Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Pocket WiFi vs eSIM, Which One Is Better in Japan

A common question that we see in various Japan travel forums is whether to rent a pocket WiFi or purchase a SIM card or an eSIM card. So, we decided to test it out using Mobal’s eSIM and WiFi. Overall, both products worked great during our 15-Day Trip to Japan’s Tōhoku Region chasing the cherry blossom. We were able to connect our smartphones to the internet whenever we wanted to except for a few instances.

What Is a WiFi?

Ⓒ Mobal

WiFi or portable WiFi is a pocket-sized mobile router you can take with you to access an internet connection. Most portable WiFi devices in Japan use 4G signals from network providers to enable the connection.

The device has a SIM card slot and a SIM card is usually required for the portable WiFi to pick up signals. This means the device can be used in any countries in most cases, as long as a local SIM card is inserted.

What Is an eSIM Card?

An eSIM is short for embedded SIM. It is an industry-standard digital SIM that allows you to activate a mobile data plan from your service provider without using a physical SIM. You can install eight or more eSIMs on an iPhone or other compatible devices and use two phone numbers at the same time!

The best thing about an eSIM Card is that your SIM Card won’t get lost in the mail, and you don’t need to wait for it to be delivered. If you run out of data, you can simply purchase another eSIM in Japan!

The Pros and Cons of the eSIM Card and Pocket WiFi in Japan

Before we go through the comparison of the two products, we thought to give you the pros and cons of the eSIM card and the WiFi. Please consider the below factors before putting through an order.

Pocket WiFieSIM Card
Pros☛ More data and faster connectivity speed in general
☛ Can connect to multiple devices
☛ Minimal need for advanced configuration

☛ It is the cheapest option
☛ No initial APN setup required
☛ It is possible to still receive phone calls and text messages on your usual phone number
Cons☛ More expensive
☛ If the Pocket WiFi gets lost or damaged, you have to pay a large compensation fee
☛ Pocket WiFi needs to be charged before use
☛ You need to remember to carry it and return it.
☛ Can only connect one device to the internet
☛ An unlocked phone is required
☛ May not be compatible with your cell phone
Suitable for☛ If you travel with a group of people or need an internet connection for more than one device
☛ You need to work remotely
☛ Backpackers and those who might not always travel in a group
☛ Who has an unlocked and compatible cell phone
The pros and cons of Japan Pocket Wifi and eSIMs

Mobal’s eSIM Card vs WiFi

In general, we were happy with both Mobal’s eSIM and WiFi. We were able to use Mobal WiFi without any issues to download and upload photos and videos and talk to our friends with cameras on during our 15-Day Trip to Japan’s Tōhoku Region.

Speed-wise, we used the internet speed test powered by Google Chrome to test both products. Note that we noticed the results from Google Chrome seemed to usually be slower when tested using other speed testing websites.

  • The results we got for WiFi were usually between 10 to 20Mbps for download and 5 to 15Mpbs for upload.
  • The results we got for eSIM were usually between 20 to 70Mbps for download and 10 to 20Mpbs for upload.

While it might seem the results for eSIM were better, the WiFi was more reliable in crowded areas in the Tōhoku Region. Hirosaki Park was packed when we visited it because of the cherry blossom. The device that was using Mobal’s eSIM wasn’t able to receive internet signals, whereas the WiFi worked just fine. Thus, if you plan to visit the rural part of Japan and need to have the best coverage, a WiFi device might be the better option.

Moreover, we want to note that both eSIM and WiFi lost connection when we were on the Shinkansen traveling through tunnels. But it is understandable. It is simply impossible for any signals when the train travels at high speed through various mountains in rural areas. 

Note Mobal’s WiFi isn’t suitable for you if your travel period is less than three weeks. Refer to our Pocket WiFi article for other options.

Is a Pocket WiFi, a SIM Card or an eSIM Card a Better Option for Your Next Japan Trip?

Click the photo for information that will help you decide whether to get a Pocket WiFi, a SIM card or an eSIM.

Besides WiFi and eSIM, another option to stay connected when traveling in Japan is purchasing a SIM card.

Refer to our SIM Card, eSIM, or Pocket WiFi: Which One to Use in Japan article that answers all your questions about how to stay connected to the internet when you are in Japan!

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