Cell phone issues resolved…

Technology is an integral element of our ability to experience life “on the road” for a period of years.

When one travels to a hotel for a two week vacation, technology is relatively easy:
1. The hotel provides Internet access for free or for a charge.
2. The cell phone service provider allows phone calls for a roaming fee or not, depending on where one is vacationing.
3. Smartphone data is provided by the cell phone data plan at increased rates if outside the US or on a cruise ship. (We’ve all heard the Internet legend where a kid played games on the phone during a cruise after which the dad got a bill from his cell service provider for $20,000. Not so unlikely).

Over the past several months, I have been researching international cell phone options for us once we leave the US. Coincidentally, both of our contracts will have run out by November 1, 2012. The timing couldn’t have been better!

iPhone users have been saying, “You need an iPhone for international travel!” This is not our best or only option. We will need an UNLOCKED phone which simply put is a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) which is not associated with any specific cell phone carrier and thus, no contract is required.

An unlocked phone doesn’t have any service until one inserts a SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module), purchased in the country in which it will be used, providing both phone and data, with time and usage limits.

When the time runs out on the card, one either purchases another SIM card or buys additional time through an online account attached to a credit card. SIM cards each have their own phone number, not the handiest aspect when buying new cards from country to country. (Our old phone numbers won’t work).

Unlocked phones are considerably more expensive than purchasing a cell phone through a carrier and committing to the usual two year contract. By signing a contract, the carrier makes enough money from the subscriber for them to be able to sell the smartphone at a reduced price or, in some cases, for free.

How do we purchase an unlocked phone? We could buy one from Verizon, our current carrier for about $800. Other web stores such as Amazon sell unlocked phones. It is imperative that the phone be GSM or the SIM cards won’t work.

Upon reading some reviews online, it appears some customers did this to later
discover that the phones were not unlocked and had to figure out how to unlocked it themselves which may be as easy as flipping a switch or as complicated as hours online following complicated instructions.

In the worst case, one could send the phone to an unknown technician to have it unlocked, paying a hefty fee. This is the primary reason consumers hesitate to purchase an unlocked phone: Will it really be unlocked and if not, what do I do? Most people prefer to buy a two year contract and not mess with SIM cards which are also available in the US.

When we purchased our new unlocked GSM smartphones, we may consider buying two of the SAMSUNG GALAXY S III I9300 UNLOCKED GSM QUAD BAND SMARTPHONE from the company in this link by recommendation from CNET, a company that does reviews for technology and offers technical support, a company I have followed since the early 1990’s.

Why buy two unlocked phones when the cost is high at a minimum of about $700 each? We have a few good reasons:

1.  In the event of an emergency, we will always have one charged phone handy and time left on one SIM card.
2.  There are times we won’t be together for short periods: I may grocery shopping on my own or work out at a nearby health club. If something happens, we can phone each other. Piece of mind is worth a one time cost of $700.
3.  OK, here’s a frivolous reason: We can both play games on our phones at the same time and, with each other and read books on the Kindle app.
4.  Based on the specs of this particular model of smartphone (new as of a few days ago), it has a decent camera, perhaps all the camera we will need (we shall see). We can both be taking photos or videos at the same time while on safari!

By no means, are we experts on this topic and through research we’ve found varying opinions. And, this cell phone issue has been nagging at us for awhile. Finally, we feel we have a handle on it and can look forward to our new purchase this upcoming October, among with other digital needs!