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Please explain what an unlocked phone is

Old Feb 6th, 2007, 05:47 AM
  #1  
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Please explain what an unlocked phone is

I have an old GSM phone that I no longer use. I was planning on donating it to charity but then I wondered if I could use it for making cheap calls in Europe, buying a new SIM card when I get there. Is this possible?

I'm technically illiterate and I don't understand all the postings about unlocked phones (and the need to buy one from ebay) in order to buy pay-as-you-go SIM cards in Europe.

Thanks to anyone who can explain this to me!
vinolover is offline  
Old Feb 6th, 2007, 05:47 AM
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Carriers who offer free or reduced rates on their phones set the software "lock" so that you can't bail on them and use their expensive phone with a competitor.

You don't have to buy from eBay - just make sure your phone isn't locked. Schlecker.com sells a very basic unlocked Motorola C115 for €29.99 and a SIM for €9.99 with €10 of airtime on it.

http://www.schlecker.de/smobil.htm

But there's a finite chance you can get your phone unlocked. If you got it from T-Mobile, call their CS line and just ask. It takes up to a week, but they'll email unlocking instructions if you always paid your bill on time.
Robespierre is offline  
Old Feb 6th, 2007, 05:58 AM
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Any GSM phone can work with any sim card to the extent of my knowledge. A locked phone, is when a specific service provider has programmed the phone to only accept sim cards from that specific provider. Unlocking a phone is simply reversing that programming. As for how to unlock it I'm not sure, but sometimes you just need to key in a specific code, other times you need specific firmware to remove the programming. Look up 'unlocking a phone' on google and I'm sure you'll find some place that can let you know what to do for your specific model.

Good luck!
Shawn
sbmarti2 is offline  
Old Feb 6th, 2007, 05:59 AM
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One way carriers entice you to sign up with them for 12 or 24 month contracts is to offer you a phone at greatly reduced rates (or even for free)...

Now as explained in Mobile Phone I, one of the beauties of GSM over other technologies is that it is extremely flexible...all you have to do is substitute one sim card for another and your US mobile phone becomes a British mobile phone with a British phone number etc. Companies that have provided a subsidized phone do not want you running off to other carriers so they (sim) lock the phone.

What does that mean? When you first turn on the phone, it boots up much like a computer...the first thing a GSM phone checks for is whether a sim card has been inserted..if not you get an immediate message to insert a sim card.

The second thing it checks for is if the sim card is authorized...locking the phone means a bit of programming is put in at this point telling the phone that it should only allow sim cards of certain company (basically the company that sold you the phone) to be used...if the phone is locked and you insert the sim card of an unauthorized company, you will get a message at this point the sim card is unauthorized and it stops booting up.

GSM phones can be unlocked by legal, quasi legal and illegal means either by entering an unlocking code or physically attaching a cable and disabling the locking instruction...for a long time Nokia phones were easy to unlock as the calculator to generate the unlocking codes were freely available on the net...apparently at the urging of the carriers Nokia has begun making its phone harded to unlock (how pathetic).

For customers of T Mobile USA and Cingular (soon to be AT&T), they will generally provide the unlocking code for phones they have sold after a certain amount of time..in other cases you can go to a mobile phone store which may or may not be willing to unlock the phone. I know I walk down Oxford Street in London all the time and see store front after store front advertising they unlock phones for something like 8 quid.

In any event, to figure out if a phone is locked, simply insert the sim card of another company...if the phone gives you a message to the effect that a wrong sim card has been inserted, it is locked. If it continues on, even if it doesn't have the right frequencies (you simply won't register on any network) the phone is locked.
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:00 AM
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i have a motorola razr with t- mobile as my carrier and they said all i needed to do was to sign up with their global plan...which was free. do i still need to have the phone unlocked? it seemed just too easy to me to only check a box on a website and get international calling....lol.
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:07 AM
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T-Mobile's free international plan only allows you to use their phone on their overseas network. It will not unlock it so you can buy a SIM from Virgin or O2 or Orange or smobil.com
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:08 AM
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Thanks for the info. I just renewed a 2 year contract with Cingular with the free international plan which means I can use my current phone for about $1.29 per minute.

But I also have my old GSM phone (which was also on a Cingular (actually AT&T) contract. We were able to delete all the data from the SIM card (phone directory) since we were planning on donating it to a local charity.

I just thought maybe I could use this old phone in Europe cheaper than the $1.29 per minute if I buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card for this phone. I don't want to buy the card and then be stuck with it if the phone won't boot up.

I'll Google this info an see if I can come up with anything I understand.

vinolover is offline  
Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:09 AM
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...no you don't need in that case to get the phone unlocked as you will be using the T Mobile sim card...however, as we have explained, the question is just what you want to use the cell phone for.

Is it just for emergencies? Do you want to able to communicate withothers via text messaging? Will you perhaps make only a call or two? In that case the international roaming offered by T Mobile USA is fine...but be aware rates are asininely high...99/minute to both make and receive calls while in most parts of Western Europe...and they round the billing to the next highest minute and billing starts when the call is dialed, not when it is answered...so it is very easy even for what seems to be a quick call to pay $1.98 for a 61 second call.

Now yes this is easy and involves only checking a box on an internet site but you should be aware there are other alternatives.

You can get T Mobile to unlock the phone and then if you go to say London, pop into any mobile phone store and buy a local British sim card...you exchange the sim card and now the phone has a UK number...and receiving calls will be FREE (although caller pays a premium if they are not afraid to make an international call)...there are ways to forward calls from US numbers to a British (or other European) mobile number for rates as low as 16/minute (see www.voicestick.com)....T Mobile UK, in particular right now is a good deal..you can buy T Mobile UK sim cards on ebay for next to nothing and they have a plan which enables you to buy 50 minutes of calls to the USA (or Canada) from anywhere in the UK for 2 quid (making the calls 4p/minute).

Some research is necessary if you want to go in this direction but the beauty of GSM is that when you are finished in Europe, simply re-insert the T Mobile USA sim card and your phone is as good as it was when you left!
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:13 AM
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gotcha....we are only taking the phone in case of an emergency...my folks are elderly and you never know what might happen....and we plan on only turning it on once in the morning and once in the evening to check for messages. i also gave the number to our airline to call with any flight changes or info....so i guess just sticking with t-mobile is our way to go. i certainly don't even really want to waste my wonderful time in italy on the phone!!!
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:25 AM
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I'd still go with the unlocking and local SIM purchase (the Italian carrier is TIM - so you want a TIM-SIM). Especially with elderly parents. As you say, you never know what might happen - to which I would add: or how much airtime it will require.
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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It seems that all the websites I find on Google about unlocking my phone charge at $20-25 to send me the code. I don't plan on spending that much time talking on the phone so I don't think I'll spend the money on that.

Guess I'll stick with using my regular cell phone and pay the higher per minute price since I only plan on using it for a rare phone call or in an emergency if someone needs to call me from home.

Thanks for the advice.
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 07:10 AM
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Before doing that - may I suggest you call Cingular and ask them how to unlock it? If you don't get the answer you want from the first person you ask - call in again and ask someone else. Not all CSRs are up to speed on all procedures.
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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Thanks, I'll try that. Do you have any idea how much a TIM card costs? Is is based on how many prepaid minutes you want?
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 09:23 AM
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Go to a real mobile phone forum

www.prepaidgsm.net

The forum leaders are Italian...there are pages which describe the basic policies of operators in each country with links to their web sites (unfortunately usually but not always in the original language; some of these sites will have a British flag and have an English web site which might or might not be as complete as the original)...there is also a forum there where you can ask questions and since the administrators of the forum are Italian, they should be able to provide you with correct informaton unlike some of the information I see on this board, other than what I post of course, is absolutely so wrong it is not funny!
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 09:35 AM
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A locked phone lives a monogamic relation with his/her SIM.
An unlocked phone lives a poligamic relation with whatever SIM he founds during his/her lifetime.

I kept intentionally the "his/her" because I don't know the sex of the device. My educated guess is that locked phones are male and the unlocked ones are female. You know, the "La donna è mobile" thing
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 09:41 AM
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lobo....la donna e mobile ??? Have you heard the whole Rigoletto ? If you haven't , I 'll tell you the truth...the "mobile" one is the Duca
kenderina is offline  
Old Feb 6th, 2007, 10:32 AM
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You can unlock your phone online for free - get your code here...

http://www.trycktill.com/eng/

and

http://www.unlock.nokiafree.org/

Then you can buy a sim card/credit in whatever country you visit and it will work.

julia_t is offline  
Old Feb 6th, 2007, 10:39 AM
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The SIM card is a "he", the phone a "she". Very apparent to me.
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 10:42 AM
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Unfortunately those sites don't work for a Motorola phone. Thanks for the links anyway.
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Old Feb 6th, 2007, 11:01 AM
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Try googling

<< unlock motorola phones >>

and see what comes up.

http://www.unlockitnow.com/Motorola/...FTYNQgodrQ5_mg

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