We’re all busy these days, but there’s no fool like the fool who thinks that, no matter where they go, the satellite is a friend and the world their oyster. Not preparing in advance for your Smartphone addictions is going to cost you big time. Atypically, a US Cellular customer who turns on his phone when his plane lands in Puerto Vallarta from Denver is going to be paying eleven times the normal fee to indulge themselves in their usual Facebook and Twitter jamboree.
There are a number of alternatives, however. The process can be a bit of a hassle, but, if you’d prefer not to see a phone bill in the high hundreds, you ought to make some choices. The major phone carriers offer various travel plans, according to Forbes. One is a prepaid voice and data package you buy before you travel. These plans are usually specific vis-a-vis detailing the cost of a text message or how much you’ll pay per minute for a phone call, although things grow opaque when it comes to data. Of course, data is what you need to post a photo to Instagram, for video chats, or to stream music, or search for the address of that wild game restaurant in Bologna you read about somewhere.
This is where T-Mobile gives its customers an advantage. Its ‘Simple Plan’ is a fantastic option. At $50 a month, you can utilize unlimited talk, text and data at home, or, for no extra fee, unlimited data and text in more than 120 countries. One cheeky journalist I know who only tends to go outside the US once a year for the British Open, uses the ‘Simple Plan’ on an old phone for the month and then cancels it upon returning without a penalty.
T-Mobile’s claim of ‘unlimited global data speeds’ is very limited abroad, though, so forget about video streaming or video chatting. Otherwise, you can buy one of the company’s high-speed data passes, which cost $15 for a one-day 100-megabyte pass, or $50 for a 14-day 500-megabyte pass. That’s a lot of cash for not that much data, but it is an option.
Other plans include AT&T’s International data plan. AT&T sells theirs as part of a separate deal offering talk and text extras for $30 per every 120MB.120MB won’t last long, either, so video calling isn’t practical, as just only five minutes takes up 24 MB. Sending emails with just text is doable, but a single photo uses up 5 MB.
Verizon offers even less. Their ‘Global Data’ plan runs separate to their voice and text plans, which cost $25 and $40 per every 100 MB. Ouch! Finally, there’s Mobal, which offers their ‘Dumbphone’ service in over 190 countries for no monthly fee. You buy the phone for around $20 and then pay as you go when you actually make calls. It’s a good option for those who might only need a phone for emergencies like your vehicle breaking down but have no other pressing business. Above all I recommend T-Mobile.
SIM cards are a separate alternative. They carry smart microchips that own a unique ID number and store personal data. Not all phones have them, but the modern majority do. In the U.S. we have mobile phones using two main types of carrier technologies: CDMA and GSM. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA and AT&T, T-Mobile and pretty much the rest of the world are on GSM. Anyone who wants to use a prepaid SIM card abroad will need a GSM supported device. Otherwise you’ll have language hassles in whatever country you’re using it in, unless you’re fluent in which case you’ll understand the set-up instructions.
Wi-Fi is cool because it offers you access to data, texting, and calling from anywhere. Setting up your own temporary personal hotspot is worth it for serious data users. Boingo, a company with over a million hotspots all over the worldwide, is a well-known provider with a good track record. For $7.95 a month, you can get worldwide Wi-Fi on up to four mobile devices. It’s a recurring subscription, but you can cancel it when you return with no penalty. Still, as I saw recently on a trip to Mexico, location coverage may not even be close to as good as it’s claimed to be.