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Old 07-06-2017, 20:41   #1
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Cell phone

OK not a marine electronics device really, but I am now beginning our cruising, have been with Verizon for ever, and have had for years an IPhone.
However Verizon is of course CDMA and for international use I need a GSM phone, and I can do without the IPhone.
I tried in the interim to save some money to go with straight talk, which seemed to be a good deal, however I have discovered that for some reason, I now cannot use the phone to hotspot, which is a deal killer for me, so I am now phone hunting earlier than expected.
Specifically who knows anything about Google Fi? Their cheap phone is it any good, can you travel well with it, is Google a month to month pre-paid service that I can turn on and off when we are out of the US?
Can their phone use regular SIM cards so that the same device can be used internationally?

I do not care much about how big the screen is, how many pixels the camera has etc., I want an inexpensive phone that I can travel well with and that can be used to hot spot.
The difference now for me is the traveling, so of course it has to be a phone I buy and a service without a contract.
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Old 08-06-2017, 00:18   #2
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Re: Cell phone

Metro PCS has cheap phones that provide their 4g 'hotspot' for $30/ month w/ taxes and fees included in the $30.
That plan comes with unlimited talk and texting and a reasonable amount of fast data. That same amount of more extra data can be purchased as needed for $5 more for that month.
I like it a lot, that's what I use. That 'hotspot' can power my laptop or tablet and do videos as if WiFi wireless internet. That's all I use everywhere in the US.
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Old 08-06-2017, 00:47   #3
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Re: Cell phone

You helped me with batteries, now let me assist you with phone service.

First, which model is your iPhone? Verizon will tell you plenty of wrong info, just to get you to stay with them. If it's an iPhone 6 or newer, it's already unlocked and will accept an international SIM card. I'm presently using a Verizon iPhone 6 here in Italy, under an international T-Mobile plan based out of the USA roaming off the TIM network.

You'll need to begin thinking of phone service totally different then land-based. We now use data to make nearly all calls for free. So stick with the iPhone, so that you'll have two good choices "FaceTime" for all your iPhone friends where there won't be a need for them to download an app, or "WhatsApp" for your android or iPhone friends. Lots of android users in the US use Skype, but we haven't had good luck with it on iphones, WhatsApp is much better.
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Old 08-06-2017, 00:54   #4
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Re: Cell phone

I have an unlocked phone, generally any smartphone that is unlocked will accept local sim cards. What ever country I go to I ask the locals what the best provider is and just purchase one of there sim cards. My number changes often but that's not important to me. Or by a cheap smartphone that will take two soms cards, your home one on roam and a local one for 99% of the time.
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Old 08-06-2017, 03:48   #5
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Cell phone

I'll second both of Ken's recommendations. We are currently in Italy and we went directly to a TIM store and purchased SIM's cards. All the folks back home installed WhatsApp on their devices and between the two, we have instant communication with the loved ones. They WhatsApp us and we ether respond using the app or call them as our phone plan over here gives us 4GB of data at 4G & 1000 minutes of international calling. 30 euros for 30 days. We leave for Croatia tomorrow, were we'll get new SIM's cards, we'll see if it's as easy there.
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Old 08-06-2017, 04:28   #6
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Re: Cell phone

I am not an iStuff expert but I traveled all over Europe and parts of Africa and Asia with a quad band Verizon phone that worked everywhere. Just look for any model phone that is rated quad band and it will work on GSM and CDMA including a few countries that use the standard coding but a slightly different frequency (hence the "quad" band).

Currently using a Samsung Galaxy (S5 I think) and Skype works great. Can call other Skype users free or call any number in the world for very cheap.

My main complaint is using the GPS on the Samsung. That can kill a fully charged battery in a couple of hours. Anyone recommend another brand or model that has better battery life? Prefer an Android phone but could learn to live with an iThingy.
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Old 08-06-2017, 04:29   #7
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Re: Cell phone

Target now sells unlocked cell phones.
They had 6 different models at my local store from $50.oo --- 250.oo.. They were all 2017 phones also
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Old 08-06-2017, 04:33   #8
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Re: Cell phone

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
I am not an iStuff expert but I traveled all over Europe and parts of Africa and Asia with a quad band Verizon phone that worked everywhere. Just look for any model phone that is rated quad band and it will work on GSM and CDMA including a few countries that use the standard coding but a slightly different frequency (hence the "quad" band).

Currently using a Samsung Galaxy (S5 I think) and Skype works great. Can call other Skype users free or call any number in the world for very cheap.

My main complaint is using the GPS on the Samsung. That can kill a fully charged battery in a couple of hours. Anyone recommend another brand or model that has better battery life? Prefer an Android phone but could learn to live with an iThingy.
I went away from Samsung for that exact reason, the battery drain was outrageous, to the point the phone would get really hot.
I purchased a oppo f1, $250aud, easily as good as the Samsung imo, not to mention a new Samsung note or iPhone were over $1000!!! they arent four or five times better.
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Old 08-06-2017, 05:19   #9
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Re: Cell phone

This is a moving target. Plans change from month to month, from provider to provider, and from country to country.

Here is my solution which may not--probably won't--be best for you.

I have an AT&T iPhone 6, a Motorola V-Razr, and a Huawei e397. Here's why.

I like iPhones (lots of apps I use often). I've been an AT&T customer for almost 40 years. I lived through AT&T > AT&T Wireless > Cingular > AT&T Wireless. The iPhone supports quad-band GSM and about half the 22 LTE bands extant. When I arrive somewhere, almost anywhere (not North Korea, not most of China, and not Deltaville VA (*sigh*), the phone and my AT&T service just work. It may be expensive but it works. I do NOT use this phone as a hotspot. I have a legacy unlimited data account and the hotspot would require me to give that up.

My Razr is an unlocked quad-band GSM phone that takes a standard (v. micro or nano) SIM card. It's what I use for a local SIM card wherever I am for more than a day or so.

The Huawei e397 is a data stick. It also takes a standard SIM and in most places I can move a local SIM between the Razr and the stick. I like this stick because it has a port to connect an external antenna (very helpful for range - solves the AT&T holes in VA and the Carolinas) and it plugs into a RedPort Optimizer (part of my WiFi range extender) so I can share Internet access across all devices on board. The Optimizer will also share a satellite data connection.

The whole setup costs about $120/month. I'm based in the US (Annapolis MD) and travel a lot for deliveries. I've not had in issue in the US, throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America, or Europe. Bermuda and the Bahamas just work.

I also use a Google Voice number. It's a little fussy outside the US but insulates family, friends, and customers from the vagaries of changing local numbers.

In your situation I think I would look at the specs for your iPhone and see if it has a GSM radio for international roaming. If so I would call Verizon and ask them to unlock it for use with local SIMs overseas. That would leave you with a capable smartphone, good Verizon coverage in the US, day-of-arrival coverage from Verizon international roaming, and the ability to put in a local SIM. Oh - the hotspot would work.

The iPhone also makes WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber easy. They all work fine for me and I use whatever the people at the other end prefer. I like Skype the best, probably only because I've been using it longest.

Add all the useful nav, travel, map, and crowd-sourcing apps and a smartphone has a lot of value for a cruiser.
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Old 08-06-2017, 05:37   #10
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Re: Cell phone

What phone(s) would you guys suggest for a newbie to these setups? Both for the lower 48, as well as for when traveling. Such as to Mexico, or Europe.
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Old 08-06-2017, 05:41   #11
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Re: Cell phone

Your Verizon phone can serve you abroad in urban areas via WiFi calling. We do this all the time.. When you get further out in the weeds though you may need to arrange a local solution. Ken is correct regarding Europe and Asia... Places south of the US border may be more expensive to find solutions.
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Old 08-06-2017, 05:48   #12
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Re: Cell phone

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Currently using a Samsung Galaxy (S5 I think) and Skype works great. Can call other Skype users free or call any number in the world for very cheap.

My main complaint is using the GPS on the Samsung. That can kill a fully charged battery in a couple of hours.
Quote:
Originally Posted by daletournier View Post
I went away from Samsung for that exact reason, the battery drain was outrageous, to the point the phone would get really hot.

FWIW, we have two S5s, one on AT&T and one on Verizon. IIRC, the published battery life spec was ~29-ish hours, and ours get about that with the GPS function turned on.

Still means we have to charge them every day, of course...

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Old 08-06-2017, 08:31   #13
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Cell phone

I understand the quad band thing, way back in the day it was why I carried Balckberries as they were quad band.
However unless I'm mistaken a Verizon IPhone is CDMA only, at least somehow in the US it can only be used for CDMA, however Internationally it is allowed to use other bands?
Nobody is using the Google Fi?

It's a 6S BTW

Seems Metro PCS has terrible coverage?
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:34   #14
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Re: Cell phone

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I understand the quad band thing, way back in the day it was why I carried Balckberries as they were quad band.
However unless I'm mistaken a Verizon IPhone is CDMA only, at least somehow in the US it can only be used for CDMA, however Internationally it is allowed to use other bands?
Nobody is using the Google Fi?
Yes, but you need to let us know the model of your iPhone. IPhone 6 or newer are unlocked and can be used on any network worldwide. Regardless of USA network. It's as simple as replacing the SIM card, takes 15 seconds and a paperclip.

Android phones are proprietary and need to be unlocked... not iPhones.
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:38   #15
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Quote:
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Yes, but you need to let us know the model of your iPhone. IPhone 6 or newer are unlocked and can be used on any network worldwide. Regardless of USA network. It's as simple as replacing the SIM card, takes 15 seconds and a paperclip.


I replaced the Sim of course yesterday to go with Straight talk, that was when I discovered the hotspot capability was missing.
I do not think I can use the phone in the US on a GSM network.
I do not know that for sure though, but believe that unlocked isn't truly unlocked, just as unlimited plans are not truly unlimited either

It's a 6S
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