Author Topic: Cell/Wifi calling options while in Europe  (Read 4982 times)

Secret Stache

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 126
Cell/Wifi calling options while in Europe
« on: September 18, 2013, 05:02:11 PM »
I will be travelling in Europe (Belgium, Switzerland, Gemany, and France) sometime in the first qtr or early 2nd qtr of next year.  Are there any cheap ways to communicate via cell phone and text while traveling in these places?  I'm ok with email via wifi only but wanted to see what my options were.  I currently have available an original iPad and an iPhone 4s under contract until October of this year with ATT that I plan on cancelling and going with an alternative carrier such as Ting.

Ideally i would like a way to make voip calls via the iPhone 4s over wifi and use the WhatsApp application for text via wifi.

I've tried the pre-paid cell phones in Norway previously however I quickly realized that one would need someone fluent in the local language to navigate the automated menus.

thanks

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3936
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell/Wifi calling options while in Europe
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2013, 05:11:54 PM »
If you already have an iPhone 4s that's about to go out from under contract, why not just get the thing carrier unlocked and keep using it instead of abandoning a perfectly functional and overpriced GSM smartphone just to switch over to CDMA and be hemmed in on handset choices again?

The 4s does full GSM 850/900/1800/1900 world band support. If you want cell service in Europe, don't buy a burner, take the iPhone and buy a local SIM card instead. Heck, even if you sell the iPhone, if you stay on the GSM end of the MVNO fence, most all of your other options outside of the lowest-end of feature phones are likely going to be GSM 850/900/1800/1900 world band as well.

As for VoIP options and SMS alternatives, the Superguide's already got most of 'em covered. Recommendations will depend on how much you care about security and privacy, and where/who you're calling.

mlipps

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1062
Re: Cell/Wifi calling options while in Europe
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2013, 05:39:24 PM »
I downloaded Talkatone before going to Italy to make VOIP calls, but my hostel in Florence blocked voice packets. My hostel in Venice I was able to use FaceTime. Lots of cafes had wifi for paying customers but I never tried making calls. In the ultimate catch 22, there were hotspots in Florence for free if you had an Italian phone number. Wtf?!?

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3936
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell/Wifi calling options while in Europe
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2013, 07:14:04 PM »
I was planning on keeping the 4s, i haven't really researched the MNVO options closely enough to see which ones support it, just know I pay too much now.

Anyway, I don't really care about privacy/security as long as they can't interrupt my conversation, just the occasional call to a relative.  I'm fine with being limited to email but just thought it would be nice to speak to some occasionally, if it wasn't ridiculously overpriced.

Any idea how much a SIM card would cost or where I would get one?  I've never bought a SIM even locally so I apologize if I'm asking a dumb question.  Thanks for the advice

Pretty much any AT&T MVNO will work perfectly for you here domestically, and any T-Mobile MVNO will work as well if you don't care too much about potential wireless data throughput speeds (it'll be uneven from market to market due to the phone's lack of GSM1700/2100MHz band support - just covered this topic with Paul the Octopus in the Superguide today).

As to the whole privacy/security thing, it should be something you care a bit more about with mobile devices and public WiFi hotspots. We're talking about account credentials here, after all, and a lot of third party apps can sometimes have sloppy to non-existent security and encryption in place with username/password handling. I point this out because WhatsApp has had a rather sordid history with this stuff. You should also be aware of the fact that apps like Talkatone (which uses Google Voice) basically requires that you trust your Google credentials to a third party to be stored on a remote server. These are just things you should be aware of with this sort of thing. I'm just enough of a security spook to advocate caution when using an open and public wireless internet connection with a device that has quickly become the digital equivalent of a wallet.

If you're just looking to possibly call back the the States for uber-cheap, there's plenty of VoIP apps available for just that already, more than plenty. More than you can even shake a stick at, even. Here's one with a terms of service that doesn't inspire absolute skin crawling conditions about your privacy: NetTALK's smartphone app. You still get what you pay for, though, and I'm not a fan of "free" services as they frequently have a lot of hidden costs. If you're willing to pay for the minutes back to the US, you probably couldn't get much cheaper than a pay as you go account on VOIP.ms or CallCentric paired with the 3CX Softphone - just the price of data.

As to how much a SIM card would cost, no idea, but likely far cheaper than one of those disposable handsets for tourists. As for where you'd get one, the same place you'd get those disposable handsets for tourists. Just be sure if you're using the iPhone that you get the 3FF micro SIM card, or you bring tools (a micro SIM punch or a knife and emory board) to cut down a 2FF mini SIM.

daverobev

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3293
  • Location: UK
Re: Cell/Wifi calling options while in Europe
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2013, 07:43:13 PM »
If you have an address, SIM cards should be free - just pre-order. You can refill from most shops (in the UK at least).. online could be an issue, with foreign credit cards, but shops fine (you don't need to buy a top up card, they will print a voucher with a PIN).

https://freesim.vodafone.co.uk/freesim?cookie=passed for a UK example. My German isn't good enough to decipher that website, sadly. Roaming is relatively cheap throughout Europe so you should just be able to pick up a SIM in your first country. Hmm, data might be an issue, though. Remember, incoming calls are free in the country the SIM is from, and still cheap though not free in other countries - so they can call you. So you can get a number and keep it for the whole trip, just don't call out too much!

My friend reckons you can get SIM cards at airports and train stations, too. I know there are some vending machines that sell them.