Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

I'm really stupid about cell/mobile phones. Can you explain some things to me?

I'm really stupid about cell/mobile phones. Can you explain some things to me?

Apr 21st, 2005, 12:38 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,237
I'm really stupid about cell/mobile phones. Can you explain some things to me?

We're going to Spain next month and have thought about renting a cell phone for use there. I believe it is our American Express account that has a rental program. Then I was just reading a thread about a Mobal phone that is only $29 to purchase. I followed the link (http://www.mobalrental.com/gsm/hands...&p=sim&cc=3410) and sure enough that's the price. Here's what I don't understand. I buy the phone here in the US, it is shipped to me here, it is mine for the rest of my life, but per minute charges are high. So, what I really want to do is to get to Spain and purchase a sim card there that will reduce the per minute cost. However, the problem is that it says these phones are locked. What does this mean? This is where I start to get lost. Next summer we plan to go to Lithuania. If I get this right that means I will need to buy a Lithuanian sim card if I want to use the card there and not pay the high per minute cost that comes with the initial phone purchase. Correct? Each card is for a different country if I want to keep costs down. But, the company doesn't want the consumer to be able to purchase cheap minutes so locks the phone meaning if I want to use it I have to pay their high rate. Did I get it right? Can you please correct me? Is there a slot in the phone where I just stick in the card? It says it doesn't work in the US, but I don't want one for here (I live in the US) anyway. Thanks for helping out one of the technologically challenged.
julies is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 01:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
I've posted lots of info on this and really don't want to keep posting the same stuff. Click on my name above and you can go through some of the threads with some of the info needed but I'll give you a few tips.

When a phone is (sim) locked that means the provider has deliberately disabled one of the unique features of GSM phones, the ability to switch sim cards. You are right, you can only use the O2 sim card mobal supplies; any other sim card placed in the slot on the phone (read the manual as to just where it is and how to insert a sim card) will get a message to the effect invalid sim card.

However, since it is a nokia phone, you can go to a web site www.unlockme.co.uk where there is a forum where you can enter the phone's serial number, the company to which it is locked and they will provide for free the code that will unlock the phone and return the phone to the condition it was in before the miserable bums at mobal screwed it up by inserting code to keep you from changing the sim card.

Now as far as keep switching sim cards, you can do that and each time you do, you get a new phone number and have to communicate it to your friends and neighbors. As long as you are in the country where the sim was issued, you will be receiving calls for free (they'll pay somewhat more than to call a landline) and up until the beginning of this year it was pretty much the way we all did it.

There is a new company out there called riiing (3 i's) based in Liechtenstein. Their sim, available on the web and/or through e bay, allows free reception of calls throughout all of Western, Central and parts of Eastern Europe. I know Spain is a place where there is free reception of calls, I believe Lituania is too but you'll have to check their web site (www.riiing.com) to see if Lituania is in their zone 1.

You can read up on all these issues in various other threads.
xyz123 is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,365
'Locked' means it will only accept a sim card of the operator you bought the phone from. They do it so as to recoup the cost of a subsidised phone (most phones cost several hundred dollars on their own) and make profit. If a phone is locked, you can get it unlocked (most models). Some, like most Nokia phones, can be unlocked by downloading a software from the net and imputting phone details. Others have to be taken to an unlocker (usually a small independent phone dealer) or sent off. Cost is usually $10-$20. Some operators give you an unlocking code (which you key into your handset) after spending certain amount with them or for a fee (typically $50). Buying a sim card in each country reduces the cost of calls made and received, but it's inconvenient (your phone number changes with each sim) and many sims come with a set-up fee (e.g. $50 sim only has a credit for $30). www.riiing.com is a Swiss firm that market a sim that cuts down on the cost of roaming - using your phone in different countries.
Sim card goes into a slot at the back of the phone, usually under the battery.
Alec is offline  
Apr 21st, 2005, 03:19 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,237
Thanks much to both of you.

Great links xyz123. Apparently I'm not the only one who is technologically challenged.
julies is offline  
Jul 30th, 2005, 07:23 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 9
Just got back from a month in England, Italy and France. I bought a GSM cell phone from Ebay and then bought a Riiing Sim card (also from Ebay). I added minutes online every time I needed it. It was fairly easy to use but! I couldn't use the text messaging aspect because in order to place a call, I had to input the number and then wait for Riiing to call me back and then I had to select Dial. This prevented me from texting! I also couldn't use the automatic dial feature on my phone for the same reason. All calls had to be placed through Riiing and they would then call me back. I haven't decided which is better, using this system and NOT having to buy a new SIM card for every country (since Riiing works in every country) or going through the hassle of purchasing new SIMS. Next year I'll be in France only so I will probably just get a SIM for it and not have to worry about access issues.
barbyg is offline  
Jul 30th, 2005, 07:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
I would agree with you about several points....but much of it depends on just what you want to use the phone for.

The big big advantage of riiing and one not to sneer at is the fact you receive calls for free in their zone 1 which consists of almost all of western Europe (except Liechtenstein), Central and Eastern Europe (and Australia and South Africa too)...to me that was and is the most important aspect of riiing.

I do agree making calls with riiing is a bit of a pain in the petunia more so since I use callback world which means I have to deal with a double call back (although I can program the callback world number into the phone)...when it works (and that is a bit of a question at times) it is fabulous to think I can call from Poland to the US for 14/minute and have it timed in 6 second intervals to boot. When I was there in June it worked perfectly.

OTOH riiing is not good for text messaging...I seemed unable to text message using riiing. However, I carried my T mobile US phone with me and while I didn't use it for any phones they only charge 15 to text message from anywhere in the world to a US or other phone and receiving text messages is free or at least comes out of yuor bucket with t mobile US.

I would agree, however, that if you are going to be in one country for at least a week, it is probably better to get a local sim.

Incidentally France's local prepaid sims seem to charge a great deal to call North America (0,80€/minute for the first minute and one second intervals after that which is not all that much better than T mobile US) but that's where callback world comes in which means a call back anyway.

Didn't you find it great to receive calls for free throughout your trip in Europe which you don't get with local sims since once you leave the country of origin, you are roaming.
xyz123 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2005, 12:55 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 9
sure did! free is the best! but not being able to text was a pain! and, i had to really search for a cybercafe in france (south) to add more minutes. but all in all, it was definitely cheaper than renting a phone last year and paying ridiculous rates through them! Cheers!
barbyg is offline  
Aug 1st, 2005, 08:43 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,201
cingular has a plan for europe that only costs $6 for the month and you can use your own phone. I just did this for England, Italy and Switzerland and did just fine. The costs are 99 cents a minute for calls but only 20 cents to send a text message and 10 cents to receive. It was easy to set up and easy to use and do.
LEANNA is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2005, 06:21 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,393
Leanna, now that sounds like something even I can manage. Do you know of a description of your particular plan online? --or exactly what the plan was called, so I can inquire about it specifically? Merci. J. p.s. Julies, when I read your heading, I thought "that's me!"
jmw44 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2005, 06:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 253
I've read all the posts but I'm still not sure what to do. I'll be in Croatia for 2 1/2 weeks and need a phone for my family to reach me in case of emergency. I see GSM unlocked phones on Ebay for <$50. should I buy one and then get a SIM card in Croatia? will this be hard? Or, just by the Mobal $49 phone and pay the high/minute costs. please help. thank you
Tuni01 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2005, 07:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
Many other posters have said the $49 Mobal came to them 'unlocked'... a few others found the codes online and unlocked it themselves... I wasn't able to unlock mine but maybe it had been attempted by a prior user ..?

If you buy one on eBay, I'm not sure how you'll know that it is unlocked.

I bought the Mobal for husband to carry, only so we can connect since we will be separated a few days here and there. Therefore, a few minutes' calls will still be less than the whole SIM changeout thing.

I use my T-Mobile GSM phone for $0.99/minute in Europe, and haven't spent more than $20 a trip to check home 2-3 times.
Travelnut is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,449
Hi Tuni01,

If all you want is a phone for emergencies, I suggest buying the Mobal phone and paying the $1.95 per minute.

You won't have to worry about changing SIM cards, you will have a phone number before you leave, if you don't have an emergency ou won't be charged for calls.

ira is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:36 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 253
Thanks for the advice. It would be nice to have a lower /minute cost but probably isn't worth the time to get the SIM card, etc. I'll try the mobile phone! I appreciate very much the input.
Tuni01 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,637
I bought an unlocked quad-band Nokia phone on e-bay last month. It wasn't cheap, but it has solved pretty much all my cell phone problems. I bought the global SIM card from Telestial along with the riing callback service. It took me quite a few days to figure out how it all worked, but by the end of my trip I was calling all over Western Europe and the USA and receiving calls from several countries without any problems and with very good per-minute rates.
If you do get the Telestial service based in Liechtenstein, just be aware that the country code for Liechtenstein, which will be the code for people to call you, is 423 - yes, it's three digits (something I wasn't aware existed in European country codes), and the number people use to call you from the states is 011, followed by 423, then your phone number. That may seem obvious to others, but it had me stymied for almost a week.
StCirq is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 06:27 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 6,260
I have the same plan that Leanna spoke of which allows you to use your own phone in Europe.

BUT, be aware that you have to have at least a tri-band if not a quad-band phone (I have the Motorola quad) which may require a new phone purchase or an upgrade.

The Cingular plan allows you to start and stop the European special rates whenever you wish. You can use your phone anywhere in Europe without this plan but having it reduces the costs somwhat.

The big advantage is IMO

no worries about SIM cards
it works here, it works there, and just about everywhere else.

It may not be as cheap as some other options..but a lot of that depends on how much you actually use your phone in Europe or elsewhere.
Intrepid1 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 06:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
T-Mobile does not charge a monthly fee for International roaming, and calls are $0.99/min, incoming/outgoing. You call once (after 3 billing periods) to activate the service, no need to stop/restart after that. Very easy.

p.s. bought my phone on Amazon for $0.01 and selected the $29.99 plan which includes national l/d no roam charges. Fabulous.
Travelnut is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:45 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,213
Why not just walk into virtually any shop in Spain and buy a pay as you go mobile - typically for 50 euro or so?

Works in 95% of the world, no messing about with complicated numbers for phoning other countries, and free incoming cals in Spain.
flanneruk is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:48 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 253
How do you know what band the phone is? I see some cheap on Ebay that say GSM unlocked phone?
Tuni01 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
You'll have to research the phone - just use Google and go to the manufacturer website for the specs...
Travelnut is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 09:01 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 3
Just buy a tri band phone, make sure its unlocked to any network, (youll find these on ebay cheap) and buy a sim in each country you visit, Buy the sim cards from ebay for a couple of pounds/dollars usually. could even buy the sim's b4 you go on ebay and get them delivered to your hotel.

And someone above me is correct about that "ring" thing, its annoying as hell. NA ure better off buying a sim in each country.
andyzxc is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:37 PM.