Where Chitown's travels and smart tips intersect.

Unlocked Cell Phones

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This originally comes from my London trip report, but it is very useful info for any international travel. In order to use a SIM card, you must have a SIM enabled phone that is unlocked. At a minimum, you should have a quad band GSM phone that works on the four bandwidths of 850, 900, 1800, and 1900. For 3G service, you should have a 3G pent band phone to work on the 850, 900, 1700, 1800, 1900, and 2100 bandwidths. The quad band GSM phone is all you really need unless you will be doing a lot of data tasks while traveling, but then it will run up your bill, as data is charged by the kilobyte. The benefit of using a SIM card is being able to have a temporary carrier which will allow for inexpensive phone calls and texts. I use Lebara which is available in many countries in the world, and I can call from the UK to the USA for about 11 cents (7pence) a minute and make local calls for around 20 cents a minute. The reason I detail this information is so readers will see the difference between Europe and much of the rest of the world and how their cell phones work in different countries. In the US, people buy phones from a carrier, and they are then tied to that carrier. In the rest of the world, people often buy their phones unlocked, and then select which provider or pre paid Sim card carrier they wish. The benefit of the no contract phone is that you buy whatever phone you desire, select the service, and then are NOT bound to any specific carrier. In other words: Freedom rocks!

ATT locks it customers phones, but they can be unlocked at some mobile phone stores, but this may void your warranty. When the iPhone first came out, there was the story of the guy who visited Europe and rang up a $20,000 phone bill by leaving his iPhone turned on and to receive updates. I use TMobile service, and they will send you the unlock code for your phone but you still have a contract each time you get a new phone with them, or you may pay full price for the phone without a contract. I do not like the idea of ATT ordering TMobile’s customers around when the merger will be compete, but I hope the merger does not happen, as TMobile is a good provider.

After my first TMobile Motorola phone, I started buying my phones unlocked directly from the manufacturer, and I have not had a contract since 2005. I simply place my TMobile SIM card into the phone, and I have service. In the past, I had Motorola phones, but Motorola stopped selling unlocked phones online, so now I use Nokia phones for several reasons. They are unlocked, do not require a contract, and their N8 line of phones has an excellent camera with 8-12 megapixels, a Carl Zeiss lense, and a Xenon flash that enables even professional photographers to take pictures, and it removes the need to carry around a stand alone camera. The phone also shoots video as well and has a host of other features. I currently use the N86, which can be seen below.


The current model is the N8 with a 12 megapixel camera and it is a touch phone. It can be bought for around $400-$450 from Amazon or Nokia direct Other Nokia phones also offer good cameras, but the N8 line is the big Kahuna of them all.



Written by chitownflyer

April 25, 2011 at 7:22 pm

One Response

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  1. Nice Blog with Excellent information


    July 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm

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