EBAY Cell Phone Question

Mar 31st, 2007, 01:19 PM
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EBAY Cell Phone Question

After reading the cell phone threads I've decided to try and buy an unlocked cell from EBay for my upcoming trip to Spain (and install a Spain sims). In looking at Ebay, lots of phone say "unlocked, triband" but then say "Cingular, AT&T, T-Mobile", etc. Does that indicate that I have to use those networks or not?

Thank for a newby trying to get more tech-savvy!

ceilifinnigan is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 01:27 PM
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I'm no expert on this, but my understanding is that you would need to purchase a quad-band unlocked phone. I'm not sure that a triband would work in Europe. Perhaps, someone else will correct me if I am incorrect.
mrkindallas is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 02:08 PM
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You have to be careful with tri band phones being sold on ebay these days.

I'll try to explain.

GSM phones in Europe operate on 2 bands (frequencies) 900 and 1800. Some companies operate on 900, others on 1800, some on both. This is all part of the standardization European GSM carriers (almost all of them then although some new technologies exist but they haven't stamped out GSM just yet and will not do so in the near future). The US was very slow to embrace GSM. For many years, the only national US gsm carrier was T Mobile (although originally it was omnipoint and then became Voicestream before it was bought out and became T Mobile)...it's operating frequency was 1900. Since T Mobile was part of an international company, it pushed international roaming and began offering the public tri band phones which operated on 3 bands, 900, 1800, 1900 and would work on all gsm carriers throughout most of the world (Japan, South Korea among others presented different problems).

Fine..simple. But in the early 2000's along came Cingular migrating to GSM (also the then AT&T Wireless did also but they were bought out by Cingular which believe it or not is in the process of re-establishing the AT*T name)....the 1900 frequency was pretty much used up but they had operating licenses of various sorts on 800 (also known as 850) so they became a gsm carrier predominantly 850 although they shared some towers with T Mobile and so their customers needed phones with both 850 and 1900 to operate in the USA....if their customers wanted a tri band phone for use in the rest of the world, they got some of the companies to bastardize their world phones so to speak and make them tri band with 850, 1900 and room for only one of the European frequencies, generally choosing 1800. So tri band phones sold by Cingular had 850, 1800, 1900. Most companies gave the phones they made for the US market separate model number. Thus Sony Ericsson took its model 610 with 900, 1800m, 1900 and sold the US model as the 616. From the model number, you knew what bands it had.

The problem was Nokia refused to do so. Reluctantly they began modifying some of their world phones for use by Cingular but did not change the model number conspiculously. Thus they took their model 3100, for example which is a simple very usable world phone with no bells and whistles but works perfectly well as a phone, and produced a model for the USA. Officially this phone is the 3100B but few of the merchants on Ebay advertise this fact and many don't even know the difference. They tell you they are selling you a world tri band phone the 3100 and when it arrives, you may belatedly discover it's really the 3100B (although you have to look hard to find out).

The obvious solution of course are quad band phones. For the most part, Nokia has not embraced quad band phones. Motorola was the original purveyor of quad bands but experts on this (and I am far from an expert) tell me the phones are crappy in terms of signal strength and quality of voice. Other companies have also begun producing quad band models.

Now in recnet years, it got a bit worse. T Mobile began signing domestic roaming agreements with smaller gsm carriers to fill in the gaps in its coverage. Invariably these small gsm carriers were 850 so the tri band gsm phones T Mobile have been selling recently, unfortunately for European purposes, are the bastadized North American models with 850/1800/1900 (I say basrardized because quite frankly the North American models invariably are months behind as most Americans just want phones that act as phones and don't care about all the bells and whistles that Europeans desire on their phones so the market for the North American models is not as big as the worldwise one which is why companies such as Nokia have many great phones not available in North America).

Now back to the question. Is a US gsm tri band with 850/1800/1900 usable in Europe? For international roaming purposes, that is if you want to pay the exhorbitant rates they charge for international roaming, you're probably okay as the phone can usually find a carrier to register on with the 1800 frequency..(although there are some places where there is little 1800 coverage and such a phone would be useless in those areas).

It is when you wish to buy a local sim that you have to be careful with this. If your unlocked phone is a US model (850/1800/1900) then you can only buu a sim card of a carrier that is predominantly 1800. Even the people in the phone stores may not be aware of this. Of course, this is not a problem with a true world gsm phone (900/1800/1900) or a quad band (850,900,1800,1900)..or you can search the internet for a world dual band (900/1800) which is cheaper and perfectly usable in most of the world but useless in the US.

Ask the merchant if he or she is sure the phone is a true world phone...if the ad says it works on Cingular it probably isn't. For the most part tri bands are cheaper than quad bands and personally I am partial to nokia phones but this is a personal decision.

Hope the explanation helps.
xyz123 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 03:07 PM
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Here's what we do - your experience may differ.

We have 2 cell phone accounts - my wife likes Verizon because it's got excellent coverage. Unfortunately, the technology used by Verizon in the US ("CDMA" - not "GSM") is not widely used in the rest of the world.

I bought an unlocked Motorola quad-band phone for $60 on ebay, then took it on a long trip (several countries) overseas, buying local SIMs as we went. Ended up with a bunch of mostly-used (but not completely empty) SIMs that had airtime left on them in Country A but no way to use them in Country B. Result - wasted money (the airtime expires after a period of time.)

When we got back I signed up for a Cingular (now ATT Wireless) contract and frankly have found it comparable in quality to her Verizon coverage/service. I like the $60 phone - does the basics well - so use it as my everyday.

Then on a subsequent big trip, I looked at Cingular's Global Roaming program, which basically discounts overseas roaming rates by something like 50 - 60%, for a $5 or $6 monthly charge, that you can remove when you're not traveling. Depending on which country, the result may be a little higher than the per-minute cost of a local SIM and service package, but not that much, and the best thing is that I get to keep my US number, rather than having to remember a new number every time I load a new foreign SIM (and then have to communicate it to anyone who might want to phone me.) The phone (using its standard Cingular SIM) finds a compatible network with service, logs in, and you make or receive calls just like at home. I one 24h period last year I made and received calls using services in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, South Africa and Botswana, all without fussing with the phone at all. When I got the bill, the price was quite reasonable.

So that's what we do now. It might work for you, might not.

Oh, and because we always travel with a laptop, we also use Skype for calls when we've got an internet connection. Essentially free.
Gardyloo is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 03:13 PM
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I bought three Sony Ericsson T610's (one at a time) on EBay. Excellent phone! Just make sure it's unlocked as has 900/1800 bands (there are similar models that will come up in a search with different bands).

This model comes up all the time on EBay, so go slow - watch for items without much competitive bidding and don't bid until the last minute.
djkbooks is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 03:28 PM
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It depends...if you are going to be in a single country for a week or more and receive lots of calls from home,m a local sim is probably, not guaranteed, to be a better deal than using Cingular or T Mobile US international roaming...incidentally the $5 or $6 plan on Cingular lowers the per minute rate from $1.29/minute without it to $0.99/minute with it which is a saving of about 30%. Also, and I'm not trying to say it's a bad deal for anybody who doesn't make that many calls, be aware that calls are raised to the next highest minute so a 61 second call costs you 2 minutes worth of time and if you have voicemail and don't answer a call you will be billed for 2 calls or either $1.98 or $2.58.

Local sims always come with free reception of calls as long as you are in the country where the sim was issued....there are some international sims available that allow free reception of calls throughout all of Europe...they also offer cheaper outgoing calls than do Cingular and T Mobile USA although you can do much better.

Also there is a lot of pressure being exerted by the eu right now that will drastically lower roaming within Europe this summer and so it might be a good deal to buy a local sim and use it throughout Europe but that's a bit speculative right now.

Again as I try to advise people, what it comes down to is what you want to use the phone for and just how much you want to receive and make calls conveniently for you.

I know I have made a United Mobile sim card for the past 3 years and have received and made calls from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria. The card originally came with €10 worth of credit and I still have €6,30 worth of credit on it...it requires one billable event every 9 months. I send a text message every 8.5 months...I use callbackworld which allows me to call from any of these places for 14/minute timed in 6 second intervals and it has been, at least for me, reliable and since my local phone company allows international call forwarding to be set remotely (verizon) with my AT&T plan I pay an amazing 11/minute to have calls to my home number forwarded to my United Mobile phone. It works for me very very well; others say they don't want to be reacheable on holiday and that's fine too.

But I do think, people should be aware of all the possibilities and the fact exciting times are ahead if the eu has its way and international roaming within Europe is drastically reduced meaning if you get one sim anywhere in Europe, it will work throughout the continent.
xyz123 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 03:46 PM
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My son recently lost his phone. As you know if you have to purchase a phone in between your contract period you pay a ridiculous price. We called the telephone several times and left messages asking for the person who had the phone to please call the number listed under "home" so that we could get the phone back. While trying to decide whether to buy a new phone or buy an unlocked phone on ebay I called Cingular. I asked why sometimes when I called my son's number it would immediately go into voice mail and other times would ring awhile before going into voice mail. The customer service agent explained that who ever had the phone was waiting for me to disable the service so that they could sell the phone. He said a great deal of telephones for sale on ebay were lost or stolen phones. I decided no matter what I would not buy a phone on ebay.
milliebz is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 09:31 PM
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Most phone cards purchased at a tabac shop in Europe offer almost 300 minutes for about 5-7 euros. I use them everyweek for work in quite a few countries and love the convenience.You can use them in your hotel or pay phone(although its less time from a pay phone).
dutyfree is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 10:22 PM
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Consider a Samsung Sync(A707 model) from cingular. It's quad band. Recently, they offered a good rebate. Also, it is possible to upgrade before your contract makes you officially eligible. I did this recently when I bought two Syncs. It requires special override approval from the Cingular store manager. In my case it was approved when I explained my foreign travel plans--just be persuasive about your needs. I then requested unlocking codes from cingular. Unfortunately, their codes failed, so I paid someone $20 each to unlock the phones. (You have only 5 tries when unlocking before the phone becomes permanently locked to provider, so having used 3 tries on each, it was safer to pay for the unlocking service). I expect to recover the unlocking cost by purchasing a Tanzanian sim card for use during a month long stay involving local and international calls. Cingular's roaming rate is 4.99/minute.
susan17 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 11:45 PM
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I am looking at buying a phone from ebay as well. Are all SIM cards the same size?

I am looking at a Motorola V220, and the sellers says it is a unlocked quad-band phone. Does this sound like it will work?

jgwagner4 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 06:04 PM
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Kellye is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 07:11 PM
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Yes, the Motorola V220 is a quad band that will work in Europe. Whether or not it is unlocked, I couldn't say. I recently requested an unlock code for my V220, but haven't tried it yet as I don't have the foreign SIM.

I had just about decided to use Cingular's international roaming, but because I was originally an AT&T customer, they said I wasn't eligible for their $6 plan that gives you $.99 a minute. Also, the double charge for a voicemail message sounded ridiculous. Since my phone number wouldn't change, anyone could call and leave a voicemail - or not leave a message for that matter - (even a wrong number), and I would be charged double - $2.58 per minute - which could really add up quickly if someone left a three minute message. So I've ordered a SIM card and hope the unlock code works. At least I'll be at home and can call Cingular if I have a problem.
blh is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 01:05 PM
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Great info here! xyz123 thanks for all the details.

Can anyone recommend a specific brand/model of quad band phone I can look to buy on Ebay?

I want something I can use in both Europe and South East Asia and just buy local sim cards once I'm in the country.
Kristina is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 01:35 PM
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You can get a new Motorola v190 for $100 plus shipping directly from Motorola and a new v235 for $111 plus shipping. New and used v190's and v3's are available on ebay. Other new and used Motorola quadbands available on ebay are the v191 and the v195, and I've also seen a used European triband for a little less money, the v300. Another good used European triband available on ebay is a Nokia 6610. Be sure your phone is unlocked. Good luck.
sjj is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 01:56 PM
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>I want something I can use in both Europe and South East Asia
You do not need a quad or thri band phone for that. ANY unlocked (simple, standard, cheap) dualband phone (900/1800) will do. They work everywhere on the planet with very few exceptions (Canada,USA,Mexico,Japan,Korea. Did I forget a country?)
logos999 is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 02:43 PM
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Logos-Thanks, I just really want to be prepared wherever I go. And who knows, Mexico and South America could come up in the next couple of years. I only mentioned Europe and SEA because that's my plan for next year.

sjj-Thanks for the info! The first one is out of stock, but they have the second one so I might consider that. Seems safer to buy a new one from them than ebay, but I'll still look at prices on ebay.
Kristina is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2007, 03:49 PM
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"Are all SIM cards the same size?"

I've seen SIMs from Canada, Germany and Switzerland. They're all the same size, so I think it's safe to say yes. That's one thing that is standard.
ShelliDawn is offline  
Apr 5th, 2007, 10:27 AM
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New to the forum Lots of info here.

Yes, all sim cards are the same size.

As for cingular's "double charging", this only happens when you are roaming the call rolls to VM. A 3 minute message will only cost you for 4 mins. It's only the first minute that's double charged. As already explained by xyz123, once to send the call to the foreign dest. and then once to send it back to your VM in the US.

milliebz, the cingular rep. is totally wrong regarding why your stolen phone rings sometimes. The person that has the phone is not waiting for it to be disconected, and does not need to wait. All they need to do is take the sim out, put their sim in it and start talking. Does not matter tothem if you disconnect it or not.

mrcamp is offline  
Apr 5th, 2007, 10:46 AM
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kristina, to get coverage everywhere there is GSM(including the USA) a quadband is what you need. Some caribbean (Jamaica, Cayman Island) countries use a combination of all 4 bands.
mrcamp is offline  
Apr 5th, 2007, 01:40 PM
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forgive my ignorance but when the sim card is replaced am I still paying if I have not disabled the phone?
milliebz is offline  

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