Phones forum


Cheap smartphone for Italy, Australia and Asia

by Sukki007 / February 15, 2013 5:10 PM PST

I'll be traveling to Italy and Australia this year, and Asia early next year. I barely make phone calls when traveling, but do want to be able to access email and a few apps with wifi, as well as make and receive those few calls that are necessary. Since my call usage will be minimal, I don't want to have to pay my carrier, AT&T, for their exorbitant international rates. Is there an inexpensive smart phone that will work in all three areas, or is there any other solution?

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Clarification Request
What Bob said, and more
by Pepe7 / February 16, 2013 12:16 AM PST

Does your current phone lack those capabilities? For example, I have a few smartphones that are five or six years old that could still work in Europe/Asia (e.g. they have all the correct frequency bands),or over wifi only if needed to avoid cellular data roaming charges, etc. If you aren't certain, you could provide us with make/model so we could check for you.

If you are certain that your current phone does lack that ability, we could probably find you something which could suffice. What is your approximately budget? For a new handset (not used), you are looking at spending at least $150-200 for a basic Nokia smartphone (Amazon, etc.). Nokia's are actually handy back home as well since you can still use many of them on your ATT account and not worry about data being on that line.


All Answers

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I took my phone.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 15, 2013 10:48 PM PST

And turned off the cellular radio and left the wifi on. It worked. Why not take what you have now?

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Clarification: Cheap Smartphone for Italy,Australia,Asia
by Sukki007 / February 16, 2013 5:26 AM PST
In reply to: I took my phone.

My phone is an iPhone5, which I should have indicated the first time. I can certainly use it over wifi and avoid the data roaming charges. I guess my problem is strictly about using it to make/receive calls. That's where AT&T will get me big time for the international phone rates. So I suppose I need only a cheap phone for calls that will work in those three locations. Sorry I'm not savvy enough to really understand how this all works. Example: Last time I traveled out of the country, I used Google Voice to make calls (over wifi), then got socked with a big bill, because they routed the calls through a Washington, DC number. I appreciate your responses thus far. Thanks!

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The OP has an iPhone 5
by Pepe7 / February 16, 2013 9:29 AM PST

The Maclife article isn't applicable because ATT won't unlock it yet.

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Should try it anyway.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 16, 2013 9:39 AM PST
In reply to: The OP has an iPhone 5

For some odd reason my buddy when in Canada can use a Rogers sim in their 5. But most of the time they just use WiFi. Is there a better article out there?

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He probably has a Verizon issued iPhone 5
by Pepe7 / February 17, 2013 12:46 AM PST
In reply to: Should try it anyway.

The big 'V' version has the SIM side of the iPhone 5 unlocked. Unless something has changed of late, AFAIK the ATT version does not.

I've yet to see a good comprehensive article, although it's possible I''m overlooking something I've posted here of late. & are the most comprehensive sites to discuss this topic IME though.

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by cheapcellphone / February 23, 2013 1:18 PM PST
In reply to: Should try it anyway.

the easier way is to buy a super cheap cell phone instead of using your own now. A cheap one can be like USD 30-50 and you open the roaming service in one cheap rate country while travelling to

other countries.

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You may have had GV set up incorrectly
by Pepe7 / February 16, 2013 9:51 AM PST

I've never heard of people receiving big bills while roaming internationally using GV. That's a new one to me anyway.

Another way to get around it, at least in Europe, would be to use the Talkatone app for iOS. One of my co-workers has been checking into the office for the last three years from various European countries (& South Africa) by calling via Talkatone. It's a front end which connects to your Google/ Voice account. Free incoming/outgoing calls over wifi to a US number (she chose a Chicago suburban number, btw).

For extremely minimal calling though, adding an international calling package might make the most sense IMO and E. With 'Normal' or heavy calling you typically benefit from using a foreign SIM or wifi options.

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Maclife Article/Google Voice
by Sukki007 / February 16, 2013 4:53 PM PST

The article, and the comments, had a lot of good points. Question(s): Hundreds of people sell codes on eBay for very cheap prices. Assuming it's a vendor with near-100% feedback and thousands of transactions, would there be any danger to the phone? Do you know if it would void the phone warranty?

As for GV: each time I made a call, it showed it as dialing a number with a (202) area code, always the same number, before my call was connected. And that's the number that appeared on my bill when I got home to the sticker shock. AT&T removed the charges, but I wouldn't want to tempt fate again. I can't imagine how I could have set up GV incorrectly. And of course there's no one to talk to at Google.

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(NT) Oops, I meant the techcrunch article.
by Sukki007 / February 16, 2013 5:15 PM PST
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Another possibility
by Pepe7 / February 17, 2013 4:06 AM PST

If you do end up unlocking your ATT issued iPhone 5-

(below info taken from above thread.)
"Here's what I do when I travel internationally:
open an account with
set up forwarding from the domestic number they give me to the number on my international prepaid SIM(s)
at the last layover within the US set unconditional forwarding on my phone to the number I got from
switch SIM cards before landing at my destination
Done. People call my regular number and it rings through to my prepaid international number at little to no cost to me and they'll never know the difference. However, outgoing calls from me to somebody in the US will show a different (international) number on their Caller ID, but that has never bothered anyone."

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easier way
by cheapcellphone / February 23, 2013 1:15 PM PST

the easier way is to buy a super cheap cell phone instead of using your own now. A cheap smartphone can be like USD 30-50 and you open the roaming service in one cheap rate country while travelling to other countries. you can compare cheap cell phone or smartphone here at that I know the prices are super cheap:

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Unlocking a phone doesn't void warranty
by Pepe7 / February 17, 2013 1:16 AM PST

Just be sure you know what you are doing in this arena. My preference is to find someone you trust locally instead of using flea-bay codes.

If you paid full price for your phone ATT would provide you with the code.

The following thread can shed some light on what's happening when you are using VM/keeping the phone one while roaming internationally. Calling a that 202 US number from abroad of course will be a long distance call over a foreign provider's network. Those were likely the charges you were seeing.

Talkatone is a good workaround since you can avoid the ATT headaches and use the Talkatone number just like you would locally. You are just limited to wifi though.

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by Sukki007 / February 17, 2013 5:34 AM PST

I didn't pay full price for the phone, so it's a no-go with AT&T. Those were definitely the charges I was seeing. But I wasn't dialing the 202 code, GV was using that to send/receive my calls.

Talkatone sounds like the best solution. But if I'm not on wifi when I receive a call, will I be charged? I must admit that I'm very foggy when it comes to telephony. I didn't even realize until recently that the iPhone had a SIM card!

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Talkatone is an iOS app
by Pepe7 / February 17, 2013 6:48 AM PST
In reply to: Talkatone??

One of other reasons I really like Talkatone is that the recipients of your (free) calls do not have to have the app installed, unlike Viber, Skype other similar apps/services. But it requires wifi to keep costs low.

If you aren't on wifi, you would have to be roaming internationally with your data plan to use such apps. That is also quite expensive.

There may be an option for you to keep costs at a minimum, but it probably won't be ideal, and require you to do a little more homework regarding the technologies/exceptions/limitations involved.

Maybe pop over to and start a new thread there as well(?)

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Tango is probably like Talkaphone
by Sukki007 / February 17, 2013 9:05 AM PST

I have Tango installed, which is also a free call/messaging app. Recipients do have to have the app installed. One person I call regularly has it. The people I'll be in Italy with can easily download it. But I have to find out if it works where I'm headed! I'll check out howardforums. Thanks, Pepe

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I've seen Tango, but everyone must have it installed
by Pepe7 / February 17, 2013 9:54 AM PST

And therein lies the rub. Talkatone lets you call out to nearly anyone with a phone number. Plus, with Tango won't you still need a cellular data plan(?)

Ask yourself if you mostly need to be able to call back and forth among a group travelling together. Or do you need to be able to mostly contact people back home in the U.S.(?) If you guys aren't able to pony up for international data plans and are sticking w/ wifi, going with local SIM cards might make the most sense. It just truly depends on your usage patterns.

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Will check out Talkatone
by Sukki007 / February 18, 2013 3:48 AM PST

Talkatone sounds good for Italy - I will be communicating mostly with the people we'll be traveling with. As for Australia and Asia, I can be content paying AT&T fifty cents for the very occasional text message I'll be sending or receiving. Thank you for all your help!

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Unlock and use pre-paid SIMs for SMS
by Pepe7 / February 18, 2013 9:52 AM PST

It will be a heck of a lot cheaper IME.

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IOS Devices as Learning Remotes
by tinamishra / February 18, 2013 6:16 PM PST

If I had to recommend a cheap Nokia phone, Id say the Nokia Lumia 710 would be a good deal. If you're looking for cheaper, the Lumia 610 is the cheapest option. Im fairly certain that both phones would be able to operate in the locations you mentioned.

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my suggestion
by cheapcellphone / February 23, 2013 1:22 PM PST

the easier way is to buy a super cheap cell phone instead of using your own now. A cheap one can be like USD 30-50 and you open the roaming service in one cheap rate country while travelling to

other countries. you can compare cheap cell phone or smartphone here at:

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