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ecat Nov 5th, 2004 04:52 PM

xyz123 more cell phone help please
Hi xyz123,

I have been reading over your informed posts on cell phone purchasing and yet I still have questions that I hope you can help with.

In the US I don't have a cell, I may be the only person in the US who doesn't, but that's beside the point.

When I travel I mainly go to Italy, I figure if I'm going to purchase a cell why not get a tri-band so I can use it here in the states if I choose later on.

I've been on a few sites and found a Motorola V60i GSM for $145. USD, a good price I think in comparison with many sites - I also found a Siemens A60 for $129.

The questions are:
If I purchase this here on-line, can I just get a SIM card when I'm in Rome? I've read something about needing to be a citizen of Italy in order to do this. I also think the SIM card are cheaper at a TIM store if you purchase over there - am I correct? If I do purchase there is that when my phone will be issued it's phone number and only then ready to charge?

Also if I get the prepaid card here in addition to the phone for $89.USD can I charge it before I go to Italy so it will be ready for use there?

Also do you or anyone know if there a preference on Brands - Motorola vs Siemens ect.

Sorry for all the questions but I am clueless with cell phones and I appreciate that you're not clueless!

Thanks for any help!


Michael Nov 5th, 2004 05:24 PM

Why get a cell phone? You can purchase telephone cards and there are public telephones everywhere.

xyz123 Nov 5th, 2004 05:47 PM


I am not an expert on Italy, I just don't go there. However, I have read that this business about having an Italian ID number is no problem in the slightest and that almost every mobile phone operator will get one for you to make the sale.

The two phones you describe are fine...however if you don't have a US mobile phone, you might be able to save a little money by getting a dual band and my friends tell me Italian mobile phone prices are very inexensive..but then we come back to the nasty question of whether Italian operators lock phones or how easy (probably very easy) it is to unlock a phone while in Italy or wherever your next sojourn to Europe will be.

Pretty oblique answers but I hardly know anybody who doesn't have a mobile phone in the US. I mean I know when my daughter started to drive, I would not let her get in the car without a mobile phone just in case. Even if you buy the cheapest plan imaginable, something like $20/month, isn't it worth your peace of mind to have it in the car with you if you suddenly have an emergency on a motorway and have to summon aid?

Don't listen to these 19th century types who don't understand how great it is to have a mobile phone with you while on holiday in Europe. You can be reached 24/7, you can be out with somebody and be told about a great restaurant and instead of hunting for a pay phone (and believe me because of the proliferation of mobile phones in Europe pay phones are becoming scarcer and scarcer just like in the US) to call the restaurant, you can make a reservation. Or if you are driving and are going to be late to your next hotel, you can call ahead.

Believe me, once you've travelled with a mobile phone, you probably will start saying to yourself how could you have gone all these years without one; I know I did a couple of years ago when I started researching the topic.

So to review, the phones are fine and if you buy them here on line, they will almost certainly be unlocked and I am 99% sure you will have little difficulty procuring a TIM card in Rome; have a great trip.

ecat Nov 5th, 2004 05:53 PM


Phone cards are great, I've used them plenty of times - however there are many reasons form me to consider purchasing a cell and I'm trying to learn how to do this.

I tend to rent apartments without a phone, when you are out and about and trying to make plans hear back from someone public phones just aren't the answer.

rex_skidmore Nov 5th, 2004 06:03 PM

Michael - you also missed the statment Eileen made about using the phone in the US upon her return.

ecat Nov 5th, 2004 06:10 PM

xyz123 Thank you!

Ok, please if you will listen to more ramblings in my head. I promise only a few more questions and that I will pass on my new knowlege too.

If I do purcahse the SIM card there - once it's put in, is that the first point when I can start to charge the phone?

Also if purchased in Italy, do you know how difficult it will be to program my phone to the English language? I have a feeling the people at the Tim store would be very helpful with this.

Or if I purchase the prepaid SIM here on-line can I charge it here before my actual trip and figure out how to use the darm thing!

When I get back to the US would I buy a US SIM card?

I could purchase a cheaper version in Italy, a dual band, but my feeling is that with the US dollar the way it is I doubt I'll save much so it seems better to get a tri band here on-line which as we know will be unlocked - so I'll probably just purchase the phone here.

Yikes my brain hurts - thanks again you for all your help.


xyz123 Nov 5th, 2004 06:33 PM

Let's see if I can help you..

1. Yes you can charge the phone without a SIM card in it while you are here; the question comes up if the charger provided for the phone you buy is dual voltage in which case all you will need is an adaptor plug or if the charge is on North American cuttent, you might need the same kind of converter sold in radio shack to convert European 220 to North American 110. So look on the charger to see if it says INPUT 100 - 240 Volts or input 120 volts and procede accordingly so you can bring the phone to Italy already charged.

Now I absolutely don't advise buying the SIM pack sold by rip off sites such as They triple the price and it is easy enough to buy the SIM pack in Italy. As I have said, Europeans are eons ahead of Americans when it comes to mobile phone technology and you will find in a big city like Rome a mobile phone store on almost every corner.

The phone itself can always be programmed for English. If you read the manual it will explain how to program the phone for English using the menus. You can't operate the menus until the SIM card is inserted; most phones tend to be set to automatic and when an Italian SIM card is inserted, it will probably default to Italian but the person selling you the SIM card can easily remedy the situation for settings can always be set to English.

However, the menus you will hear on the phone will most likely be, surprise, in Italian. Now I have sims in Holland and in Poland and they can be set (the man selling me the SIM did it for me) to have the phone's spoken menus be in English and of course British mobile phone companies have the spoken menus in English but I would think that in a country such as Italy that cannot be done (but check with the company)

Now since the US is so backwards in mobile phone technology, prepaid in some cases is not done the same way in the US. T mobile prepaid operates with SIM cards and you will be able to put a T mobile prepaid SIM card into your phone but US carriers just do not believe people will arrive with mobile phones and seek out pay as you you would probably have to buy an entire kit with a cheap give away phone from say T mobile but if you don't like the giveaway phone they are selling, you can always insert the SIM card into your phone provided it is tri band (900,1800 and 1900). AT&T and Cingular GSM pay as you go are more problematic as they are using 850 frequency a lot along with some 1900 and your tri band 900/1800/1900 phone does not operate on 850. Why does the US use 850 and 1900 while 99% of the rest of the civilized and non civilized world uses 900 and 1800 is a fascinating story of a variety of problems and boils down to the US not prioritorizing back in 1990 the importance of globalization of mobile phone frequencies. But then again, the US is still about the only country using the archaic Farenheit and non metric measurement systems so why join the rest of the world in something as trivial as mobile phone frequencies (actually, there were good reasons the US did not go along with this in 1990 but it left us the lurch we are in today).

Hope that helps.

isabel Nov 5th, 2004 06:36 PM

I'm no expert but here's what I do know. Charging the phone and having a SIM card are two totally different things. Whatever phone you buy comes with a charger and you can plug it in and charge it regardless of whether or not it has a SIM card. It won't be able to call anywhere without the SIM card of course, but you can certainly charge it. If you buy it here it will come with a charger that will work in Europe, but you will need to get the correct plug adapter (little cheap thing that fits on the end of the plug) for whichever country you are going to (e.g. most of southern Europe has one type, Great Britain another, etc). Same thing if you bought it over there, when you came back to the US you'd need a plug adapter to fit our outlets.

Now for the SIM card. I bought one in Italy last summer with no problem. No one said anything about being a citizen. When you put in the SIM card the phone now has the phone number that goes with that SIM card. Assuming you have already charged the phone you can start using it immediately. When you come back here the Italian SIM card will not work in the US. You'd have to go to Cingular or Verizon or whoever and get one.

Usually when you sign up for a monthly plan with a US wireless phone company you get a phone for free or very cheap. But if the phone you buy to use in Italy is a better quality then you could certainly use it, as long as it has the US bands (e.g. is quad band, or I guess triband would work). Now here's the part I'm not sure of. In addition to montly plans (you pay a certain amount each month and they give you a certain amount of minutes, you can go over the number of minutes but then they bill you for the extra. You have to keep the plan for a year or so) you can buy pre-paid cards here too (that's what you'll be getting in Italy). However, I THINK, the pre-paid US plans mostly use the old technology, not GSM - which is what uses SIM cards. So it might not work. But I'm not clear on that part, maybe someone else can help you there.

Good luck, figuring out cell phones is one big pain in the butt. But I do think it is worth it.

Shrink Nov 5th, 2004 06:38 PM

Hi Ecat
No you arent the only one in the US without a cell phone. That makes two of us. I go to Europe for a week at a time a couple of times a year. I just rent a phone for the time I am over there. Verizon does this. They provide the phone, activated on the day you get into Europe, and deactivate it the day you return. Dont know how long you stay in Europe, but the cost is $2/day for the phone, and $1.50/ minute for air time. There is a $300 deposit to get the phone which is refunded when you return it to them in the envelope provided. To me this avoids all the mess of Sim cards, or other hi-teck stuff I dont understand. No -- I dont work for Verizon. Just thought I might mention it.

xyz123 Nov 5th, 2004 06:47 PM

T mobile prepaid is GSM as T mobile is 100% GSM.

As far as renting a mobile phone, read some of the horror stories on this site and you will see the chance you are taking by renting....

xyz123 Nov 5th, 2004 07:00 PM

One other quick point on renting mobile phones...

European mobile phone pay as you go plans are predicated on the principle that the caller pays all costs. You don't pay for time on the phone as American carriers do.

So when you have a European prepaid SIM plan, as long as you are not roaming i.e. in the home country of the SIM card, you do not pay when somebody calls you. The caller pays a premium which eventually goes to the mobile phone company.

You may or may not have noticed if you use any international dialing plans in the US it might say calls to the UK are 7 cents/minute but calls to UK mobiles are 30 cents/minute. That difference goes to the UK mobile phone company as the recipient will not pay to receive calls.

Now if you are roaming outside the country of origin, well T mobile US is pretty good as far as roaming is concerned as compared to others but yu pay 99 cents/minute to make calls and 99 cents/minute to receive calls and the receiving part is what hurts and what makes it best, if you're going to be in a country for more than a day or two, to go in the direction of prepaid SIM's.

Since my primary carrier is T mobile, I do have international roaming. Last summer I went on a tour through Scandanavia where we were in Norway for 3 or 4 days, Sweden and Denmark for 3 days each in Germany for 1 day and then through Holland back to England. I did not think the amount of time I would be in each of the countries justified purchasing a prepaid SIM so I gritted my teeth and paid the T mobile roaming charges (didn't use the phone all that much; do a lot of text messaging however!

But I already had a Dutch phone from previous visits to Amsterday so it was active and when we got back to London, i've had a British mobile for a while, just had to put in the appropriate SIM card.

The other problem associated with all this is telling people your local phone number. Well that, at least to me, is not a problem. I have call forwarding set up on my phone and I have dealt with a service called Telcan who give me an 800 number which I can program to ring on any phone in the world.

So I call forward from my home phone to the 800 phone number, program it on the web to whatever local phone number I am using, or my own T mobile cell phone when I am roaming, and voila dial my home # and you are instantly speaking to me in Denmark; caller does not know the difference except for the weird European rining tone....

As I say isn't 21st century technology neat!

ecat Nov 5th, 2004 07:05 PM

Bravo bravo!

Thank you xyz123 & all - the girl is finally getting it!

The phones I'm looking at have Free 110-240 v charger.

Best, Eileen

xyz123 Nov 5th, 2004 08:29 PM

So you can charge it here and there...all you will need is the proper adapter plug. No converter necessary.

Cobos Nov 6th, 2004 03:36 AM

It is good your phone has a dual-voltage charger, but selling the phone with a free charger is a bit like selling a car with a "free" steering wheel :)
But I have a question for xyz123 as well :)
What are those voice menus I've heard you mention before ? Are you talking about the voice you get when you call a phone that is turned off f. inst. ?


xyz123 Nov 6th, 2004 03:54 AM

When I referred to voice menus, I meant the commands you hear when you say go into voice mail. You know the ones that say please enter your pin. Or what you hear when trying to set p your personal message on voice mail, you know stuff like at the tone please record your message. When you have finished, please press the number key (in Britain they call it the hash key)...or what the caller hears after he or she hears your personal message like at the tone please record your message. When you have finished, you can hang up or press 1 for other options. Or when you go to recharge the phone, please enter the number from the re charge ticket followed by the number key....stuff like that. Since there are so many English speakers in a country like Holland, in setting up the service, you can have the option of having all this in English. In France, naturally, no such option exists and the caller hears French when going into your voice mail...

Hope that clarifies....

isabel Nov 6th, 2004 04:37 AM

xyz - while we've got your attention, I have a question unrelated to the OP's but it's quick so maybe you can answer it here instead of my starting a new thread. Is there anywhere at Heathrow to buy a SIM? And if not are the Virgin Mobile stores (I assume that's the best one for London) all over the major shopping streets - like Kensington High Street? How about in Bayswater? Thanks

xyz123 Nov 6th, 2004 05:31 AM

Yes on all counts....

xyz123 Nov 6th, 2004 05:39 AM

In Bayswater, there is a Carphone Warehouse right across from Bayswater station and if you walk up and down Queensway you will find every one of the British mobile phone companies represented.

On High Street Kensington, within a 2 or 3 block radius of the underground station, you will find each of the mobile companies with a store; there is a Virgin mini store across the street several doors down from McDonald's and each of the chain stores (the Link, Phones4U, Carphone Warehouse) have branches within a 2 or 3 block radius....

Heathrow could be problematic as I know there is a Virgin store somewhere in one of the terminals but I don't remember which side of customs it is found on and when you arrive, you are somewhat in a different area of the terminal than the departure lounge and I don't remember a mobile phone shop on the other side of immigration and customs and I don't know whether you are coming in via Terminal 3 or Terminal 4.

Robespierre Nov 6th, 2004 11:59 AM

I've used my AT&T Siemens S46 in Europe without doing anything. It's expensive per minute, but I only used it a couple of times to call home.

But I don't actually understand why it worked. It's TDMA 800/1900 and GSM 900/1900. Would it work, for example, if I bought a Virgin SIM for £10? What other options do I have without buying another phone? Are there any cross-border carriers, or are SIMs strictly per-country?

PLMN Nov 6th, 2004 12:30 PM

Before my trip to Italy I knew I wanted to get a new cell phone to replace the one I had. (One that would not work in Italy.)

I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the best way to handle the situation.

Here is what I ended up doing:

1) Upgraded to Motorolla V400

2) Purchased TIM chip in Italy and placed it in my phone. (A fellow fodorite suggested carrying my US chip in an empty breath strip pack and this was perfect.) When you put the chip in your phone you will have an Italian cell phone number. You can just use your cell phone to call home or where ever you want and give them your new number. Making calls to the US was so easy I couldn't believe it.

3) When my time would run low I would purchase more time.

All the technical information available could drive you nuts, it drove me to distraction.

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