The Unlocked Cell Phone

Folks overseas probably thing this is kinda silly, but as it turns out our cell phones simply won’t work overseas. In our case our carrier (Verizon) uses CDMA technology which isn’t even used overseas. Other carriers use the more globally accepted GSM technology, but “lock” their cell phones to their networks. Get a phone from AT&T, and it’ll work with AT&T, and that’s about it.

With our upcoming trip, we don’t really need a cell phone, but we’ve come to rely on its convenience and security.

Never having been down this path before it was all pretty new to me. Research – including suggestions from my readers – was quick to turn up two important items:

  • I could purchase an “unlocked” cell phone that would work overseas
  • I could also purchase pre-paid SIM cards that would enable coverage everywhere we cared about without needing any long term commitments
Cellular Options when Travelling

The cell phone arrived from Adorama Camera (via Amazon) about the same day that the final package from the travel agency arrived with information about … mobile coverage while traveling. They had included a phone card I could use, as well as information from a supplier, ekit for the SIM card I needed.

Several folks had suggested I simply pick up a SIM card at the airport after I landed – they should be plentiful and relatively inexpensive. While lucrative, I opted for one from the agency for two reasons:

  • A U.S. phone number was included.
  • I could test it all out prior to leaving. (And share that phone number with a chosen few)

Between phone and card I think I spent maybe $100, including some amount of pre-paid air time.

Once again I know the fact that that this is special is probably somewhat bewildering to overseas readers. Chalk it up to the strange not-a-monopoly that the cellular/mobile carriers have here in the U.S. – they intentionally make it difficult to switch from carrier to carrier, and locked cell phones are one of several ways they use to do exactly that.