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Old 25-09-2015, 14:49   #1
Guy
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Telephony for dummies

We would like to have internet along the coast of Central America and MX. Is this a matter of sticking some little object into the side of an unlocked smart phone or a computer and paying a fee for a month or 2 of phone service? I like the idea of having a phone with a gps but we don't have smart phone accounts in the US. Connecting to the laptop would work best, can you do both?
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Old 25-09-2015, 15:30   #2
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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Originally Posted by Guy View Post
.... Is this a matter of sticking some little object into the side of an unlocked smart phone or a computer and paying a fee for a month or 2 of phone service? ...
Basically "yes".

With an unlocked smart phone you can just purchase a local SIM chip (about $1 typically). With this you can set up both voice and data service. Most smart phones can be used to set up a local Wifi hot spot where the phone acts like a router. Multiple devices can then share the phone's Internet connection.

There are a variety of ways to do this, but this is one of the simplest and no extra hardware is required.

You can also buy an external cellular modem which you then plug into the USB port of your computer, but that just gets one computer Internet access and no voice service (unless you use services Skype). If you connect the modem to a router then multiple devices can use the Internet.

Ive used some combination of all the above all over Central America.
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Old 25-09-2015, 15:38   #3
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Re: Telephony for dummies

Re coverage along the coast...you have to be in range of a cell tower of course. Dont know current state of coverage along the Mexican coast, but Belize and Guatemala have good coverage. Honduras does too, but I would stay way away from the coast there. The Bay Islands have good coverage. Most folks avoid the Nicaraguan coast, but there is service in Providencia & San Andres. Most skip the Coasta Rican coast...as have I.

Pamama has good coverage around Bocas, and from Colon thru the San Blas, but you will need different carriers for different areas. For example, Digicel for the San Blas and MoviStar around Colon.
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Old 25-09-2015, 16:00   #4
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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...I like the idea of having a phone with a gps but we don't have smart phone accounts in the US. ...
No need to have a USA account, just buy a smart phone in Central America, no contract required, with a built in GPS. I have a Samsung Pocket with built in GPS (purchased in Guatemala). Samsung is brand name so a bit more expensive, but good quality. You can get cheaper, but be wary of no name Chinese junk.
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Old 25-09-2015, 16:57   #5
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Re: Telephony for dummies

We discovered that Apple made a specific version of the iPhone 5 for Verizon. The phone was designed for CDMA but also had an unlocked GSM port. As we have traveled around the world one of the first stops in any new country is to get a new SIM for our iPhone, which gives us voice and broadband Internet access. Even in some of the poorest countries, eg Madagascar, we've been able to connect with family and friends via voice using Skype, Viber, FaceTime or Facebook Messenger. When we enable the Personal Hotspot on the iPhone, all of our tablets and PCs are able to connect as well.

My wife dislikes being so far away from family but her ability to talk with them essentially for free whenever she wants to has diminished much of her separation anxiety.

Forgive me for kind of hijacking the thread.

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Old 25-09-2015, 17:13   #6
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
No need to have a USA account, just buy a smart phone in Central America, no contract required, with a built in GPS. I have a Samsung Pocket with built in GPS (purchased in Guatemala). Samsung is brand name so a bit more expensive, but good quality. You can get cheaper, but be wary of no name Chinese junk.
So I can buy a Samsung gt-s5300 here in the US for a $100 and a sim card in Fronteras or should both be picked up down there? Then I would be connected or is it more complicated than that??
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Old 25-09-2015, 17:26   #7
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Re: Telephony for dummies

... the Samsung gt-s5300 is 'already' 2 years old, where do you still get it? You should see that it is 'unlocked' (not locked to a special US carrier - although there are ways to unlock it).

I do not know much about Samsung phones so others will chime in here, maybe get a more recent one ...

I would buy in the US and get a card 'down there'.

Carsten
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Old 25-09-2015, 18:55   #8
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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So I can buy a Samsung gt-s5300 here in the US for a $100 and a sim card in Fronteras or should both be picked up down there? Then I would be connected or is it more complicated than that??
Yes, but more likely locked in the USA. Just be sure its unlocked. If unlocked, pick up a Tigo SIM (best coverage on the Rio) and you are good to go. Same TIGO SIM works in Honduras too. You add money to the phone then buy a navigation package (data plan) using that balance. I forget the codes to do this, but the cell phone shop can show you. There are various package choices based on days of service and data limits, ranging from 1 day to 30. Same balance is also used for calls.

Or, you could just buy the whole set up in Guatemala City on your way back and are very unlikely to get a locked phone that way (Ive only ever encoutered one in Guate...must have been imported from the USA ). Plenty of well stocked phone shops in any major mall (Proceros, Oakland, ...) and in places like Torres de Gemini which is an easy walk from popular hotels in Z10.

I use Ding (EZ Top) to send money to my phone. Its convenient because its on line (no trip to the phone store) and it works with most major carriers (Ive used it with SIMs from every country in CA).
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Old 25-09-2015, 19:03   #9
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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Originally Posted by CarstenWL View Post
... the Samsung gt-s5300 is 'already' 2 years old, where do you still get it? You should see that it is 'unlocked' (not locked to a special US carrier - although there are ways to unlock it).

I do not know much about Samsung phones so others will chime in here, maybe get a more recent one ...

I would buy in the US and get a card 'down there'.

Carsten
Regardless of model of phone, given that its the same phone, why would you buy in the USA instead of "down there"?
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Old 25-09-2015, 19:22   #10
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Regardless of model of phone, given that its the same phone, why would you buy in the USA instead of "down there"?
That's good news, one less thing to think about. Any chance"down there" is one of the places with the pretty phone sales girls near where guys take a leak near Bruno's?
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Old 26-09-2015, 07:15   #11
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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That's good news, one less thing to think about. Any chance"down there" is one of the places with the pretty phone sales girls near where guys take a leak near Bruno's?
Fronteras will have less selection than Guate City, but yes you can find what you need in Fronteras. Though GPS phones may be less commom. There is a store that I prefer run by two guys who are more technically adept (most other shops only know how to sell you minutes). If you walk up the stairs from Brunos, hang a right onto the street, past the farmacia and the side street next to it, a few locales down on your right is their shop. IIRC there is another shop right next to them now...look for one of the guys behind the counter...they are both lighter skinned and taller than the average Guatemalteco. They can sell you what you need and set it all up.

They do often have pretty girls out front hawking phones. (Funny related story. It was a rare slow day in Fronteras. I dropped by their shop, but no pretty girl out front and no one at the counter. No one responded to my "hola"...so I stepped into the backroom...ooops...discovered where one of the guys and the pretty girl went to!).

The risk is that if they dont have the phone you want...then you will need to bus it over to Morales for a bigger selection. In the City of course you can find whatever you want, including iPhones.
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Old 26-09-2015, 08:16   #12
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Re: Telephony for dummies

Quote:
Regardless of model of phone, given that its the same phone, why would you buy in the USA instead of "down there"?
Only thought that the selection is greater in the US. I do not know about prices in Central America ...

Carsten
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Old 26-09-2015, 08:35   #13
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Re: Telephony for dummies

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Only thought that the selection is greater in the US. I do not know about prices in Central America ...

Carsten
Yes, there is bigger selection in the land of stuff, but major CA cities have a good selection. Guatemala City for example is a large (10M?) International city with a very good selection of phones & other consumer electronics. Big name brand goods are a little more expensive than USA prices, but the advantage is that the OP can get it all in one place and set up by the staff for what he wants to do in country. Its common for people to run into minor technical difficilties setting up phones from the USA. This is frustrating...esp if they are not technical/phone savvy, as the title of this thread implies.

One stop shopping I think is a significant advantage in this case.
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