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Smartphone Rental in Europe
Old 04-28-2015, 02:16 PM   #1
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Smartphone Rental in Europe

Last time I left the US, I got a dumb phone for cheap off Amazon, bought a SIM when I got there. It worked, but it wasn't very useful; I was always wanted to do some web stuff while away from the hotel wifi and my tablet.

So I just looked at cellularabroad.com for this summer.


It's from the first thing in Google, lol, so not saying it's good!

Quote:
Unlimited calls in France
Unlimited SMS in France
Unlimited incoming calls/text
5GB of data bundle for $49
Add a US number in addition to a French number (optional feature for $20)
Add optional insurance for $20
Just $0.24 per minute to the USA/Canada
Just wondering if many folks do this. I think I'll book a hotel for the first night (done before I leave home), but that's about it...the rest I'll wing-it, and having an internet connection without seeking a wifi hotspot seems like a nice thing to have.

This is an "oops"...won't work for a short rental unless your time overseas is short. In my case, I don't need the phone for the first 8 days. So I'd need to rent it for about 2 weeks. That would come out to a whopping $207 for 12 days instead of $117 for 3 days.
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This rental is for a period of time specified in Agreement. Equipment is expected to be returned to Cellular Abroad within the timeframe for which the Equipment was rented. Rental periods begin on the day of trip commencement. Packages are typically shipped for arrival 2 business days prior to departure. If the rental order is placed within this timeframe and/or the Renter needs to expedite shipment, he or she will be charged a commensurate amount for the more expensive shipping service. If the Renter needs to receive the package earlier than 2 business days before trip departure, the rental period shall commence 2 business days after delivery.
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Old 04-28-2015, 04:55 PM   #2
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I have an older smartphone that I keep just for this purpose. When I land in a European country, I buy a cheap prepaid SIM and pop it in. After five minutes of setup, I have a local phone number, a large number of phone minutes, and a small amount of data, with the ability to top it up online as needed. Total cost for each trip, maybe $20.
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Old 04-28-2015, 04:56 PM   #3
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Do you already have a smartphone? What model do you have and which carrier do you use? The four major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) as well as some smaller carriers have entered into a voluntary unlocking agreement which went into effect February 2015. If you've already satisfied the 2-year contract on your phone, you'll probably be able to request a SIM unlock.

By the way, all Verizon LTE phones are already unlocked per agreement with the FCC on the 700MHz band purchase/licensing.

My dad's using an older iPhone 5 officially unlocked by AT&T on his overseas trip. He just had to buy a local Nano SIM.
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Old 04-28-2015, 05:10 PM   #4
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I have a FreedomPop HTC EVO 4G, but it won't do cellular in Europe. DW has a Republic Wireless Moto X, and I think it's the same story for her. IOW, they're both CDMA, I think.

But I could buy a "cheap" GSM unlocked smart phone on eBay and then get a SIM when I land. I could sell it on eBay again when I get back, I suppose, or keep it for the next trip. I wouldn't know where to start with respect to phone selection, though.
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Old 04-28-2015, 05:50 PM   #5
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When I looked into phone rental about a year ago, it seemed that companies providing that service had disappeared. So looks like the service is back.

In the meantime we went with a T-Mobile SIM with a month's worth of the Simple Choice plan which cost us about $64 including tax. The SIM was free. Used our Verizon unlocked iPhone 5. This year we switched to the same T-mobile on a new full GSM smart phone (iPhone 6). This has a US number which is good for folks reaching us in emergency. And the number is known in advance.

I get a very cheap (often free) SIM for about €10 that covers text and talk and I use it with a dumb Blu phone that does call and text and cost me about $25. This gives me a local number which is a bit cheaper for Europeans calling or texting me. I will take that phone again this year.
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Old 04-28-2015, 05:56 PM   #6
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You can get a decent unlocked Android smartphone such as the Moto E or Moto G brand new for $100-150 so likely quite a bit less used. These are very good smartphones for the price even looking at retail pricing. Depending on whether your wife has the 1st or 2nd gen Moto X, the Moto E 2015 might even be faster. MSRP is $120 for 3G and $150 for LTE.

Not really all that familiar with HTC phones. I prefer mine to be as close as possible to stock Android.
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Old 04-28-2015, 06:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audreyh1 View Post
I get a very cheap (often free) SIM for about €10 that covers text and talk and I use it with a dumb Blue phone that does call and text and cost me about $25. This gives me a local number which is a bit cheaper for Europeans calling or texting me. I will take that phone again this year.
That's exactly what I did in January. It's a very cheap option and the ability to dial a local number is good (great if you are in a bind of some kind). When I got back home, I sold the Blu phone on eBay for a song (of course I originally bought it for 1.5 song). The reason I sold it was because I figured next time I'd find a way to have a smart phone over there. With the dumb phone, I found myself having data withdrawals, lol. I'd be away from the hotel wifi and want to google something (or more likely a map or train schedule) and I was having data DT's, thus the motivation for a smart phone.

Instead of the $200 rental, I'm wondering if there'd be an unlocked GSM smart phone on eBay for a reasonable price. I'm sure it would hold it's value, so if I sold it when I was done, it might come to only the price of the pay as you go data SIM?
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Old 04-28-2015, 06:06 PM   #8
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T Mobile is the carrier for many countries in Europe. They have a $50 monthly plan with no 2 year contract that's unlimited everything in the U.S. Go to other countries, and the calls are a very reasonable $.20 per minute.

When we were in Budapest last April, our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter kept calling us on her mother's speeddial at 3:30 a.m. The service on your U.S. smart phone is seamless.

T Mobile uses a unlocked GSM phone--AT&T phone can be programmed to work without fooling with SIM cards, etc. Verizon phones won't work.
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Old 04-28-2015, 06:14 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Bamaman View Post
T Mobile is the carrier for many countries in Europe. They have a $50 monthly plan with no 2 year contract that's unlimited everything in the U.S. Go to other countries, and the calls are a very reasonable $.20 per minute.

When we were in Budapest last April, our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter kept calling us on her mother's speeddial at 3:30 a.m. The service on your U.S. smart phone is seamless.

T Mobile uses a unlocked GSM phone--AT&T phone can be programmed to work without fooling with SIM cards, etc. Verizon phones won't work.
If it's a Verizon iPhone it will work in Europe, just not 100% in the US. But it will work in the US - just not be able to use all the T-Mobile frequencies.

It may depend on the model, but it is true for the Verizon iPhone5 which is unlocked for GSM.
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Old 04-28-2015, 06:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sengsational View Post
Instead of the $200 rental, I'm wondering if there'd be an unlocked GSM smart phone on eBay for a reasonable price. I'm sure it would hold it's value, so if I sold it when I was done, it might come to only the price of the pay as you go data SIM?
You don't even need to go to eBay. You can easily get one from Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-Moto-...dp/B00K0NRYF6/
http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-Moto-...dp/B00K0NRZ5K/
http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-Moto-...dp/B00TFAVFKA/
http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-Moto-...dp/B00TFAVFL4/
Amazon.com: Motorola Moto E (2nd Generation) 4G LTE - Unlocked - Universal (White): Cell Phones & Accessories
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Old 04-28-2015, 06:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sengsational View Post
That's exactly what I did in January. It's a very cheap option and the ability to dial a local number is good (great if you are in a bind of some kind). When I got back home, I sold the Blu phone on eBay for a song (of course I originally bought it for 1.5 song). The reason I sold it was because I figured next time I'd find a way to have a smart phone over there. With the dumb phone, I found myself having data withdrawals, lol. I'd be away from the hotel wifi and want to google something (or more likely a map or train schedule) and I was having data DT's, thus the motivation for a smart phone.

Instead of the $200 rental, I'm wondering if there'd be an unlocked GSM smart phone on eBay for a reasonable price. I'm sure it would hold it's value, so if I sold it when I was done, it might come to only the price of the pay as you go data SIM?
Our T-Mobile solution is good enough for maps and email while out running around. A quick google for an address or phone number, etc.

We don't have time to do any serious surfing until we are back to the hotel at night and then we use the hotel WiFi.
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Old 04-28-2015, 06:25 PM   #12
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I have a "dumb" GSM phone that I bought years ago - I buy sims, as needed, when I'm in Europe.

I also have a nexus 5 as my primary phone- it does both CDMA and GSM - so my US carrier is CDMA (ting/sprint) but I'll be able to get calls/text/data via GSM when I'm there once I buy a sim.

Since we're going for a longer period we're more likely to want to separate so having 2 phones was needed for this trip. (I'm 100% sure there will be at least one day where DH wants to be far far away from me, and vice versa in the 9 weeks we're traveling... especially since we'll have the kids with us.) Hence the need for 2 phones.

I would buy a cheap used GSM phone off ebay - and get a sim when I get there.

For calling back to the states - if you have google voice, and access to wifi at your lodging, you can always call using google voice.

I looked at t-mobile - but it seemed more expensive than buying a sim there.
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Old 04-28-2015, 06:43 PM   #13
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Hey Seng,

I'm on freedompop too and stuck not being able to use it abroad since it doesn't take a SIM.

I'm using a samsung galaxy s3 and it's way better than the evo 4g (which I still have but it's sort of broken). Battery life is 2x at least I'd say. And it's much faster. I picked one up on ebay for $98 almost a year ago, so I bet you could get one today for even less. Just make sure it has a SIM, uses GSM (not CDMA like sprint/freedompop) and is unlocked or unlockable. A quick google says T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM while Sprint and Verizon use CDMA. Therefore, check out used tmobile and at&t phones if shopping second hand.

Okay, I just checked ebay. S3's from att or tmobile tend to go for $100-150, with a very few going in the $90-100 range (but one of them had a very minor crack in the upper right corner of case that didn't impact functionality). Guess these SIM compatible phones are worth more than the non-sim phone I have.

I'm also interested to hear any suggestions for cheap but decent smartphones that can use a SIM. I'd be happy with the Galaxy S3 in the $100 range, but even happier with something a little crappier at $50 since it won't get used a ton other than while traveling.
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Old 04-29-2015, 09:39 AM   #14
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I'm using a samsung galaxy s3 and it's way better than the evo 4g...
The battery life is horrible, but if FreedomPop puts me on Sprint with the Samsung Galaxy S3, it's probably not worth messing with.
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I'm also interested to hear any suggestions for cheap but decent smartphones that can use a SIM.
I thought your FreedomPop phone was GSM (or why would you need another smartphone for Europe)? If I could get off of Sprint with FreedomPop, that would be great, and getting a phone that would both work in France (and with FreedomPop at home), that would be fantastic. I always thought I was stuck with Sprint if I was on FreedomPop, but then again, I haven't pursued it since DW has "the good phone".

EDIT: Just checked and FreedomPop doesn't do GSM at all. So I'm back to buying an unlocked GSM smartphone (or renting one). I'm liking the Moto that hnzw_rui posted!
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Old 04-29-2015, 10:22 AM   #15
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Some carriers (Vonage, Verizon?)offer a WIFI phone app. As long as you have a WiFi connection you can make and receive calls on your smartphone for virtually no charge through you home account.

With our Vonage app on the smartphone, we can call back to the US for free because it thinks it's in the US. (A call to the restaurant down the street in Paris however is about 0.02 cents a minutes because it is an 'overseas' call)

Skype phone and Google Voice are other options but a bit more kludgy

YMMV, works for us.
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Old 04-29-2015, 04:17 PM   #16
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Yeah, even my FreedomPop phone will work with talk, text and data when I'm at a wifi hotspot, thinking it's in the US. Even when I'm here in the US, I get the wifi password from the restaurant I'm at since that's usually faster than crummy Sprint.
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Old 04-29-2015, 05:40 PM   #17
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I would look for an old LG or HTC GSM 3G phone on ebay that you should be able to pick up for next to nothing. Why those ? Because those 2 brands are real cheap to unlock. You can find tons of HTC G1s, Mytouch 3Gs 4Gs or old LG Optimii that can be unlocked for $1. They aren't great but they will do your business.
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Old 05-01-2015, 09:44 AM   #18
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A quick look at some of the options in France. Lebara as usual offers super low rates (including to the US), but apparently not so easy to find in Paris or at the airport and you have to go into one of the ethnic neighborhoods to find a lot of retailers selling Lebara. I'm not willing to spend hours or travel far searching for a retailer that carries them. That's what other folks have reporting having to do - visit numerous tabacs before finally finding one that sold the Lebara SIM. I'll probably go with Orange for the convenience.

In Amsterdam I had no problem as the Lebara store-finder web site pointed out a good store near my brother's place. They actually did not have one at the moment, but were kind enough to direct me to another store down the street that did. Well - no store finder for France!!!!

Lebara you can usually pay €10 including the SIM and sometimes even get double call credit. Super cheap rates to US numbers (I need that to call and message DH overseas). Great for the quad GSM dumb phone.
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Old 05-02-2015, 11:05 PM   #19
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You can buy French Lebara SIMs on ebay. I saw one for $16 shipped including 1 euro credit. No idea if you can get a cheaper one, but it might be worth it to avoid searching random ethnic neighborhoods for hours on end. Other countries like UK and Spain were $6 or so shipped but I don't know if Lebara crosses borders.
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Old 05-03-2015, 08:06 AM   #20
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You can buy French Lebara SIMs on ebay. I saw one for $16 shipped including 1 euro credit. No idea if you can get a cheaper one, but it might be worth it to avoid searching random ethnic neighborhoods for hours on end. Other countries like UK and Spain were $6 or so shipped but I don't know if Lebara crosses borders.
Thanks. I prefer to buy my SIMs locally and will go with whatever is convenient and has the features I want. I make the shopkeeper get my device up and running and have them dial in any codes that turn on key features.
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