Decent (Cheap) Phone for International Travel?

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monkey_business
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Decent (Cheap) Phone for International Travel?

Post by monkey_business »

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good, cheap, unlocked quad-band SIM phone to be used internationally? Here is my criteria:

- Needs to come unlocked
- Needs to be quad-band and support SIM cards
- Relatively cheap (less than $100, ideally less than $50)
- Not too flashy looking
- Not big (want it to fit into a front jean pocket comfortably)

I found a few on Amazon, such as: Some input would be much appreciated.
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ol_pops
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shop

Post by ol_pops »

This is a UK store but you may be able to order one from here.
http://www.carphonewarehouse.com/pay-as-you-go
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VictoriaF
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Post by VictoriaF »

I have been looking for a cellular telephone for international travel, but after reading the AT&T plan for iPhone, I decided to pass. (Even if I could unlock it.)

Earlier in August I was in Paris and mentioned this to other people at the meeting I was attending. The answer was very simple, "Go to the nearest Orange booth -- and they are located every few blocks -- and get yourself a simple phone with a SIM card for 20 Euros."

I did not do it mostly because I had better things to do, but it appears that it is much simpler just to land in an European country and get a phone right there.

Victoria
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NYerinLondon
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Post by NYerinLondon »

VictoriaF wrote:I have been looking for a cellular telephone for international travel, but after reading about the AT&T plan for iPhone, I decided that it was too expensive. (Even if I could unlock it.)

Earlier in August I was in Paris and mentioned this to other people at the meeting I was attending. The answer was very simple, "Go to a nearest Orange booth and get yourself a simple phone with a SIM card for 20 Euros."

I did not do it, mostly because I had better things to do, but it appears that it is much simpler just to land in an European country and get a phone right there.

Victoria
Victoria's approach is right. You can usually get one before you leave the airport (destination, that is).

If you want to make sure you have one before you go, Nokias are a pretty good bet. I did a quick check and Nokia makes a GSM SIM card phone for right around $50. Nokia 1661, available on Amazon. Nokias, at least in my experience, come unlocked (straight from the factory).

Good luck!
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Aptenodytes
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Post by Aptenodytes »

I have a couple Motorola V191 phones that I use for this purpose. They are almost indestructible, are quad-band, have very good voice quality including excellent speaker phone, are charged with a standard USB plug, and are very easy to find for less than $70 unlocked. The last one I got I paid $50 for, refurbished.
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monkey_business
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Post by monkey_business »

VictoriaF wrote:I have been looking for a cellular telephone for international travel, but after reading about the AT&T plan for iPhone, I decided that it was too expensive. (Even if I could unlock it.)

Earlier in August I was in Paris and mentioned this to other people at the meeting I was attending. The answer was very simple, "Go to a nearest Orange booth and get yourself a simple phone with a SIM card for 20 Euros."

I did not do it, mostly because I had better things to do, but it appears that it is much simpler just to land in an European country and get a phone right there.

Victoria
Would that be for a quad-band phone? I know you can get cheap phones in Europe for about $25, but I am not sure if they are quad-band. I would like one that can be used almost anywhere, not just in Europe.
expat
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Post by expat »

Would that be for a quad-band phone? I know you can get cheap phones in Europe for about $25, but I am not sure if they are quad-band. I would like one that can be used almost anywhere, not just in Europe.
The cheap phones in France, at least, are not quad band.

I would buy a cheap phone at each destination so you would be sure to have the right power adapter.
Market345
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Smartphone

Post by Market345 »

Have you thought about buying a cheap smartphone instead?

One big advantage of a smartphone while traveling in other countries is that you can take advantage of the data service and use Google Maps to easily get around. I bought a Samsung Galaxy Mini (S5570) and used it heavily throughout Asia to navigate new places and look up travel information. For example, I was able to direct a taxi driver to my hotel using Google Maps more than once. It also helped me beat cheating Taxi drivers who wanted to take me the really long way.

I'd recommend an Android phone as the Google Maps for Android is more current and has some neat features, including measuring distances on the screen.

You can buy a brand new Mini for ~$210 on Amazon. You can probably buy a used Android on eBay for much less. The Mini is smaller than most smartphones.
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Post by rylemdr »

I would also like to recommend Nokia phones. Japanese phones are highly sophisticated/advanced and do not cost that much at all. You won't have problems with a Nokia in most countries in Asia.
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kramer
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Post by kramer »

If you are traveling to more than one foreign country in the next couple of years, I believe the best solution is to buy your unlocked quad band phone in the USA before your trip(s). Many phones you buy abroad from a carrier are locked to that carrier (and there are other issues, also).

I am doing the same shopping as the OP, and also narrowed it down to the Nokia C2-01 but feel I need to do more research. The reviews (on other sites besides Amazon) seem to be decent but not great. You can charge it via USB which is a must-have for me, I don't want to carry around another charger in my pack.

I have used the Motorola V197 quad-band in many countries with great success over the last 3 years, and I also use it with a Tmobile sim card in the USA. It was selling new for less than $60 a couple of years ago but does not seem to be as available nowadays:

http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-V197-Unl ... B0016JB8K0

but the phone is just plain outdated now, and a bit heavy at 4+ ounces, which is why I wanted an upgrade.
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Watty
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Post by Watty »

I was just looking into this for Europe and found the Rick Steve's web site on this.

http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/mobilephones.htm

Lots of good info if that is where you are going.
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monkey_business
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Post by monkey_business »

Anyone have any experience with the following:

Sony Cedar: http://www.amazon.com/Sony-Cedar-J108i- ... B0046EJYP8

It's also available on Newegg for ~$60. Seems fairly similar to the Nokia C2 in terms of specs.
gd
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Post by gd »

I bought a cheap $60-$70 phone for that purpose (Nokia 2720 from Best Buy, I think) reading seller's specs carefully to ensure it was quad band. Got to europe, stuck my working SIM card in, nothing. It turns out the phone is made in 2 separate dual-band models-- USA and other, and the copy writers, having a firm grasp of 2+2=4 and little else, seemed to think that was good enough to advertise as quad band. Looking back, there were clues in other independent reviews (CNet stated they reviewed a US-only version). There is usually a reason for cheap prices on goods usually more expensive, and I believe quad band phones still ask premium prices.

A better solution is to simply buy a cheap european dual-band when you get there.
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Post by Easy Rhino »

I bought a cheap nokia phone in the philippines which I was told was tri band, and turned out to be dual band (europe and SE asia only, no US or japan).
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kramer
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Post by kramer »

Easy Rhino wrote:I bought a cheap nokia phone in the philippines which I was told was tri band, and turned out to be dual band (europe and SE asia only, no US or japan).
Most tri-bands sold in the Eastern hemisphere are 900, 1800, 1900 (and thus will not work in the USA environment of 850/1900). Most tri-bands sold in the Western hemisphere are 850, 1800, 1900. This is an endless source of confusion and a good reason to get a quad band phone instead of a tri-band. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen a tri-band phone in Asia for sale with the 850 frequency included.
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Post by FireProof »

rylemdr wrote:I would also like to recommend Nokia phones. Japanese phones are highly sophisticated/advanced and do not cost that much at all. You won't have problems with a Nokia in most countries in Asia.
But Nokia is Finnish, no?
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Post by Chuck T »

I have a friend that bought a cheap GSM unlocked phone and sim card from this site for international travel. Check the website for details to see if it is a good fit for you. www.telestial.com
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Watty
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Post by Watty »

Chuck T wrote:I have a friend that bought a cheap GSM unlocked phone and sim card from this site for international travel. Check the website for details to see if it is a good fit for you. www.telestial.com

Thanks for pointing that out. After researching their $19 dollar phone I ordered two for a trip to Europe for my wife and I. In researching it, it looks like some people have found their SIM and international connections to a bit quirky or worse at times. I plan on buying a local SIM when I get there so I don't think that will be a concern for us.

On the $19 phone it also looks like the battery life is very short with some people reporting less than a day of standby time. For us that should not be a problem since the phone will usually be turned off except for when I am making a call to book a hotel or occasionally for a few hours when we are apart for part of the day.
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Post by Mudpuppy »

monkey_business wrote:Anyone have any experience with the following:

Sony Cedar: (link removed due to newbie post filter)

It's also available on Newegg for ~$60. Seems fairly similar to the Nokia C2 in terms of specs.
Long time lurker here... I just saw this question and had to answer since I have the previous model to the SE Cedar (the SE Naite). I have no issues with the phone, but I have only used it stateside with an AT&T SIM as my travel plans changed after I purchased it. It is very durable, even though it feels rather flimsy with its recycled plastic shell. But it has survived several accident drops on hard floors over the nine months I've had it.

While it isn't a smart phone, the built-in web browser and text messaging programs work well. I haven't tried the built in email program as it doesn't interface with my ISP. Of course you give up the versatility of a smart phone, but it sounds like you're fine with doing so for this purpose. The built-in camera is also "only" 2 megapixels, but then I can recall when that was expensive tech so that's not an issue for me. It records video and sound decently enough as well.

And it looks like SE fixed my biggest issue with the Naite in the Cedar revision, which was the use of a proprietary plug instead of mini-USB for charging and 3.5mm for a headset. I'd say if the phone interests you (and you haven't bought anything else since posting), try the Cedar.
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kramer
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Post by kramer »

The reviews for the Nokia C2 seem very good but a number of people complain that the volume does not go high enough. This is a big issue abroad in developing countries that you don't notice so much in the USA (which has much more quiet public spaces).

I am leaning toward not upgrading as I am headed to Mexico (which uses the same frequencies as the USA). Carlos Slim and his Telcel quasi-monopoly in the Mexican market have assured that talking, texting, and data on mobile phones is so expensive that you won't be doing much of that.

Another "foreign developing country" issue I have had is that more volume and clarity is needed when not talking in your native language. And some of the cheap handsets just have terrible volume quality (unfortunately, this is what most of the people you are talking to are using). This was the case when I picked up my first cheapo Nokia abroad a few years ago which I quickly discarded for this reason. This is another good reason to bring your own phone.
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