Is Softbank’s new iPad 2 campaign worth it?

Updated 2011/11/09 — see bottom of the post

For the iPhone 4S launch, Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s CEO, decided to go all out to keep his customers from going to aU by KDDI.

Fun Fact: during his keynote on October 7th, one day after Steve Jobs passing away, Son-san declared tearfully that these campaigns were his gifts to spread the Steve’s “art work” (he used the word 作品 as opposed to 製品) to as many people as possible.

One of these campaigns is for the iPad and it’s description is very confusing. See the figure below:

Many people take this to mean that you can get a 16GB iPad for free, ¥0 per month, if you are already a Softbank iPhone subscriber. That’s not true because ¥1,860 monthly discount on the second to last line only applies to the communications charge and not to the iPad hardware monthly cost. Going to the cost simulation page shows this well: your minimum monthly bill is still ¥1,860 (the cost of the 16GB iPad 2) and the data plan is free up to 100MB.

So in the end we get a free data plan if we don’t use 3G internet (almost don’t use it, 100MB a month wouldn’t get you much farther than regular email checking). That sounds like a classic mobile operator swindle: giving you something for almost free and then hammering you with extra high fees whenever you go over the pathetically low usage limits. Let’s look at the data plan details:

So yes, free for 100MB, capped at ¥4,980 over 111.5MB or you could choose to just pay a flat plan ¥4,410 every month whatever your usage. You end up paying a ¥470 premium for the flexibility of paying nothing the months when you almost don’t use 3G… Is that actually a good deal? I put the numbers into Numbers to see:

  • iPad 2 16GB + ZERO data plan under 100MB usage per month: ¥22,320 per year
  • iPad 2 16GB + ZERO data plan over 111.5MB user every month: ¥63,540 per year
  • iPad 2 16GB + FLAT data plan: ¥56,700 per year

So over the course of a year you would be saving money only if you stay under the 100MB cap for more than 3 months.

Is that a good deal? If you only use the 3G for emailing in the train and turn off the modem when not in use (letting it check your mail every 15min in the background would significantly bump your usage) then it could be. But having already an iPhone, do you really need to check your email on your iPad?

Myself, I will probably pass on that campaign. What would really be interesting would be a tethering option for my iPhone at a reasonable price… Well reasonable would really be ¥0 as I consider I’m already paying for the bandwidth and how I use it is none of Softbank’s business. An “acceptable” price would be maybe ¥1,000.

Please tell me in the comments what you think about this campaign.

Update: Very good point added in the comments by Maddy. If you get an iPad from Softbank for that campaign and remove the SIM card, never to use it again, you still get to download the Softbank WiFi roaming profile that lets you connect to all Softbank / FON / YahooBB / Tokyo Metro access points for free (that’s a pretty extensive network in Tokyo) and a GPS to boot. That’s a clear advantage over buying a WiFi only version from Apple for the exact same price.

13 thoughts on “Is Softbank’s new iPad 2 campaign worth it?”

  1. thanks for breaking down this ‘offer’ so clearly.

    indeed, what we really need and want is tethering to a real computer, but that isnt going to happen anytime soon. the network is already strained as it is!

  2. you can just pull out the sim and just pay the minimum 1860 a month use it on wifi by a ultra speed pocket wifi for 3,800 yen about a month and use that for cheaper or Wimax for 3,500 a month from @nifty

    The one thing I dont like about the ipad in japan is that it is sim locked. The price for a 3g wifi ipad is 44000 yen about where the same model in America and rest of the world is well over 600 us dollars.

  3. It’s true the 16GB iPad 2 3G version is ¥44,640 (¥1,860 x 24 months) while the WiFi only version is ¥44,800 on the Apple Store. At this price, there’s probably no reason not to buy the 3G instead of WiFi.
    I need to make a new post evaluating all “pocket WiFi” and WiMax offers to see how much you can save this way…

  4. @hayato actually, getting an eMobile pocket wifi for ¥3,880 per month makes no sense as you won’t make use of Softbank’s ¥1,860 discount applying on the data plan (which bring your monthly data costs to ¥3,435 for the flexible “ZERO Plan” or ¥2,865 for the flat plan)

  5. @w00kie ah good catch I miss read the stupid softbank chart.
    From what I understand if you go on this plan and pull out the sim card, disabling 3g data use and only use Wifi you only have to pay ¥44,640 (¥1,860 x 24 months).
    I was mostly commenting on the people who wanted tethering. 400 yen difference a month is not bad if you have the ability to share internet amongst multiple devices. Just the activation fee might be costly. you still have to pay 3000 yen for each product you purchase from softbank or something like that. Where a Wifi ipad you do not have to pay a activation fee

  6. If you’re going to use a wifi thing from eMobile, you might as well just get a wifi-only iPad and avoid paying any money to Softbank whatsoever.

  7. @durf but if you’re paying the exact same price for a WiFi only model at the Apple Store or a 3G model at Softbank, you get the GPS feature for free
    also, you could jailbreak the iPad and try popping that eMobile SIM straight in there and not be bothered by the measly 4h life of these base stations

  8. I may be late to the game but having tried the WiFi only iPad from softbank. I would suggest the following.

    Getting the 3G iPad2, removing the sim card after getting the who kit set up for you in shop. it would be cheaper, albeit minutely.

    However, they will install the “Wifi Profile” Fon/Live door and yahooBB hotspots as well as in the Tokyo subway public wifi will all be free to use.

    As an iPhone owner it’s strange but I am rarely on 3G now and mostly on WiFi from home to work.

  9. Good point Maddy!
    This would actually be a very valid reason to take the Softbank issued 3G-without-ever-using-WiFi iPad over the standard Apple issued WiFi-only iPad for the same price.

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