Oppo R17 Neo Supports Audio Recording in Stereo

Modern smartphones usually come with multiple microphones for such functionality as noise suppression. Some vendors enable sound recording in stereo on some of their models. It appears recent Samsung Galaxy handsets seem to be able to record in stereo utilizing these multiple microphones. A poster on the XDA forum says he uses his HTC M8 to record at concerts and says it “captures phenomenal stereo audio.”

I had to doubt that my Oppo R17 Neo has that ability, with it being a middle-class model and all, but I did some tests myself anyway. The finding: it does, both in sound(-only) recording and video recording!

The caveat is that it does not with its pre-installed apps. The pre-installed Recorder app gives you the impression that it is capable of stereo recording (Figure 1). The recorded sound does have two channels, but both channels look the same (Figure 2).

Advanced Audio Recorder lets you specify stereo for sound recording (Figure 3). That does not necessarily mean it does, but when you look at the waveform (Figure 4), the two channels are not the same, and when you listen to it through a stereo headset, you do get a sense of the direction of the sound source.

As to video recording, you can use Open Camera, which allows sound recording in stereo (Figure 6). When I watch the recorded video, I can tell the sound is recorded in stereo.

This article was about sound recording using built-in microphones. Sound recording using external microphones, connected either by USB or Bluetooth, is an entirely different matter.

広告

UQモバイルのターボモード/節約モードの切り替え

UQモバイルはデータ通信について「節約モード」を提供している。通信スピードが最大300kbpsに制限される代わりに,そこで消費するデータ通信量は,自分の手持ちのデータ通信容量から差し引かれない。まだUQモバイルのユーザになって1月ほどだが,自分の使い方ではこの節約モードで不便を感じたことがない。Skype通話もクリアな音質で全く問題なくできるぐらいだから。

ただ,もちろん「ターボモード」と呼んでいる通常の4G LTE通信もでき,しかもそのため与えられる通信容量は使わなければいずれは無効になり無駄になる。マップ系アプリなどは4G LTE通信が特に意味を持ちそうだ。そういったアプリが起動されたときだけ,自動的にターボモードに切り替わって欲しい。

特定のアプリが立ち上がったのを検知させるのはAutomateにやらせるとして,どう節約モード/ターボモードの切り替えをさせるか。これの切り替えは端末上のUQポータルアプリでもできるが,UQモバイルのテータチャージサイトでWeb上でもできる。これの動作内容を調べ,以下のcURLコマンドで,データチャージサイトにログインし,ターボモードに切り替えられることが分かった。

curl -d “username=YourUserName&password=YourPassWord” -c 適当な書込み可能なパス/cookie.txt https://dc.uqmobile.jp/login.action

curl -b 先ほどと同じパス/cookie.txt -H “Content-Type: application/json” -d ‘{“data”:[{“turboChange”:”ON”}]}’ https://dc.uqmobile.jp/turboChange

もちろん,節約モードに変える際は,2つ目のコマンドで”ON”の代わりに”OFF”とすればよい。

UQモバイルのテータチャージサイトではページの再読み込みをしても現時点でのターボ/節約状態が反映されない。一旦ログアウトしてログインし直す必要があるところが注意点。Android端末上のウィジェットでは,それにタッチするだけで状態が更新される模様。

幸い今の私のメイン端末ではcURLが/system/bin/curlとして最初から用意されているようだ。端末上で上記コマンドを実行することで期待される結果が実際に得られた。Automateでは上記をシェルスクリプトにしておいて,Shell commandブロックで実行するようにすればよいだろう。あるいは,AutomateのHTTP requestブロックを利用して上記cURLコマンドと同等のことができるはずなので,それで実現すれば,やりたいこと全体がAutomateに閉じた形で実現できる。

参考にした資料:

External Microphones for Use with Android Devices

I want my smart phone to be able to shoot videos of what is going on far away. I don’t think there’s any thing I can do about the image quality, but perhaps there is as to the sound quality.

Cameras on smartphones have come a long way. However, even though the image quality has drastically improved, the sound quality may have lagged behind. Built-in microphones are just not usually designed for capturing sound far away.

Modern smartphones usually come with multiple microphones for such functionality as noise suppression. Some vendors enable sound recording in stereo on some of their models. I was not expecting much, but I was surprised to learn through my own experiments that my Oppo R17 Neo supports audio recording in stereo with its built-in microphones, although you will have to use third-party apps for that.

That’s like an unexpected perk, but I still doubt the microphones are good enough to capture sound from a long distance. So I need an external microphone — that’s a given. With the expected scenario in mind, probably it would be better if the mic was (uni)directional, as opposed to omnidirectional. This would mean I’d want a “shotgun,” not a “lav” ( from “lavaliere” ) (See “Microphones for nature recording I.: types and arrays – Wild Mountain Echoes” ).

Audio Recording With a Smartphone – Wild Mountain Echoes” lists ways in which an external microphone can be connected to an Android smartphone, namely, through its 3.5mm audio port, its USB port, and via Bluetooth.

Right off the bat, I am excluding the Bluetooth route because I cannot find any Bluetooth stereo microphones. The article above lists two such products but they are ominidirectional, so they do not fit the bill.

Using the 3.5mm audio port is certainly an option, although recent smartphones are ditching those ports in favor of the “all-in-one” Type-C port. My current main handset Oppo R17 Neo still has a 3.5mm audio port and also a micro-USB port. There are multiple types to 3.5mm audio jacks, the most popular of which on smartphones is called TRRS. By the very way it is designed, you cannot record audio in stereo through the TRRS audio port; such usage is just not factored in. Products recommended in the following lists all use the 3.5mm audio port, so all of them are unable to record sound in stereo.

Some that are not specifically designed for use with smartphones require a TRS-to-TRRS adapter (see, for example, “【Open Camera】Androidの動画撮影で外部マイクを使う方法 – ガジェマガ“).

However, there is a type called TRRRS (note the extra “R”; it is not a typo). And some Sony Xperia models are said to have this type for their 3.5mm audio ports. For example, one commentator to that previous article states:

The Xperia Z3 has a (proprietary) 5 pin trrrs socket for headphones and microphones, enabling noise cancelling headphones and stereo mics. I have not found anything on the pinouts of this socket. The geometry is clearly visible here https://www.sonymobile.com/global-en/products/accessories/digital-noise-cancelling-headset-mdr-nc31em/
Without any more detailed specs of the pinout it may be difficult to make another stereo mic work on the Z3

I have a semi-broken Xperia Z3 of a friend that I have been meaning to fix some day, and I should have a stereo microphone somewhere, which I used to use in recording my voice lessons at college in the US. If I just manage to fix the Z3 and find that stereo microphone, then that combination might just do, although I do not know the pin placements are compatible. Z3, considered rather old now, still has a much better camera than my R17 Neo anyway.

Now the connect-via-OTG-USB option is a mixed batch. This is in stark contrast to the offerings for the iPhones with Lightning ports, which include small stereo mics that simply plug into the Lightning ports with no cables involved.

What has been hindering the adoption of external USB microphones with Android phones is that you cannot really rely on their USB Audio class support. You could say this is one big difference from Apple products. That is why such an app as USB Audio Recorder PRO exists, a paid app which comes with its own USB Audio driver. The rub is that its driver is for that app only, so you cannot use it from a video recording app.

How can I know if my device supports USB Audio fully? If you already have an external USB audio device, you could use USB Audio Tester. But if you do not, then you could use
USB Audio Tester ROOT, which requires the root privileges. I guess I will have to root my phone so I can use this app.

In this category of products, the following caught my attention.

追記:

お金があり余ってたらこういうのだろうな…。

 

旅行者向けイタリアの携帯事情

Some might say I like researching the cell phone situations in foreign countries. I did so with regards to Kyrgyzstan, which later turned out to be a complete waste of my time. This time it’s Italy.

わけあって旅行者向けイタリアの携帯事情をちょっと調査。コンセント事情についてはもう調べた

日本の携帯事業者が提供するローミングサービスの費用。

無料WiFiは各所で提供されている(パスワードを聞く必要ある)が, “Wifi Free” のステッカーのあるところでなければSMS認証が必要になることが多い。とはいえ,SMS受信可能な回線が絶対必要かというとそうではなく,receivefreesms.comReceiveSMSのような無料サービス(他にも同様なサービスは多数存在するその目的に特化したアプリも多数ある)を使えば,SMSを受信することだけならできる。受信用番号は必ずイタリアのものでなくてもよく,EU内の国の番号なら大丈夫だろう。もちろんそのサービスが利用できるのにインターネット接続ができる必要があるが。

ローマ限定だが、観光スポットや公共施設で利用できるWiFi metropolitanoに事前登録できる。SMS認証以外にクレジットカード認証が可能なので日本でもできる。

公衆wifiスポットというと, “Public Wifi Services in Japan” で取り上げたTownWiFiWiFi metropolitanoには残念ながら現在対応してない模様。イタリアに限らない無料wifiスポット検索アプリについては “Overseas Public Free Wifi Service Finder Apps” 参照。VPN機能については,パブリックDNS「1.1.1.1」アプリに無料VPN機能が追加予定なのでそれを待っているが(Androidアプリ),間に合わなければ別途VPN機能を利用したほうがよいだろう(可能性1, 可能性2)。

TIMことテレコム・イタリアはイタリア最大の固定電話事業者であり大手携帯事業者らしい。いわば,「イタリアのNTT/ドコモ」。

TIM Tourist En — イタリアを含むヨーロッパの国々での使用を想定。

  • 30日間有効20€…が,SIM発行料として別に10€かかる(FAQより)。合計30€≒3,500円。
  • 15GB (4G) + 200分の無料通話(イタリア及び他の国)。
  • Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchatの使用はデータ通信量にカウントせず。
  • 購入はオンラインでクレジットカードないしPaypalで可。PINを発行してもらい,それをもって現地のTIMショップで実際のSIMカード発行を受ける。
  • 15GBも何に使うの?ということを考えなければ単位通信量あたりのコスパは間違いなく高い。…でも15GBも何に使うの?

TIM in Viaggio Pass — イタリアのみならずヨーロッパ,アメリカ,カナダ,ブラジルも含む

  • 30日間有効20€。
  • 10GB (4G) + 500分の無料通話(イタリア及び他の国)+500通の無料SMS。

イギリスThreeの30日/データ12GB/通話3000分・他約60地域 データ12GB コミコミパックがやや安い(2,150円)がイギリス以外では3G通信となる。12GBを超過した場合通信が切れるかについては言及なし。テザリングは可だがモバイル・ルーターでの使用はできないとのこと。

【CM LINK】ヨーロッパ 35ヵ国利用 4G LTE通信 15日 6GB プリペイドSIMカードは1,420円でリーズナブルに思えるが,通信総量が6GBに達すると完全に通信が切れるということ,テザリング不可ということ,が怖い。データ通信専用で音声通話はサポートされていない。SMSも駄目だろう。

Using VPN Gate with OpenVPN on Android

I thought I needed to start using VPN in conjunction with my use of public wifi hotspots, so I explored my options. However, it turned out that currently I do not need to as far as my use in Japan is concerned, and possibly in the future too, even when I am overseas.

For one, in my current setup for use in Japan, the apps for accessing public wifi services come with VPN functionality. For another, even for the use elsewhere in the world (for example, using global public free wifi service finder apps), Cloudflare’s app for its public DNS service 1.1.1.1 is supposed to be eventually equipped with VPN functionality as well. What I am going to write in this article is therefore largely for archival purposes only in case I should decide to explore options in this direction again.

VPN Gate is a registry of free public VPN servers worldwide provided by University of Tsukuba. That alone is a huge deal because you can potentially use for free VPN services (some high quality) located at many parts of the world, for which you would normally have to pay some fee.

Since many VPN servers registered on VPN Gate support OpenVPN, on Android devices, you can use OpenVPN clients to use those servers. The following are such OpenVPN client apps.

OpenVPN Connect and OpenVPN for Android can be controlled by sending those apps specific intents (instructions for OpenVPN Connect (same content written elsewhere) and those for OpenVPN for Android). You can have them connect to a server by specifying the name of its “profile” they already have. You can also have them disconnect by intents.

VPN Client Pro works as a Tasker/Locale plugin as well, with which you can have a finer control. The operations you can do are connect/disconnect/pause a connection and wait on an event where a connection is connected/disconnected/paused. This feature seems to be available only to paid subscription members. I tried to give this feature a shot using Automate without subscription to VPN Client Pro, but I could not. I do not know if there was something wrong with my programming or VPN Client Pro itself (or Automate), or simply because I am not a paid user. I could not find any official info about this plugin functionality. They provide only a bulletin board for “customer service,” and it is not really the easiest place to find information in.

All three clients provide connect-on-boot (with a prespecified VPN provider), but strangely, none provides auto-connect on app start. VPN Client Pro provides auto-connect and connect-on-demand for paid subscribers.

When you tap on a VPN server listed in VPN Gate Viewer, an Android VPN Gate Viewer, it tries to open a .opn file, and since all of the three OpenVPN clients can open (and import) those configuration files, you can essentially open a VPN connection to the server using the client you have chosen. There are a lot of apps that claim to be OpenVPN plugins that give you a list of free VPN servers to choose from (often one “plugin” for one country), but calling them “plugins” is a stretch; they work just like VPN Gate Viewer, and they possibly get their source data from VPN Gate as well.

Initially, I wondered if I could create a fully-automatic system which would allow me to connect to a VPN server located in a specific country — let’s say Italy —, using the server info from VPN Gate. Eventually I realized you cannot fully automate the process as far as the OpenVPN clients above are concerned, because even though these clients can open configuration files pulled from VPN Gate, saving them into apps requires manual intervention. If you have root privileges, though, perhaps you could potentially forcefully place configuration files into the app’s designated directories, effectively having it import them.

On a related note, it seems not so trivially easy to programmatically tell if you are using VPN or not.

Using iPhone 7 from AT&T in Japan on UQ Mobile’s Network

This article is for a friend of mine from the US. She is planning a trip to Japan this fall. I am trying to make sure that she’ll be able to use her cell phone comfortably during her stay here.

For a comprehensive list of the articles I have written for foreign people living or traveling in Japan, see this article.

She has an iPhone 7 she purchased from AT&T. I am planning on letting her use one of my SIM cards that I have from my contacts with UQ Mobile, an MVNO that uses Au’s 4G LTE network.

Turns out that she should be able to use her iPhone with my UQ Mobile SIM card as long as it is SIM-unlocked and VoLTE-enabled. It appears that her iPhone is fully capable of handling the network bands used by UQ Mobile. She might want to install some additional apps for use here. Once she arrives in Japan and gets a nano SIM card for UQ Mobile from me, she can replace the nano SIM card in the iPhone with my nano SIM card for UQ Mobile. She will also need to install the APN configuration file for UQ Mobile, which process requires that the phone be connected to wifi.

Unlocking Your iPhone 7 from AT&T

See Unlock a Phone or Device – AT&T Device Unlock Portal.

Turning on VoLTE on Your iPhone 7

To handle voice calls using UQ Mobile’s mobile network, the handset needs to be VoLTE capable. Even if you somehow cannot make your iPhone VoLTE capable, probably that is not going to be a big problem because as long as you have data, you should be able to use your Line app and contact your friends in Japan. You can “call” them too. See below for more on Line.

From “Make phone calls with Voice over LTE (VoLTE) – Apple Support“:

Turn on VoLTE

Some carriers turn on this feature by default. To find out if VoLTE is on, go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Enable LTE. If Voice & Data is off, tap it to turn on VoLTE.

Additional Apps You Might Want to Install

Here are some additional apps you might want to install to make your stay in Japan easier:

The following two apps will help you take advantage of local public wifi service effectively. See “Public Wifi Services in Japan” for details.

Lastly, this app allows you to monitor your data usage on UQ Mobile. In addition, it lets you switch to “data-saving mode,” where your Internet connection speed gets significantly slower (capped at 300kbps), but your data usage there will not be counted against your allotted data usage.

Swapping Nano SIM Cards

You should receive a nano SIM card for UQ Mobile from me. You will have to remove the nano SIM card that is in your iPhone and replace it with my nano SIM card.

The video below shows the process specifically for iPhone 7/7+. A few notes:

  • Do this at the hotel. Nano SIM cards are tiny. Remember you can easily lose them and do not let that happen.
  • I will supply you with a SIM card eject pin as well.
  • In the video, the guy swaps SIM cards while the phone is on. That is a big no-no. During the SIM swapping, the phone needs to be turned off.

Installing APN Configuration File so Your iPhone Can Use UQ Mobile’s Network

Just swapping SIM cards will not allow you to use UQ Mobile’s network. You will need to give your phone proper APN configurations. This process requires that the phone be connected to wifi. Probably it’d be best to do it at the hotel (assuming it provides wifi), but you could do it either at the airport you leave the US from, or at the one you arrive in Japan at.

Look at the step-by-step instructions on installing the APN configuration file — find the “iPhone5s or Newer / iOS 12.2 or later” section. However, since these instructions are meant for a different carrier, you will have to download the APN configuration from the following location instead:

http://www.uqwimax.jp/mobile/support/guide/apn/UQmobile.mobileconfig

Note you will have to delete the APN configuration file when you return to the US. The page above gives you how.

Notes: UQ Mobile provides English instructions in a PDF file, but it is not particularly helpful. In Japanese, it does provide detailed instructions for iOS devices, with an accompanying PDF file.

Compatibility of Your iPhone 7 from AT&T with Network Bands Used by UQ Mobile

Naive people tend to think it is as simple as just swapping SIM cards. Unfortunately, that is not true. You cannot just insert a SIM card for a local carrier and expect to get signal. The phone has to meet the following two criteria, in addition to having an active SIM card for the local carrier:

  • It has to have the hardware capabilities to handle the radio bands that local carrier uses. You need to find the exact model number of the phone to see if this holds true. iPhone 7’s, for example, are sold all over the world and there are actually multiple versions that cater to a specific market and/or to a specific carrier if they are sold through a carrier.
  • It has to have proper APN configurations for that carrier, which I have already covered.

According to “iPhone 7 – Apple iPhone 7 Price & Specs – AT&T,” your iPhone supports the following network bands:

4G-LTE: Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, and 41
3G – UMTS
850/900/1700-2100/1900/2100MHz

According to “周波数帯(バンド数)に注意!?UQモバイルへスマホそのままで乗り換える際の注意点とは? | UQモバイル〜simチェンジ〜,” UQ Mobile mostly uses 4G LTE bands of 1, 18, and 26, all of which your iPhone supports.

Android端末で公衆Wifi使用時VPNを併用

新しい自分のAndroid端末で公衆Wifi使用時,VPNを併用できるようにしたい。

今までキャリアのおまけで提供されている公衆wifiサービスを利用する機会はあったが,ないよりまし程度の速度や品質で,結局のところキャリアのデータ通信サービスを利用しなくてはならなくなることが多かった。なので正直あまり重要だと思ってこなかったが,最近お試しで行き始めたジムが提供しているwifiサービスを利用してみて驚いた。びっくりするほど速いのである(写真)。だからといって,別にジム内でがっつりインターネットを利用するわけでもないだが,ひょっとしたら近々海外旅行する可能性もあるし,公衆wifi使用時,VPNを併用できるようにセットアップしておきたくなった。

ところが後になってわかったんだが,少なくとも日本国内での使用についてはそれは心配しなくてもよいのだった。 “Free Public Wifi Services in Japan” でも紹介した,TownWiFiを一般無料wifiホットスポットへの接続に使い,加えて加入した有料公衆wifiサービスのギガぞうにはそれ専用のアプリを使うつもりなのだが,どちらもVPN機能を含んでいるからだ。この記事冒頭で触れたジム内のwifiサービスにも,ご立派なことにTownWifiは対応している。

ただし,いわばTownWifiの海外版として利用予定のWiman(詳しくは “Overseas Public Free Wifi Service Finder Apps” )はVPN機能を含んでいない。そもそも日本国内でVPNが必要なら,適切にセットアップした自宅のルーターに繋げばいいだけ,という話もあるわけで,この記事の話は海外にいるときに公衆wifiサービスを利用する際,という状況下でのみ意味がある。

ただ,そのような場合も将来的には問題なくなるかもしれない。パブリックDNS「1.1.1.1」アプリに無料VPN機能が追加予定であるからだ(Androidアプリ)。ただし,今だにこの機能は提供されていない。

現状でも自前のDNSサーバーを使わせるためにVPNを使っているようだが,そうすると「普通の」VPNが利用できない。Root権限なしにDNS設定を換えるためにVPNを利用する,というのは常套手段のよう。VPN機能が提供されたあかつきにも,VPN機能を切れないギガぞうとの併用には問題あり。TownWiFiはVPN機能を切ることができるので併用に問題はない。今後ギガぞうにVPN機能のオフスイッチが実装されなければ,1.1.1.1を利用したければ,専用アプリを使わず,VPNを使わないDNSサーバー切り替え方法(root権限が必須になろう)を探すしかない。ちょっと使ってみた範囲では,1.1.1.1 Androidアプリは電池食いのようなのでその意味でもそちらの方が望ましいと思われる。Android Pでは “Private DNS” モードが提供されるらしいが。

Wifiに接続したときにSSIDを見て,保護が必要であればそのときだけ自動的にVPNサービスを利用できるようにすればいい。AutomateというAndroid用自動化アプリの正規ユーザであるし,最初の部分は容易に思えた。いや,自分で金払ってVPNサービスを利用しているのであれば,最後まで実現するのも難しくなかったと思われる。ただ,そこを無料でなんとか,とかせこいこと考えるとこれが意外と面倒。

実はこの後VPN GateとOpenVPNクライアントの組み合わせで実現が可能であることが分かった。それがわかるまでにメモ代わりに書いていた以下は今となってはあまり意味がない。

無料でVPNサービスを提供しているアプリはたくさんある。が,アプリをAutomateから自動起動させることができ,自動的にVPN接続を開始できる,であるとか,VPN接続時そこそこスピードが出る,とか,そういうことを要件にするとなかなか条件を満たすのは見当たらない。

以下を参照した:

以下自分が調べたもの:

  • Windscribe VPN — 月10GBの容量は魅力的に感じたが,少なくともAndroidアプリでおまかせ接続してみたら恐ろしくスピードが遅かった。”Best Location”とアプリは言うのに…。
  • Auto VPN Master Pro — 自分が調べた中では起動するだけで自動接続する唯一のアプリ(別に述べるVPN Client Proを除く)。VPNサーバに繋がればなかなかスピードは速い(D/Uとも数十Mb/s程度)。ただし,サーバーに順繰りに接続していくのだが,なかなか接続に至らないこともある。そういう場合最終的にはドイツのサーバーに接続することになることが多いよう。
  • Speedify —月5GB。スライダーで有効化しないとVPN接続をしてくれないが,強制的にアプリを落とした際には,VPN接続は解除されるが,このVPN有効・無効の状態は次回の起動時まで保持される模様。なので,アプリ設計者の意図したことではないかもしれないが,自動VPN接続が可能。もっとも強制的にアプリを落とすにはroot権限が要りそうだが…。
  • Bitmask — 3つのVPNサービスプロバイダから選べる。

Oppo R17 Neo Supports ANT+?

Does my new Oppo R17 Neo support ANT+? I looked at its specifications, but there was no mention of ANT+. So it was super unlikely, but I tested it anyway. Surprisingly, it seems it does. I have not tested if it actually works with an ANT+ device yet, though.

I installed ANT Radio Service and ANT+ Plugins Service, and ran ANTtester to see if my Oppo R17 Neo supported ANT+.

Figure 1 shows its initial output, and it surprised me. Wait, it supports ANT+ hardware-wise? So I tapped on the red padlock icon shown next to “ANT Radio Service” (Figure 2) and a window popped up which told me I needed to give proper permission to ANT Radio Service (Figure 3).

Tapping on “OK” brought up the app settings window for ANT Radio Service (Figure 4). Tapping on “Permissions” opened up the app permissions page (Figure 5). Tapping on “Additional permissions” brought up yet another window (Figure 6). There I could finally turn on “use ANT hardware” (Figure 7). After this, the output of ANTtester changed, and it showed my Oppo R17 Neo was ready to work with ANT+ devices — supposedly (Figure 8).

ANT and its extended version ANT+ is a wireless communication protocols used in sensors. They may be gradually be superseded by the incompatible Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), but they were widely used in fitness-related sensors. I happened to own Sony Xperia’s and Samsung Galaxy’s which supported ANT+, so I have an ANT+-based heart rate monitor. I have written the following articles for this reason.

Public Wifi Services in Japan

Japan was once notorious in the past among foreign visitors for its universal unavailability of free wifi services. Public wifi services were rare, and even when there was one, it was for paid members only.

For a comprehensive list of the articles I have written for foreign people living or traveling in Japan, see this article.

We recognized that is one major annoyance for visitors from overseas, which needed to be remedied so we could entice more visitors. We have come a long way in improving the situation. Free public wifi is still not everywhere; it is not like you can just walk for a few blocks and get free wifi outside a coffee shop, and it probably never will be, given our safety-oriented mindset. However, many kinds of organizations — convenient store chains, restaurant chains, municipalities, etc. — have implemented their own versions of public wifi systems. The problem is that they almost always do not allow you to simply connect to their hotspots; they require that you register with their services in advance and also that you input your login credentials in the browser when you try to connect. That’s a lot of work!

Enter TownWiFi. They provide an Android app and ‎an iOS app. The app first asks for a little bit of your personal information, with which they automatically register you with dozens of those free public wifi providers. The app shows you a map of nearby hotspots, and it automatically logs you in when you are close enough to one. What a life saver!

You can configure it to use VPN for added security when you connect to a hotspot by TownWifi. You could call it a limited form of VPN in that connections made through HTTPS are excluded and videos and/or audio streaming is excluded as well. But that is hardly an issue because HTTPS itself is secure enough and not much damage can be done by listening in or tampering with video/audio streaming. It is impressive that they offer this VPN feature for free for unlimited use. This feature is embedded in the Android app, but iOS users need to use ‎a separate app called WiFi Protect. I could not find any info written in English on how to use these two apps together but you can find instructions in Japanese in this article.

TownWifi cannot take care of the initial registration required for the wifi services for Shinkansen (Bullet Train) cars and stations. But once that has been taken care of, TownWifi should automatically connect you to those services.

Incidentally, they claim to provide info on hotspots in “USA, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, (and) Macau,” although when the app shows it has support for other areas such as Europe as well. For global use, though, you might want to check out other options.

Now, the bar is definitely high for this one, but there is a paid service
called Gigazo
. They offer an Android app and ‎an iOS app. Their standard plan costs about 500 yen a month (~$5 USD/mo), but your first two months are free. That might cover your whole stay in Japan. Gigazo also provides VPN for connections through their hotspots, so that is good. One ID, namely one contract, allows you to use Gigazo on five devices simultaneously, which I find very generous.

All this info is available only in Japanese and their English page shows completely different services. This might mean that they do not intend Gigazo, or its two-months-free deal in particular, for foreign visitors. I do not know.

By the way, I referenced the following article in writing this article.

In addition to the two services/apps above, the article also lists Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi service. It is similar to TownWifi in its goals and scope, and has similar features. The site is offered by Japan Tourism Agency, but it appears it’s not like they run their own network of free public wifi services — they just list free public wifi services offered by various municipalities, which TownWifi does too, only more exhaustively.

The Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi app has a few notable advantages over TownWifi. One is that it supports as many as 16 languages for its UI language. Another is that it can allow you to download maps of hotspots for your use when you are offline. Personally I am shying away from it because its Android version has a low rating of 2.6 out of 5.0. Its reviewers complain that even though the app is supposed to let you auto log on to hotspots, but this automatic authentication process often fails. Plus it does not offer any protection by VPN like TownWifi does.

Wifi Availability in JR Tokai Shinkansen Trains and Stations

Free wifi services are available for those who travel using JR Tokai (or “JR Central Japan Railway Company”). In the network of Shinkansen train services in Japan, JR Tokai covers the segment between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. They are available in some of its Shinkansen (Bullet Train) trains and at all of the stations.

For a comprehensive list of the articles I have written for foreign people living or traveling in Japan, see this article.

This page gives you instructions on how you can take advantage of them. You need to note the following:

Both the in-car wifi service and the at-station wifi service require your initial registration. However, once that has been taken care of, such auto-wifi-login-app like TownWiFi should automatically get you connected again whenever you are cut off after the predetermined time (See “Free Public Wifi Services in Japan” for more on TownWifi).

This page gives detailed instructions on how to use the in-car wifi service.

By the way, this is probably of little importance to visitors from overseas, but they put up yet another sign for a different kind of wifi availability. This one is for commercial public wifi services. I subscribe to one of those services (Wi2), but sadly, I do not have access to the in-car wifi service.