Cell phone strategies

As the “Survival Tips” document declares, Europe and the UK use GSM technology for cell phones. The purpose of this page is to help share information with the entire group about cell phone options.

Option 1: Rent a phone

Phone stores in London will rent a phone to you on a pre-paid basis. The big advantage here is that you get no surprises. The disadvantage is that the phone won’t have your address book or any other apps you are used to.

Option 2: Your phone

Most of the higher-end smart phones made in 2012 or later have the ability to be configured for GSM communications. You call your cell phone provider (e.g. Sprint, AT&T, Verizon) and tell them you will be traveling abroad during the summer and you would like to use your phone. There are special charges attached to calls you receive in cities outside North America, and your phone company should tell you what those are.

CAUTION: Unless you want a $2,000 phone bill, you must disable data transfer while you are abroad. This means you will not be able to play Words with Friends (or any other of your favorite games), do Facebook on your phone, or use your favorite GPS apps. Phone companies charge extra for voice access, but data charges are where they really zing you for money. That $2,000 phone bill is not an exaggeration.

The good news is that texting uses your phone’s voice capabilities. You still pay extra for text messages, but the fare is not nearly what data is. More good news: If you are connected to a wi-fi network, then you do not need to worry about data roaming charges; you can do your Facebook, Twitter, and game things.

See also these links:

Using your phone in the UK

Now that you have a phone, how do you use it? The links above should help answer some of your questions and provide you with other links that will help answer the rest of your questions. Whoever your cell provider is should have documents that will help you. For example, Lucinda was having an issue with her phone, and posted a plea for help from the group on our Web site. Mandy G. had experience with that phone, and Dr. R found a document specific to that phone in the Sprint Web site.

Here is a document specific to the iPhone 4S. All the pricing for voice, text and data is spelled out. The document also gives instructions for dialing different kinds of numbers while you are in the UK.

The Data pricing trap

Note that the pricing for data is $ 0.019 per KB. That looks reasonable, maybe even cheap until you calculate what that could mean with just a few e-mail messages or alerts from your favorite news service or graphics from some app you love. Here’s an example.

Point and shoot cameras and higher-end smart phones take photos that are saved in files that can be 10 MB or larger. So if you do the math, a 10MB file at 2 cents per KB is going to cost you $20 to download. That’s one photo image for $20. Don’t even think about the cost of transmitting / downloading video. The message is that on your phone you turn off data roaming. If you are in a place that has WiFi, then you can transmit to your heart’s content.