprint network. So I’ll report again how good the reception and speeds turn out to be. But it’s definitely worth trying if you are a Softbank person visiting the U.S. and have an eligible contract.

The final final result of dealing with the iPhone 7 Plus display brightness problem

A truly final note. I swear….

As mentioned in my last post, I decided to return the iPhone 7 Plus I got from my carrier (Softbank) to Apple and take them up on their offer for a full refund.

I ordered a new one direct from Apple, which arrived the next morning. Just now the delivery company picked up the original iPhone 7 Plus to send back to Apple, and now I’m left with a more sane two iPhones: the iPhone 6 Plus I want to give my sister, and my new iPhone 7 Plus.

The display is about the same (I think there is a manufacturing issue where there happens to be a lot of variation) but it’s fine. Looking at it you would say, “What a nice screen.” My objection all along has just been Apple stating “it’s 25% brighter” etc. But I’m just too stressed about it to obsess about it any more. This definitely falls under hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. But the screen is fine. Apple should fix their advertising though, because what they are saying isn’t true. And while I’m sticking with Apple, I’ll certainly be more hesitant before making any new Apple purchases – and make sure there is an easy return for anything I’m not satisfied with it. Dealing with Apple support can be very stressful. I’m glad the VP’s liaison stepped in to assist.

Anyway, the whole thing wasn’t a complete waste of time. I ended up with:

1. A newer iPhone 7 Plus and another full two years of AppleCare warranty.

2. I actually ended up with a net 9,000 yen discount off the final purchase because of a discrepancy between the Apple price and the carrier’s price.

3. And the new iPhone 7 Plus is unlocked immediately, which means I can use it when I’m in Boston next month (instead of having to wait the full 6 months before I could have unlocked the carrier’s iPhone).

So I’m going to reset the iPhone 6 Plus and send it to my sister and just not worry about it anymore.

The final result of my iPhone 7 Plus display problem with Apple

This is about the iPhone 7 Plus display not being brighter, as advertised. You can see side-by-side comparative photos in my previous blog post here: http://lerner.net/iphone-7-plus-screen-brightness-issue-update/

I received a call from the Apple liaison this evening and the final conclusion is that as far as Apple is concerned that’s just the way they are.

They admit there is a variation in the phones during manufacture, but they aren’t willing to continue to exchange phones until we find one that is as bright and noticeably more vibrant and brilliant as advertised – or even as bright as the iPhone 7 Plus my friend from the U.S. has, which we compared side-by-side during his visit here to Japan.

However, Apple are willing to let me think about it for a week or so and even though I bought it from my carrier, Softbank, and even though Softbank does not allow returns and refunds, Apple would be willing to let me sell the phone to Apple for the full retail price and I could then just buy another cell phone with the carrier. In other words, they are offering me a way out, if I decide I want to do that.

So I will think about it.

I’m of course disappointed with Apple and with the quality of the screen. And the logic of the engineering team bewilders me. They are advertising one thing and selling another. It’s clear to anybody who looks at my side-by-side photos, which compare the iPhone 7 Plus and my iPhone 6 Plus displays. It’s even more obvious in person. The Apple Store people who have seen it also agree. 100% of everybody who sees the two iPhones side-by-side agree the iPhone 6 Plus is the one that is brighter.

So I will think about exactly how much this bothers me for a bit. I’ll see what my carrier offers. Perhaps an iPhone 6S Plus if I decide to stick with Apple. Or maybe it’s time to look into Android substitutes.

Since Apple is offering a complete refund of the full purchase price, I suppose I will tentatively remain an Apple customer for now. But I certainly wouldn’t buy anything else from Apple again unless it was clear there was a full money-back guarantee from the start. I don’t want to go through this experience again.

I guess that is the end of my story. I hope other people have better luck than I did with their iPhone 7 Pluses. And I hope Apple reconsiders the way they advertise the iPhone 7 Plus screen. Because what they are advertising just is not what you get.

iPhone 7 Plus screen brightness issue update

Well, I received the 2nd replacement iPhone 7 Plus today, and unfortunately it is even dimmer than the first 1st replacement iPhone 7 Plus, and both are much dimmer than my iPhone 6 Plus.

Here are the results, and thoughts about going forward.

First, comparison screenshots.

Left is 1st replacement iPhone 7 Plus received 12/23/2016, right is 2nd replacement iPhone 2 Plus received 1/23/2017. The 1st replacement is clearly brighter.

Comparison 1

Switched order to show it’s not a camera illusion. Left is 2nd replacement iPhone 7 Plus received today, right is 1st replacement iPhone 7 Plus. The 1st replacement is obviously much brighter.

Comparison 2

 

Here we have the 2nd replacement iPhone 7 Plus on the left, the iPhone 6 Plus in the middle and the 1st replacement iPhone 7 Plus on the right. The iPhone 6 Plus is obviously brighter than either iPhone 7 Plus.

 

Comparison 3

 

Again, the 2nd replacement iPhone 7 Plus on the left, the iPhone 6 Plus in the middle and the 1st replacement iPhone 7 Plus on the right. This time the view is more straight on. The iPhone 6 Plus is obviously brighter than either iPhone 7 Plus.

 

Comparison 4

 

First, I am going to return the original iPhone 7 Plus and the 2nd replacement iPhone 7 Plus as soon as possible. I’m getting nervous about having all these extra iPhone 7 Pluses here. I have reset both of those devices and packed them up nicely in their boxes, with all the original accessories. Apple can be pick them up at any time.

 

I’m currently using the 1st replacement iPhone 7 Plus, which, while obviously worse than the iPhone 6 Plus is very noticeably better than the 2nd replacement iPhone 7 Plus received today. It’s even more obvious to the naked eye than it is in the photos.

As to what to do next, I don’t really know. It seems obvious to me:

 

1. There is great variation in the manufacturing of different iPhone 7 Pluses. I know that not just from direct comparison today, but also from seeing my American friends’ iPhone 7 Pluses last month, which I posted photos of. Theirs are clearly much brighter than mine. I am really surprised there is such variation from device to device.

 

2. I’m sorry to say this, but I feel that the Apple engineering team is not being honest with the liaison or with me. The iPhone 7 Plus is supposed to be not just 25% brighter but, in Apple’s words:

 

“So what you see will be noticeably more brilliant and vibrant.”

 

As I mentioned before, if something looks darker and looks dingier it is impossible to say it is “noticeably more brilliant and vibrant.” The word “noticeably” means something you can visually see. If you can’t see it, it isn’t noticeable.

 

I don’t know how much Apple wants to continue to try to solve the problem. But there is a problem.

 

I am pretty stressed out from this over the last 10 weeks. One option for me would be to just move on and stick with this iPhone 7 Plus or sell it and switch to another company’s smartphone. In that case Apple will have lost a customer, because how can I ever buy anything from Apple again with any confidence?

 

I would hope that Apple would stand by their word and really try to figure out what is going on here. I wonder what I should tell my friends and colleagues at this point. And I’ve still been waiting more than 2 months now to send my iPhone 6 Plus to my sister.
Anyway, that’s how things stand now. I will post again if and when I have updates.