cell phone purchase for Europe

Aug 17th, 2004, 03:21 AM
  #1  
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cell phone purchase for Europe

Any one buy a cell phone here in the states to use in one country in Europe? I have a very homesick new college boy/son and for my trip in October, am going to need for him to reach me any old time. I'm reading up, and it looks like a GMS, quad band phone -- don't I sound educated -- (motorola 600 I'm considering) plus then buying a Sim card -- is that what others have done? Or have others ever bothered with a cell phone (I never have before)
dee20002 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2004, 03:29 AM
  #2  
 
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I've written lots of posts on this and if you click on my screen name above, you should be able to find many of them.

You don't need a quad band necessarily. You could get by with a dual band if you don't want to use one in the US. Simply stated, the bands in Europe are different than in North America. In Europe, they use 900/1800 bands. In North America, they use 850/1900. You can find some great deals on dual band phones (make sure they are 900/1800) on the web; although in all due respect to you, I wouldn't dream of letting my kids drive anyplace in the US these days without a mobile phone and for that reason alone, you should really consider having a mobile phone.

Anyway, yes you can get phones here although if your son will be in only one country, it might pay simply for him to wait till he gets there and buy a basic phone with a prepaid sim.

Europeans are eons ahead of Americans when it comes to using mobile phones and the purchase of a mobile phone and sim is an every day occurance on the other side of the pond.
xyz123 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2004, 03:37 AM
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xyz gives great advice (by the way, thanks xyz for all the help you gave me last month). I just returned from Europe where I used a cell phone to stay in touch with my family back home and it worked great. I did buy a quad band GSM phone here before I left (Motorolla) and when I got to Italy I bought a sim card for €20 which included €5 of talk time (12 cents a minute local calls and about 50 cents long distance) - incoming calls are FREE. That's the main advantage. My family called me everyday using the 10-10-987 system and we talked for 3 cents a minute. It was SOOOOO much better than having to find a pay phone and then worrying about the cost.

I'll add one thing though to xyz's advice - make sure the phone you get (if you get one here) is UNLOCKED. Which means if you get it though Cingular, T-Mobile, etc. that it is not locked to their service. If that were the case inserting the Italian/French, etc sim card would not work. Also, if he buys a phone over there, check to see if it is locked to a service there because if it is it will be useless back here.
isabel is online now  
Aug 17th, 2004, 04:02 AM
  #4  
rex
 
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An alternative is to buy it there - - though it is still important to make an informed decision about buying (typically, that means paying extra for) UNlocked - - assuming you are traveling through more than one country.

If you do buy it there, I am an advocate of "selling it forward" here on this forum.

I was very pleased with doing this (for anb all-Italy trip) a few years ago; the incoming calls were free, and the after-trip "re-sale" made it a win-win for me and the buyer.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Aug 18th, 2004, 06:38 AM
  #5  
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Thanks all for your info response. But here are some follow-up questions. (By the way, it's me who will be traveling, son here in states). If I, say, buy a quad Motorola, presumably I need a US cell service provider? If I buy one from a company (say, T-Mobile), then is there a locking issue when I get to Italy? If I don't buy one through a local company, then is this a phone I can ONLY use with a Sim card in Europe? Obviously, I'm a bit ignorant here.
Thanks again.
dee20002 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2004, 08:07 AM
  #6  
 
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Don't worry about sounding ignorant - took me two weeks to figure it out. If you buy a phone from T-Mobil they "lock" it to their service but will "unlock" it after you have been with them 90 days. Cingular thinks they "lock" all their phones but it turned out that the Motorola's were not locked. I had to visit about 6 different Cingular stores before I found this out, but it did turn out to be true. The Nokias are locked to them. Each company will have it's own policy so you have to do some research. You can get most phones "unlocked" by going to an internet site that does this (there are several, google to find them). You basically send them the phone's serial number, the carrier (e.g. T-Mobile, Cingular), etc and five bucks and they send you a code to punch into your phone which unlocks it. Some phones (Motorollas) you have to actually send in your phone and they do something physical to it.

If you bought your phone from someone not a cell phone company (e.g. over the internet) then it would be unlocked. You could still use it with an American cell phone company by signing up with them and getting a sim card from them. Advantage to getting it from the company is usually you get it cheaper when you sign up for a one or two year contract.

I was under a time constraint becasue I thought I had it all figured out and was intending to use a French cell phone I already had when I discovered it was locked to the French company and therefore I couldn't use it in Italy. So I got a Motorola from Cingular and it was indeed unlocked, I used it with an Italian Sim card and it worked great in Italy. Now back here I just put my Cingular sim card back in and it works fine here. I had Cingular service previously and it's ok but I'm very annoyed that their employees gave out such differing information. Most of them really didn't know what they were talking about - but thought that they did. The whole process is very frustrating but in the end having a cell phone in Europe was a wonderful way to stay in touch economically with my family at home. Good luck.
isabel is online now  
Aug 18th, 2004, 08:12 AM
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I'll try to put this in very simple words:
option A - telephone locked
the telephone is always locked to the operator that handled it to you. The telephone keeps always the same number, either if you are in US or abroad. Let's say that your friends dial xyzxxxxxx if you are in the US, they dial exactly the same number when you are abroad (you don't even need to tell). To roam you must check with the operator that your subscriptions allows roaming.
Disadvantages: while you roam, local calls are more expensive and incoming calls are typically charged.
option B - telephone unlocked
You are free to keep your local operator or to change to a different operator while abroad (by changing the SIM). The telephone assumes a different number for each SIM. E.g: if you insert a French SIM, the telephone number is French and your friends home must dial the France country code to reach you. You don't need to have roaming activated, but you must check that your account is able to do international calls. Local calls are cheap, incoming calls are always free, when you call home it's an international call.

note: GSM was designed to be crystal clear and universal (in my opinion it is). If my words are not simple enough, please let us know.
lobo_mau is offline  
Aug 18th, 2004, 08:16 AM
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dee - The thing is this. If you buy a phone either here or elsewhere without a plan, you'll need to pay the actual cost for the phone. You may try some websites or ebay, but expect to pay $150+ for a brand new, recent model unlocked tri- or quad-band phone.

However, if you want to get a US cellular plan anyways, then the cellular company subsidize part of that cost. For example, T-mobile is currently selling the Sony Ericsson T610 tri-band camera phone for $149, with a $100 rebate. So, for $49 + tax, you get a decent nice phone, but also at least a 12-month contract.

You'll also need to get the phone unlocked to use a non-T-mobile SIM. You can buy a data cable and software to do it yourself, or there are people who will do it for $10-25 on ebay and other websites.

Finally, one more thing about tri-band and quad-band. Again, Europe uses 900/1800. T-mobile in the US uses 1900 only. So, their tri-band phone is 900/1800/1900 and you'll be fine in Europe. However, Cingular/AT&T uses 850/1900 here in the US. So, their tri-band phone must have both 850 and 1900, plus either 900 or 1800 but not both, which could be a problem with some operators in Europe. Therefore, if you get a phone from Cingular or AT&T, you would want a quad-band phone that has all 850/900/1800/1900. But if you're getting one from T-Mobile USA, then tri-band is all you need.
rkkwan is offline  
Aug 18th, 2004, 03:52 PM
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OK. Here's another dumb question. When you say incoming calls are "free", exactly what does that mean? Totally free to me while in Italy? What does it cost the person calling me from the US? The regular international rate dependent on their long-distance plan?
lucy54 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2004, 04:23 PM
  #10  
 
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lucy54 - If you use an Italian SIM card, then you'll have an Italian number. People in the US calling you will be paying whatever international rate for Italy their long-distance provider charges them.
rkkwan is offline  
Aug 18th, 2004, 04:40 PM
  #11  
 
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We just returned from a trip to Europe and my husband rented a phone from Verizon Wireless before we left. They shipped it to him a day or so before we were scheduled to leave. I can't remember the total cost, but the charge was per day and per usage. We didn't need it too much, but it was handy to have.
smbrown is offline  
Aug 18th, 2004, 04:42 PM
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Confused yet? I'll clarify a couple of recent points. Lobo said that "You don't need to have roaming activated, but you must check that your account is able to do international calls." That's NOT the case. I never even told Cingular I was using the phone in Italy, I certainly didn't have to make sure my account was able to do the calls. My Cingular account had nothing to do with it.

In terms of calls being "free". You, the cell phone owner are not charged at all. But yes, whoever calls you will have to pay for the call. International calls on most "regualr" US plans (like AT&T, Verizon, etc) are horribly expensive. BUT, the good news is that you can use 10-10-987 (go to their web site for details) for 3 cents a minute, plus 46 cents to connect. You don't have to set anything up, the charges just appear on your regular monthly (AT&T, Verizon, etc) bill. I thought it was too good to be true but I've been using it for months to call my daughter who lived in France last year, and then my family used it to call me on the cell phone in Italy last month.
isabel is online now  
Aug 18th, 2004, 07:53 PM
  #13  
 
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We just bought a cell phone to use in both California and France. The web site is

www.cellularabroad.com

We bought the French phone with the California SIM.

It's a good deal, as you don't have to pay a monthly fee--you just buy a phone card here or in Europe.
Underhill is offline  
Aug 19th, 2004, 01:56 AM
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Isabel, I detect here a little confusion of concepts.
A mobile phone is not roaming if the SIM in it is in it's own home country.
A mobile phone is roaming if the SIM in it is in it's in a foreigner country.
If you are in France AND you have a French SIM, then you don't need to have any roaming agreement (it means the SIM is in it's own home country).
If you are in France AND you have a US operator SIM card in it, then you should check with your operator that your account is allowed to roam (it means the SIM is in a foreigner country).
The concept of roaming/not roaming is related to the SIM's point of view and not yours.
lobo_mau is offline  
Aug 19th, 2004, 03:25 AM
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yes lobo you are right about that. So far the discussion had mostly been about getting a local SIM. Maybe we should clarify for people that while it is possible to just get a US based phone (as long as it's quad band) and keep your US operator and have international roaming, that is a VERY expensive option. That's a good idea for people who just want it for emergencies. But the original poster stated that "am going to need for him to reach me any old time" so for frequent use I wouldn't consider that an option.

Also lobo, what you said in your post on the 18th that I found confusing (actually not even true) was " The telephone assumes a different number for each SIM. E.g: if you insert a French SIM, the telephone number is French and your friends home must dial the France country code to reach you. You don't need to have roaming activated, but you must check that your account is able to do international calls." If you insert a French or whatever SIM then you do NOT need to do anything with your US company, you do NOT need to check that your account is able to do international calls. You just take out the US based SIM and keep it in a safe place till you return. The company here has nothing more to do with it while you are away.
isabel is online now  
Aug 19th, 2004, 04:15 AM
  #16  
 
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"If you insert a French or whatever SIM then you do NOT need to do anything with your US company, you do NOT need to check that your account is able to do international calls. You just take out the US based SIM and keep it in a safe place till you return. The company here has nothing more to do with it while you are away"

agree 120%. Take care, Lobo
lobo_mau is offline  
Aug 19th, 2004, 05:32 AM
  #17  
 
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Afew years ago we rented a phone..I think it was with World Phone..worked really well. I will check with husband tonight, but you might try a search on the web. Good luck.
Mincepie is offline  
Aug 19th, 2004, 02:43 PM
  #18  
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As a result of all of this VERY helpful posting (yes, confusing at times, but hopefully I'm gradually getting it), I have bought a Motorola quad with T-Mobile--with a one year contract here (but the phone was, of course, a bargain), with the plan to have the Sim removed (where and how to do that will be step 2) before going to Italy, and get one for Italy for the trip. How's that sound? I was told T-Mobile could give me a code to "unlock" but I'm not yet sure if that will be the same thing as allowing me to remove the Sim.
dee20002 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2004, 02:59 PM
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The SIM is a little plastic card with a small chip on it, and is usually located behind the battery. You can take it out yourself in 5 seconds - and nothing can stopped you from doing that. The "lock" means your phone cannot use a SIM card that's not issued by T-Mobile USA, as is.

Like others have said, if you're a brand new T-Mobile user, they probably wouldn't unlock the phone for you. But check the various websites on the net about cellphone hacking/unlocking. Depending on the phone model, some people may able to unlock for you, send you a code, or have you send the phone to them; for a fee or for free.
rkkwan is offline  
Aug 19th, 2004, 03:28 PM
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I agree with rkkwan, I dont think they will unlock a phone you purchased at a great rate. But I'm not sure how cell phone plans work in the States.

I had this problem myself moving from Latvia to Italy. My Latvian phone wouldn't accept an Italian SIM card because I had a deal with my Latvian cell phone company (I got my phone for very cheap and signed up for a year contract). When I removed the Latvian SIM card and inserted the Italian SIM card, it didn't work because the phone was locked into Tele2 Latvia service only. The man at the phone shop in Italy tried to unlock my phone but without success.

Now I always buy telephones without strings attached. Yes, I paid full price for phones but I have freedom to use my phone wherever I want and can switch SIM cards whenever I want. When I go home to the States for Christmas, I just pop in an American SIM card. Works great.

I dont know if anyone has told you where to go to get a SIM card in Italy. You can get them at the phone shops (that are all over the place) such as Vodafone, WIND, and TIM. They're basically all the same. For recharging money on the phone, you can again either go into the phone shop and have them do it for you, or go to any tabacchi and buy a recharge card and do it yourself.

Yes, it's true that incoming calls are free UNLESS you leave Italy (or whatever country your SIM card is for). I got charged a lot when my boyfriend called me on my phone when I was in Switzerland for a week. He was charged for only a local call to me and I was charged a fortune for long distance calls from Italy to Switzerland for receiving his calls!

Have a great trip to Italy!
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