Author Topic: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone  (Read 4243 times)

blackomen

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My parents are retiring and they'll be spending about 1/4 of their time in China.  They're considering getting a Google Nexus 5 unlocked phone so they can jusg swap SIM cards and continue using the same phone in both the US and China.  They'd also like to be able to make use the same phone if they decide to travel to other countries, say, in Europe.

They're considering T-Mobile's $30/mo 100 Minute unlimited data plan..  100 minutes may not be that much although it'll be 0.10/min if they go over 100 minutes.

What other options should be considered?  Would it be more worthwhile to get a republic wireless plan and phone for use in the US and a separate phone in China?

Sent from my GT-N8013 using Tapatalk


Daley

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2014, 06:33:44 PM »
First, you need to go into your Tapatalk preferences and turn off the advertising sigline.

As for your parent's situation? Given they're wanting to globehop and they're looking at prepaid, it might be worth looking into Truphone. Global GSM roaming at 9/minute, 9/SMS, 9/MB (with 1KB usage rounding) outbound to a whole slew of countries, and free incoming minutes and texts in those same said countries. They also have calling rates in a whole mess of other countries globally. China's $1.15/minute, though. I don't know how well international VoIP would work from behind the great firewall, so it may just be cheapest to go with a local provider there. For what it's worth, they also offer an app with VoIP service and even cheaper calling rates. Normally, I don't recommend a proprietary VoIP provider, but it might be simpler from a unified billing and account management standpoint going with a single provider, and since it'll be 100% smartphone usage anyway, why not?

It also might be worth looking for a dual-SIM capable global GSM smartphone instead of just going with the N5. Keep the Truphone SIM as the primary account, and then toss in a cheap prepaid local SIM card for the one-off visits and toggle between if local providers can offer cheaper data or minutes. Won't have to worry about losing the important core SIM that way. Have them look into the Moto G Dual SIM or perhaps the Nokia XL (this last might not be the best option due to the hoops necessary to get Google Play apps loaded on - thanks Nokia Microsoft!). Both can be had for under $250 new and carrier unlocked. There's also a slew of others available out there, and as always GSM Arena's search tool is invaluable for finding these sorts of things.

And of course, if you haven't seen it yet, it's worth giving the guide a read. Lots of general advice for shopping mobile and VoIP plans, amongst other bits of useful information like how to drastically save on mobile data usage.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2014, 06:40:15 PM by I.P. Daley »

darkspork

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2014, 06:42:12 PM »
I'm currently on a prepaid per minute plan with AT&T (Go Phone). I put a $100 balance on it and it's good for a year. Since I'm overseas the balance is still $100 and will stay at that balance until I return several months from now. What will your parents be using it for? If they don't use any data there's tons of cheap plans to pick from. I'm using AT&T because there isn't Sprint or T-Mobile where I live and I do use a lot of data, so the MVNOs were out of the question for me. It's still quite a bit cheaper than Verizon.

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2014, 06:45:53 PM »
The tmobile $30 plan isn't available anymore :( I was planning to switch back to it as well but now I can't get it.
The republic wireless $5 plan would be okay if they had wifi in china but phone doesn't support sim card.

Sprint's made an offer to buy t-mobile, wonder how this will impact future phones being cdma/gsm

I'm hoping to grab one of ringplus's free plan but it is currently closed so I'm waiting for it. I'm also interested in their byod plans the $6/month plan is still reasonable to me and my current data usable of about 700mb/month at 2 cents is $14 so $20/month total. I'd just buy an older international phone from sprint so it has a sim card slot. But I haven't made much research in going this route yet so I can't say I can recommend it. Just musing about it since I'm slowly researching a plan for myself too

edit: the dual sim thing that IP Daley talked about, I'd just get a dual sim adapter for the 1 sim card slot on the phone. It gives a wider choice of phones this way
« Last Edit: June 08, 2014, 06:51:30 PM by eyem »

Daley

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2014, 07:11:37 PM »
edit: the dual sim thing that IP Daley talked about, I'd just get a dual sim adapter for the 1 sim card slot on the phone. It gives a wider choice of phones this way

That's a good way to get hung up in customs and airport security. Better to have a phone actually built and programmed to handle dual SIMs. Less to break, go wrong, or freak out techno-idiot bureaucrats.



One last little suggestion. Mobile data in this country (and possible some others) is going to be cheaper if a hotspot or tablet is available (AT&T and the like actually restricts their data-only plan activation to modem-based device IMEIs). It's an extra device, but it might still prove to be useful in their usage scenario. Look into a carrier unlocked ZTE MF90 mobile hotspot, I've seen them around for under $100. That could handle mobile data connections pretty well from any GSM provider around the globe.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2014, 07:21:57 PM by I.P. Daley »

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2014, 07:33:49 PM »
hm, how do the adapters get hung up in customs? I've not had any problems but I've only traveled twice out of US in past 8 years.  But they didn't actually open up the phone to check hardware but if they did, it's easy enough to take off then put back on when outside airport

Daley

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2014, 07:47:35 PM »
hm, how do the adapters get hung up in customs? I've not had any problems but I've only traveled twice out of US in past 8 years.  But they didn't actually open up the phone to check hardware but if they did, it's easy enough to take off then put back on when outside airport

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Sometimes invasive spot checks with personal property, especially traveling between countries that aren't entirely on the most friendly of political terms, can go sideways. It may be "cheaper" and open up a wider selection of phones, but if you're starting from scratch anyway and there's such a broad selection of good quality dual SIM capable phones for nearly the same price as the single SIM models (such as is the case with the Moto G Dual SIM)... why bother?

Michael792

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2014, 08:20:28 PM »
Uh...I'm in S. Korea, so this may not be available to them. But they have a prepaid phone here serviced by SK Telecom that's only $9 a month.

blackomen

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2014, 10:27:51 AM »
The tmobile $30 plan isn't available anymore :( I was planning to switch back to it as well but now I can't get it.
The republic wireless $5 plan would be okay if they had wifi in china but phone doesn't support sim card.

Sprint's made an offer to buy t-mobile, wonder how this will impact future phones being cdma/gsm

I'm hoping to grab one of ringplus's free plan but it is currently closed so I'm waiting for it. I'm also interested in their byod plans the $6/month plan is still reasonable to me and my current data usable of about 700mb/month at 2 cents is $14 so $20/month total. I'd just buy an older international phone from sprint so it has a sim card slot. But I haven't made much research in going this route yet so I can't say I can recommend it. Just musing about it since I'm slowly researching a plan for myself too

edit: the dual sim thing that IP Daley talked about, I'd just get a dual sim adapter for the 1 sim card slot on the phone. It gives a wider choice of phones this way

It seems it's still available, you just can't order it in person in a T-mobile store:

http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

Is there something here I'm missing?

distefam

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2014, 12:21:19 PM »
It seems it's still available, you just can't order it in person in a T-mobile store:

http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

Is there something here I'm missing?

I can confirm that it is still available as I just activated it myself, and without going through Walmart or online activation as is stipulated on the page linked to above. It was, however, quite a pain to go through.

I switched to T-Mobile from Verizon just two months ago and after looking at my first bill I realized that I was hardly using voice and text messages (I have an iPhone with iMessage). I know that most of the savings discussed here advocate forgoing data, however, in my case I was willing to forgo voice/text and use data to compensate by using FaceTime Audio (free), iMessage (free), and Skype to place phone calls if I go over the allotted 100 minutes.

Anyway, I called in and explained that I wished to change from my post-paid plan to this pre-paid plan. I had to be transferred to the pre-paid department, which I can report, is not nearly as helpful or friendly as the post-paid department, who eventually changed me over. The hassle began when they didn't tell me that they were going to "flip the switch" yet and our call suddenly dropped. My phone reported no service so I did a soft reset and immediately got a text from T-mobile welcoming me to their pre-paid service. I tried calling 611 to figure out what happened to find that my balance was $0.01 and was consequently unable to make any calls. After calling from a friend's phone I got them to prorate $20 to my pre-paid balance as I still had about 15 days left in my billing cycle, paid the remaining $10, and was good to go.

For my purposes, this plan is incredible. I get unlimited data, of which 5GB is 4G LTE (really the only usable portion), 100 minutes of call time, which is sufficient for incoming calls from doctors, etc. (really the only people I can't call with FaceTime audio as most of my friends/family have iPhones), and unlimited domestic and international text messages, which I hardly use.

For those times that I do need to call I use either LINE or Skype. Line charges $0.02/min for calls within the US (and cheap international rates) and Skype is $0.023/min. Skype also offers unlimited calls for $2.99/mo but I'm holding off on that until I see whether I really need more than 100 or so extra minutes per month.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the plan and almost can't believe that I'm able to get so much data for only $30/mo. For reference, I was paying $60/mo (plus taxes and fees) for only 3GB high-speed data. The only difference was unlimited calling, which I've decided isn't necessary for me. This means $30/mo or $360/yr savings (actually, it's a bit more considering the taxes and fees are more on the post-paid plans).

blackomen

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Re: Cheapest phone service that can be used on an unlocked phone
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2014, 10:58:19 PM »
It seems it's still available, you just can't order it in person in a T-mobile store:

http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

Is there something here I'm missing?

I can confirm that it is still available as I just activated it myself, and without going through Walmart or online activation as is stipulated on the page linked to above. It was, however, quite a pain to go through.

I switched to T-Mobile from Verizon just two months ago and after looking at my first bill I realized that I was hardly using voice and text messages (I have an iPhone with iMessage). I know that most of the savings discussed here advocate forgoing data, however, in my case I was willing to forgo voice/text and use data to compensate by using FaceTime Audio (free), iMessage (free), and Skype to place phone calls if I go over the allotted 100 minutes.

Anyway, I called in and explained that I wished to change from my post-paid plan to this pre-paid plan. I had to be transferred to the pre-paid department, which I can report, is not nearly as helpful or friendly as the post-paid department, who eventually changed me over. The hassle began when they didn't tell me that they were going to "flip the switch" yet and our call suddenly dropped. My phone reported no service so I did a soft reset and immediately got a text from T-mobile welcoming me to their pre-paid service. I tried calling 611 to figure out what happened to find that my balance was $0.01 and was consequently unable to make any calls. After calling from a friend's phone I got them to prorate $20 to my pre-paid balance as I still had about 15 days left in my billing cycle, paid the remaining $10, and was good to go.

For my purposes, this plan is incredible. I get unlimited data, of which 5GB is 4G LTE (really the only usable portion), 100 minutes of call time, which is sufficient for incoming calls from doctors, etc. (really the only people I can't call with FaceTime audio as most of my friends/family have iPhones), and unlimited domestic and international text messages, which I hardly use.

For those times that I do need to call I use either LINE or Skype. Line charges $0.02/min for calls within the US (and cheap international rates) and Skype is $0.023/min. Skype also offers unlimited calls for $2.99/mo but I'm holding off on that until I see whether I really need more than 100 or so extra minutes per month.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the plan and almost can't believe that I'm able to get so much data for only $30/mo. For reference, I was paying $60/mo (plus taxes and fees) for only 3GB high-speed data. The only difference was unlimited calling, which I've decided isn't necessary for me. This means $30/mo or $360/yr savings (actually, it's a bit more considering the taxes and fees are more on the post-paid plans).

Yeah, the 100 minutes seems sufficient for receiving calls and even if not, paying an extra $10 or $20 for extra minutes still makes it a killer deal..  not many plans offer comparable service for even 50/mo.  I've had a Skype number and unlimited plan since 2008 when I ditched my land line and used my PC to make and receive calls before getting a smartphone which can hopefully supplement my minutes although the quality is a bit inferior unless you have a good wifi connection.