After I switched to Aquos Zeta SH-01G in September 2015, I noticed that some of the cool features that the new Sharp devices flaunt are actually unavailable outside Japan, although this is not expressly mentioned anywhere.
If you go to Settings > Wi-Fi > Advanced, you will see a setting called "Mobile/Wi-Fi simultaneous use". Open is and you will find "Simultaneous use mode setting", which has three options:
The first option allows uninterrupted switching between mobile data and Wi-Fi, and the second enables an enhanced-speed internet connection by using Wi-Fi and carrier data simultaneously. Unfortunately, neither works if you have a non-Docomo SIM. If you select either of these two options, after a while, in your notification bar, you will see the following message: "Stop Smooth change mode due to started roaming". The phone isn't roaming, which is clear from Settings > Device info > Status > Roaming but apparently Sharp/Docomo have decided to make this feature only available to Docomo subscribers in Japan...
Here is what the manual says of all Sharp phones that support LTE:
When using non-DOCOMO SIM card, it cannot be used in LTE. Also, some services and functions are unavailable. DOCOMO shall not guarantee any operation of the handset.
I exchanged a couple of emails with Kazuto Tominaga, the owner of KYOEX Japan, who assured me that he has "hundreds of customers using previous SH-04F, SH-01F, SH-01G, etc etc in their country and they are getting a 4G signal".
I had no way to check this back then since my carrier had not yet launched their LTE service, but a couple of months later, as I glanced at the screen, I saw LTE next to the signal bars! That day my carrier had begun offering an LTE service and since then, I've had LTE coverage in most places where I live.
So, it turns out the LTE module is not locked after all and as long as your carrier has the corresponding frequency, you will be getting LTE signal. Below is a list of all frequencies that the three Japanese operators support. Not all models, however, feature all of them. I have added the specific frequencies supported for each model, if announced officially by either Sharp or the respective carrier. I have seen misleading or plain wrong information on other websites.
Supported frequencies of unlockable AU phones: http://www.au.kddi.com/support/mobile/procedure/simcard/unlock/compatible_network/
You can find the above info summarised here: http://www.soumu.go.jp/main_content/000385478.pdf (in Japanese but understandable).
You can find a list of European LTE operators and their frequencies on Wikipedia.
On newer SoftBank phones (released from 2015 onwards), the tethering option is locked, and remains locked even after doing the SIM unlock. One example is the Aquos Xx2 (502SH) but the same applies to all other models - and not just those made by Sharp. To learn how to bypass this, read the Unblock Tethering on Softbank Devices article.
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