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probably a stupid cell phone question - please be kind!

probably a stupid cell phone question - please be kind!

Apr 20th, 2006, 10:17 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 579
probably a stupid cell phone question - please be kind!

I am sorry i really do not understand all the technology but if i buy a quad GSM unlocked phone and then I buy a sim card - do i still need to have some type of plan or will it just work when i put the card in? Also will the number be on the card? Thanks! We will be in Italy for the most part
flycatcher06 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 10:26 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 217
If you buy a pre-paid SIM card, then yes, it will usually have SOME time on it but not very much (10 min?). You should plan to buy extra minuntes at the same time you buy the card. The salesperson will give you your phone number (usually on the receipt too, I think).

This is based on my experience in France, but I'm assuming it will be pretty much the same thing in Italy.
g33kgrl is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 11:12 AM
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Posts: 87
I have a 4 band motorola phone with cingular service. I have been able to call the U.S. with this phone from India, Europe and Africa with no problem. However, the cost per minute is very high; so in europe I buy a pre-paid local calling card.
Chiquita is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 07:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I have an unlocked European Nokia phone that I take to Italy. When I arrive I go to a local TIM store and purchase a TIM card with a local phone number. The card automatically comes with a minimal (like 5 euro) amount of call time on it, so I also purchase top up time to allow me more calls.

I then have a local Italian phone number and give it to family, etc. Calls from Italy to the US are about 50 US cents per minute (from my recent recollection) and incoming calls are free.

I also have learned to request that the TIM store program my phone to Enlish so that I can check my outgoing time left, and then I buy top up cards at a local tobacco shop in order to add more time to the phone for outgoing calls.

I hope this helps. I've done the cell thing (with two different phones, at times) in Italy and it can be confusing at times. Feel free to ask if you have any more questions.
Statia is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 04:05 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 252
Flycatcher.....I am glad you asked this. I too am confused about cell phones in Italy. Where is the best place to buy the unlocked phone for use in Italy? We have Verizon here and I thought I read somewhere on this forum that Verizon does not work in italy. Thanks for any advice.
mauitammy is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 04:23 AM
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Statia has it right. There are TIM shops all over the country. My TIM SIM also worked in Zermatt on my last trip.

If you want to use your Cingular phone in Europe, confirm with Cingular that it's unlocked (a quirky and aggravating U.S. thing) and then buy a SIM in Europe -- and you'll avoid Cingular's often obnoxious international rates.

There are a few earlier threads on this, and there's a better expert (xyz123) around, but you can either get the phone in the U.S. or when you get there. In the U.S. there are places like overstock.com or even e-Bay. Just make sure they are unlocked GSM phones that offer bands 900 and 1800.

If you buy overseas, there are plenty of places, such as most TIM stores, electronics shops and big discount retailers like Carrefours. Many big train stations will have a phone shop. shop
repete is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 04:28 AM
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Also, you can purchase more time via several means so don't worry about loading up too much extra. Tabbachi shops, TIM stores and even most of those "international phone centers'' will sell top up cards and most people will teach you how to use them -- or do it for you.

There's also a way to do it over the phone with a credit card, but I haven't managed that.
repete is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 05:29 AM
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Posts: 579
Last time we rented a phone but once we went over the allotted minutes it became very expensive. This time i fuigured we would buy the phone and for the most part we will be in Italy but it sounds like we can but additional cards in France, Spain and Croatia and just put them in - am I correct? Am i also correct the number will change each time we change the card? If someone calls us and speaks or leaves voice mail does this come off our minutes? One more question - you all hope! - we are staying near the Pantheon does anyone know of a tobacco store or electronic store near there or what they are called in Italian? Thanks for being so patient!!!
flycatcher06 is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 09:26 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Yes, you will have to get a new TIM card in each country, which means you will have a new local phone number each time. There are services such as Riing (sp?) that offer the same number for various countries, but I'm not really familiar with it. You can do a text search here for more info, though. I personally find just getting a new TIM card easier.

In my experience, incoming calls are always free (including voice mail). You only use your minutes when you make outgoing calls. Be sure to have the TIM store set your phone to English, and also have them show you how to check your available time remaining without actually making a "charge" call.

If you are staying near the Pantheon, there is a TIM store on the very northern corner of Corso del Rinascimento (one block east of Piaza Navona). There is also one on Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II between Largo Argentina and Chiesa Nuova (on the north side of the street).

There is also a tabacchi shop to buy top up cards on Piazza Navona (on the right-hand side of the piazza, about in the middle, if you are facing north).

Otherwise, we often found tabacchi shops that sold the top up cards in various other areas. Just look for the "T" sign on the street and go in and ask. The top up cards have instructions on the back and if your phone is set to English, your are voice prompted as you go.

Also, bring a copy of your passport (or the original) when purchasing the TIM card. They will request it for their files.

Good luck and feel free to ask if you have any more questions.
Statia is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 11:56 AM
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OK here comes another one is the top off card different from the original sim card - do you have to have the sim card first and then look to top off? Also does anyone know other than EBAY or Overstaock where you might buy a used phone? THANKS SO MUCH! This is the most i have been able to understand!
flycatcher06 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 12:20 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 451
inquiring minds want to know!! so I have already set up an international calling plan with SBC (now ATT) for our family to call us from the US. now for the cells...
dummy question, please be patient with me..how do I know if my cingular motorola v180 phone is unlocked? If not, how do I convince them to unlock it?? THEN, as I understand it, I purchase a sim card in Italy, hopefully screamingly available and obvious to even me, store keeper programs english, minutes, I call US, they then make note of my italian phone number, call me from the US at a super cheap 8 cents per minute, charge to my cell phone-zero..call from me to US--cheaper than europa card or other alternative....Have I got it right so far????
daisy58 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 04:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28
Just wondering if anyone has used the Mobal service, where you buy a phone for $49.95 or the $99.95 and it comes with the appropriate sim card and a phone number, and the per-minute charges don't look too bad. This just seems like an easy way to deal with the cell phone stuff.
heelfan is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 06:09 AM
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I had looked into MOBAL but their per minute chare is expensive - also not free incoming at least the way i read it for Italy and you can only use their Sim card. So it seemed cheap but was not so i really want to buy an unlocked phone this time and try the card. Has anyone ever texted from Europe is that cheaper?
flycatcher06 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 06:26 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 181
Daisy 58 mentioned a charge of 8 cents a minute to call a cell phone in Italy or Europe from the U.S. I don't think so. The supercheap rates are to call land lines. Calls to cell phones are much higher. Our carrier is Verizon and I know it is true for them.
I don't know about cell phones in Italy but I bought one in Spain which I use all the time. It is prepaid of course and it is very easy to add money to it. I have an ATT prepaid calling card for phoning home from Europe and it averages about 45 cents a minute. ATT provides you with a number which connects you with ATT in the US. Incoming phone calls are free.
Raydotman is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 12:51 PM
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flycatcher, yes, the top up card is different from the TIM card that will be put into your phone. The top up cards can be bought in various increments (usually 10 or 20 euro) and you tear just tear the plastic off the card, scratch off the film on the back of the card and a code/pin number will be revealed in order to top up your time. Then, you dial the phone number you are supposed to in order to top up (that number will also be on the back of the top up card, along with instructions) and follow the intructions/voice prompts until it asks for your pin number (the one you scratched off the film to reveal).

daisy, yes, you have it right. Call home from your Italian number and then they can call you at whatever low cost service they use and you will not be charged on your cell for the incoming calls.

Raydotman is also correct that calls cell to cell internationally will be more expensive than land line calls. I have found this when my sister calls me on my cell in Italy. She calls other friends in Europe on land lines and it's less expensive than when she calls me on my cell phone there. It won't cost you on the cell to receive calls, but it will be more expensive than land line calls for people calling you.

As far as unlocking a locked phone, mine has always been unlocked so I have no info on how to do that. Sorry.
Statia is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 02:38 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 5
A really cheap basic cell phone for sale on ebay: Motorola V66. On ebay do a search on "v66 unlocked". There are usually about 100 auctions for these going on. You should be able to pick one up for about $35, including shipping. They work on the 900 1800 band in Europe as well a the 1900 band in the USA. If you live in an area with T-Mobile wireless service, get one of their SIM cards on ebay with some minutes for about $10 before you leave to test your phone.
jdh449 is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2006, 04:07 PM
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To figure out if a mobile phone is unlocked is quite easy...put in a sim card from a different company...example you have a cingular phone borrow somebody's t mobile sim card insert it...the first thing a gsm mobile phone checks for is the identity of the sim card when it boots up....if the phone is locked you will get a message to the effect unauthorized sim card or something like that....doesn't even matter if it's a 900/1800 phone and you're in the USA....before anything else happens it checks the sim card...if the phone is unlocked you will not get a message as noted above...if the phone is a 900/1800 in 1900 turf, nothing will happen as the phone will not be able to register on any network but at least you'll know if the phone is locked or unlocked.
xyz123 is offline  
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