desmond4567

Cheapest Way to Use Phone while in the USA

Hi

I've recently purchased a Galaxy S2 on contract with O2. I expect to have the phone in the next couple of days and understand that it will be unlocked.

I will shortly be on holiday in the USA. What will be the cheapest way to use the phone whilst I am over there? I will want to access the internet, send and receive texts to other people in the States, call and receive calls from other people in the States, and receive texts from people in the UK. I may want also want to send texts and make and receive calls to people back home in the UK, but this is less likely.

Thanks in advance of your help!


Dave

Most Useful Answer CTPAHHIK  May. 9, 2011 at 08:28

There are only two GSM providers in US - AT&T and T-Mobile. All others are pretty much MVNO using their network. Both have pricing on their websites. You would need to get a SIM card from respective websites or from Amazon, as getting it from store would be $10. ATT&T offers unlimited calling and texting for $2/day, but you pay separately for data which is expensive. I have not bothered with T-Mobile at all. Depending on how long you plan to stay in US you have to figure out either you getting monthly deal or pay per day.

Two important things to note:
- T-Mobile 3G network is not supported by Galaxy - you will only have EDGE.
- Incoming calls are not free and get billed just like outgoing ones.

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CTPAHHIK  May. 9, 2011 at 08:28

There are only two GSM providers in US - AT&T and T-Mobile. All others are pretty much MVNO using their network. Both have pricing on their websites. You would need to get a SIM card from respective websites or from Amazon, as getting it from store would be $10. ATT&T offers unlimited calling and texting for $2/day, but you pay separately for data which is expensive. I have not bothered with T-Mobile at all. Depending on how long you plan to stay in US you have to figure out either you getting monthly deal or pay per day.

Two important things to note:
- T-Mobile 3G network is not supported by Galaxy - you will only have EDGE.
- Incoming calls are not free and get billed just like outgoing ones.

karora  May. 9, 2011 at 10:47

Depending on what bands your Galaxy S handles it may work on T-Mobile or not. I know that the Galaxy S sold in New Zealand *can* come in the correct bands for T-Mobile, so you need to check the bands for your current provider to work out whether you will need T-Mobile or AT&T in the US. You really don't have choice, since you already made the choice by the phone model you bought.

I have an original Nexus One which I bought in the US from Google (unlocked, obviously) and which I normally use on T-Mobile when I visit the US.

I can't speak for AT&T (my phone does not work on their network) but I have had good success with buying a T-Mobile SIM for around USD$65 which provides unlimited bandwidth and which lasts for a month. They call this a "prepay" though it is nothing like what I am used to as a "prepay SIM" in other countries.

The SIM expires after a month and so I end up getting a new number each time I visit, which is slightly annoying, but I mostly get it for the bandwidth so it doesn't matter that much.

When I was there for a month once I managed to use about 6G of bandwidth, using my phone as an AP for the family etc., and it has generally been pretty good like that. I've only visited areas with good coverage - New York, Massachusetts, Bay Area - so I can't really comment about what might be best from a coverage point of view, but I suspect you don't really have a choice anyway.

It kinda sucks that the US is so backward in this area, but hopefully they'll figure out what prepay means to the rest of the world in due course.

Regards,
Andrew McMillan.

desmond4567  May. 9, 2011 at 11:47

Thanks for the prompt and informative reply as ever, CTPAHHIK.

I'm surprised to learn that there are only 2 GSM providers, Stateside. Darn it! (as our American cousins might say :o)

It looks like AT&T are the way to go (at least for texts and calls). I've not had my own smartphone before (only a blackberry through work), so can you tell me if I will be able to access the internet for free as long as I'm in a free wifi hotspot, which I know I will be some of the time...

Thanks again for all your help!

Best Wishes
Dave

desmond4567  May. 9, 2011 at 17:25

Thanks for your answer as well, Andrew, which also was very helpful and informative. For some reason this didn't show up on my screen when I posted my previous "thank you" even though I refreshed the screen (or maybe I just wasn't looking properly!!).

I've emailed O2 to ask about the bands that the phone works with.

What's an AP? Am I right in guessing it stands for access point and you mean that you used your phone so that your family could access the internet on their laptops, etc?

CTPAHHIK  May. 9, 2011 at 18:08

Yes, AP stands for access point and phone was used as mobile hotspot. According to GSM-Arena Galaxy has 850MHz (AT&T) and not 1700 MHz (T-Mobile).

AT&T Prices for data:
$5 for 10 MB
$15 for 100 MB
$25 for 500 MB

Prepay Expiration Time:
Amount Expiration Period
$15 30 Days
$25 90 days
$50 90 days
$60 90 days
$100 1 year

T-Mobile Prepaid Plans (no Unlimited Data):
http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/plans/prepaid-plans.aspx

Note that tax is not included in any of the prices - assume 10% tax on top.

AT&T has better coverage and better 2G network than T-Mobile. If you are going for a few days stick with AT&T, if you there for a month T-Mobile is cheaper.

If you planning not to get a data package make sure to put your phone in airplane mode (before you insert US SIM card) and change/delete APN values in settings. There is no guaranteed way to turn off data on the phone and AT&T charge $10 per 1MB without data plan (more expensive than roaming).

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