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Old 06-22-2018, 11:47 AM   #21
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One thing I have found when traveling in areas with poor service is that texting may still work even if voice and data are inoperable. Sending a simple text requires very few resources so sometimes they slip through when voice/data are not working well.
Yes. I've mentioned this before when there are emergencies, and the cell towers are overloaded. Try text rather than voice.

A voice connection uses at least 6500 bits for each second of speech. OTOH, a text message of this length (the underlined section), requires only 8 bits times the 55 characters, so round up to 550 bits (includes a start/stop bit, but I'm not sure those 'count'). Less than 1/10th the bits required than a single second of speech (and you can't communicate much of anything in one second), and the text can be sent and received even if the timing is broken up - voice needs to all come together at nearly the same time to avoid it being all chopped up and incomprehensible.

And you can also text from a computer over email, which can be handy, or needed if you have computer access but no cell phone access. You need to check the carrier for specifics (search the web), but verizon for example, is XXXXXXXXXX@vtext.com format.

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Old 06-22-2018, 11:53 AM   #22
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Punt your situation over to Mr. A!
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Old 06-22-2018, 01:39 PM   #23
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I would, if he would use a smartphone. But he won't, so that's that.

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Old 06-24-2018, 01:59 AM   #24
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One more data point -

My Sprint-connected old Note 3 worked fine in May at all Alaskan and Canada stops (Vancouver, Victoria, Ketchikan, Sitka, Kodiak, Homer, Icy Strait, Anchorage, Juneau) as well as last week in Eastern Canada (Halifax, Charlottetown, Sydney, Quebec, Montreal).

Data worked well enough to play my games. In Canada data and texts were free, phone calls were not. All were free in Alaska.
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Old 06-25-2018, 09:29 PM   #25
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Our TMobile service allows roaming access whenever there is cell service so far. Of course in places like Chicken (pop of 15), then nothing works. They have to run generator 24/7 for power even.
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Old 06-26-2018, 04:59 AM   #26
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PS. There are so many places in Alaska that have no cell service. Indeed, there are places people would be lucky to have power lines strung to them, so that they do not have to run their own generator. Forget about Chicken (Alaska) mentioned above (I spent a night there recently); when strolling through Carmacks (Yukon) with a population of 500, I saw that they had a diesel generating station right in town.

In Dawson City (in the Yukon), a major town on the Klondike Loop, the power went out when I was pumping gas. People just waited for 10 minutes for power to come back to resume their activity. And yes, there's cell service and Internet in Dawson City (Yukon).

PPS. Even in Fairbanks, Alaska (population of 32,000), people are excited that they will get a Costco store soon. And many residents still have to haul water instead of drilling their own well; the well water is often iron-rich, and comes out reddish.
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Old 06-26-2018, 09:59 AM   #27
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This thread generated many thoughtful responses. Now, I'm wavering between a) buying an ATT, Verizon, or Tracfone SIM with minutes, data, and texts, but no contract; and b) buying a burner phone in Alaska. Below, I have summarized my understanding of your advice.

I. My initial post broke my own rule of "Always Start With Your Requirements", so here are ours:
  • Make/receive phone calls - mainly, if we get separated from the tour group (which happened on a previous tour - we got lost, and the tour guide was able to get us back on track via phone).
  • Periodically check the Web: bill-paying, news, check FB. My closest relatives are on FB constantly. It has replaced phone calls. Our emergency contact (neighbor) uses email.

II. Based on responses, a smartphone seems of minimal use during the tour, which is half on land (tour bus) and half on a Princess cruise ship. The tour bus's Wi-fi won't work if the only cell towers are in major towns, since we will be touring wilderness areas. And the cruise ship charges through the roof for Internet access, although there is (big whoop) free Wi-fi between passengers on the ship.

III. So that leaves smartphone usage in airports, the hotel in Anchorage where we'll stay the first 2 nights, and possibly - if our luck is bad - a hotel in Vancouver waiting for a flight back home.
My first thought was, "I don't need a SIM! I can just use Wi-fi!" (except on the ship, where I'll pay the fee just to check my email for emergencies about the house, etc.) However:
1. My experience with airport Wi-fi has led me to conclude that it is not 100% trustworthy. Nor is it 100% free - Boingo tends to intervene.
2. Had mixed results with hotel Wi-fi. Sometimes my phone will find the connection, but my laptop insists there is none.
3. Wifi won't help if we get separated from the group (then again, if connectivity is as bad as y'all say, neither would voice or text!)

IV. So, I want my belt and suspenders, or my service plus Wi-fi, if you prefer. Here are the options you've described:
1. Buy an ATT or Verizon SIM,no contract; charge it with minutes, text, and data, and test it in my phone before leaving for AK.
2. Buy a Tracfone SIM, ditto.
3. Postpaid, no-contract Tmobile for one month, cancel on return. Essentially the same as #1 and #2.
4. Get a cheap, prepaid phone in AK (I guess we'd have to buy it in the airport?)

For those who cautioned about unlocking my phone; I think it is unlocked, since it arrived from the factory and I was able to sign up with Ting right away.


Thanks all,

Amethyst
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Old 06-26-2018, 10:34 AM   #28
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III. So that leaves smartphone usage in airports, the hotel in Anchorage where we'll stay the first 2 nights, and possibly - if our luck is bad - a hotel in Vancouver waiting for a flight back home.
My first thought was, "I don't need a SIM! I can just use Wi-fi!" (except on the ship, where I'll pay the fee just to check my email for emergencies about the house, etc.)
You should also have regular cellular data service while the ship is in port. If you're on Princess' usual Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan itinerary, all those ports have cell coverage, and that might be often enough that you don't need to pay for the ship's wifi. If using local cell service on the ship while it's in port, you'll probably have to go up on deck because being inside a steel box tends to block cell signals. You will also need to be careful to keep putting your phone back in airplane mode so it doesn't connect to the cellular at sea network when you leave port and run up a huge data bill. (One reason I liked having Google Fi when we were on Princess in the Caribbean is that it doesn't know how to connect to the ship's cell tower, so I could just leave the phone in it's normal mode and every time we passed an island I'd get roaming cell data service from their local provider, which costs the same as in the U.S.)

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IV. So, I want my belt and suspenders, or my service plus Wi-fi, if you prefer. Here are the options you've described:
1. Buy an ATT or Verizon SIM,no contract; charge it with minutes, text, and data, and test it in my phone before leaving for AK.
2. Buy a Tracfone SIM, ditto.
3. Postpaid, no-contract Tmobile for one month, cancel on return. Essentially the same as #1 and #2.
4. Get a cheap, prepaid phone in AK (I guess we'd have to buy it in the airport?)
I think any of these options would work. I prefer to do this kind of thing in advance, so I'd be more likely to make sure I have something that works at home and just take it with me. If you want to wait until you get there, you don't necessarily have to figure it out while in the airport. You can decide to make do with the Anchorage hotel's wifi the first night and then walk, cab or uber to a convenience store where you can buy a phone or sim the next day. It depends on your itinerary of course and how much free time you'll have in Anchorage.
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Old 06-26-2018, 12:44 PM   #29
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Thanks! Do you mean that I should keep the phone in airplane mode the whole time we're at sea?

>>You will also need to be careful to keep putting your phone back in airplane mode so it doesn't connect to the cellular at sea network when you leave port and run up a huge data bill.<<

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You should also have regular cellular data service while the ship is in port. If you're on Princess' usual Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan itinerary, all those ports have cell coverage, and that might be often enough that you don't need to pay for the ship's wifi. If using local cell service on the ship while it's in port, you'll probably have to go up on deck because being inside a steel box tends to block cell signals. You will also need to be careful to keep putting your phone back in airplane mode so it doesn't connect to the cellular at sea network when you leave port and run up a huge data bill. (One reason I liked having Google Fi when we were on Princess in the Caribbean is that it doesn't know how to connect to the ship's cell tower, so I could just leave the phone in it's normal mode and every time we passed an island I'd get roaming cell data service from their local provider, which costs the same as in the U.S.)



I think any of these options would work. I prefer to do this kind of thing in advance, so I'd be more likely to make sure I have something that works at home and just take it with me. If you want to wait until you get there, you don't necessarily have to figure it out while in the airport. You can decide to make do with the Anchorage hotel's wifi the first night and then walk, cab or uber to a convenience store where you can buy a phone or sim the next day. It depends on your itinerary of course and how much free time you'll have in Anchorage.
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Old 06-26-2018, 02:11 PM   #30
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Thanks! Do you mean that I should keep the phone in airplane mode the whole time we're at sea?

>>You will also need to be careful to keep putting your phone back in airplane mode so it doesn't connect to the cellular at sea network when you leave port and run up a huge data bill.<<
It depends on what solution you end up with. Prepaid plans and phones generally don't work with the ship towers, but regular contract plans from the major carriers like T-Mobile usually do.

Either way, a couple of hours after the ship leaves its first port, I'd take a minute to look at your phone and see if it has cell service and what network name shows up on the top of the screen. If you see something like "Cellular at Sea", “Nor-18” or “901-18”, then you are connecting to the ship's cell system and can make or receive calls, send or receive texts, and use celluar data, but it will cost you plenty. Here's a summary: https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1752

If your phone just won't connect to the ship's cell system, then there's no need to do anything with its settings. If it does connect, then you need to put it in airplane mode whenever you're at sea to prevent it from using data in background mode or receiving texts you don't want to pay for. You can keep airplane mode on to prevent the phone from connecting to the cell service and still turn on WiFi in order to use the Princess@Sea Intranet site that's available on the ship.
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Old 06-26-2018, 03:26 PM   #31
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Again, thanks for your terrific clear, detailed post.

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It depends on what solution you end up with. Prepaid plans and phones generally don't work with the ship towers, but regular contract plans from the major carriers like T-Mobile usually do.

Either way, a couple of hours after the ship leaves its first port, I'd take a minute to look at your phone and see if it has cell service and what network name shows up on the top of the screen. If you see something like "Cellular at Sea", “Nor-18” or “901-18”, then you are connecting to the ship's cell system and can make or receive calls, send or receive texts, and use celluar data, but it will cost you plenty. Here's a summary: https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1752

If your phone just won't connect to the ship's cell system, then there's no need to do anything with its settings. If it does connect, then you need to put it in airplane mode whenever you're at sea to prevent it from using data in background mode or receiving texts you don't want to pay for. You can keep airplane mode on to prevent the phone from connecting to the cell service and still turn on WiFi in order to use the Princess@Sea Intranet site that's available on the ship.
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Old 06-26-2018, 04:57 PM   #32
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.So, I want my belt and suspenders, or my service plus Wi-fi, if you prefer. Here are the options you've described:
1. Buy an ATT or Verizon SIM,no contract; charge it with minutes, text, and data, and test it in my phone before leaving for AK.
2. Buy a Tracfone SIM, ditto.
3. Postpaid, no-contract Tmobile for one month, cancel on return. Essentially the same as #1 and #2.
4. Get a cheap, prepaid phone in AK (I guess we'd have to buy it in the airport?)
Well, #3 isn't really the same as #1 or #2.

With a prepaid T-Mobile SIM off eBay it arrives already activated (use note to seller to tell them when to start) with its own phone number, and there's no need to cancel it (just let it expire)

Fine for on land, doubt it would work on a ship's cell network ($$$)
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Old 06-28-2018, 10:32 PM   #33
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....

For those who cautioned about unlocking my phone; I think it is unlocked, since it arrived from the factory and I was able to sign up with Ting right away.

.
Does not mean it is unlocked if it was meant for Ting anyway.

Simple way to tell is to stick a sim card in your phone from a different carrier, and see if you can make a call.

If you have a good friend, you could do this.

Otherwise you could buy a $5 mint mobile sim (comes with a week of some usage) and test.

First you can test if your phone is compatible through their web site:
https://www.mintmobile.com/byop/

Then if it is, you can buy a $5 sim though either of these 2 links, and of course read about it first.

https://www.amazon.com/Mint-Mobile-S.../dp/B0786RD524

https://www.mintmobile.com/mint-mobile-app/
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Old 06-29-2018, 07:55 AM   #34
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I don't understand this. I bought the phone direct from Moto's web site. The factory in China had no idea what carrier I planned to use. I guess I don't quite grasp "locked."

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Does not mean it is unlocked if it was meant for Ting anyway.
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Old 06-29-2018, 10:47 AM   #35
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I don't understand this. I bought the phone direct from Moto's web site. The factory in China had no idea what carrier I planned to use. I guess I don't quite grasp "locked."

Since you bought your phone directly from Moto, I would expect it is not carrier locked.
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Old 06-29-2018, 03:59 PM   #36
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I don't understand this. I bought the phone direct from Moto's web site. The factory in China had no idea what carrier I planned to use. I guess I don't quite grasp "locked."
You are probably fine, since you got it from the moto site, and not a carrier site.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:20 AM   #37
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Interim Update: Decided to purchase an ATT SIM card with a month of data and phone. Called both ATT and Ting to be sure I had all the required information. Went to the ATT store yesterday where the "transplant" was done.

Well, it didn't work. The tech tried to get rid of me by saying "It can take some time to port over."

I said, "That might be true for the phone #, but data should be instantaneous - people swap SIMs all the time." I asked politely for a supervisor, who figured out that the tech had billed me incorrectly, causing ATT not to recognize my account. All in all, the swap took 90 minutes I will never get back. But I have ATT service, now, which supposedly will work in AK.

Ting says I will need a brand-new SIM from them, to transfer back to their service.
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Old 08-04-2018, 06:03 PM   #38
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I too use TING..I called them last week to ask about using it on an Alaskan cruise..They assured me I would have no problem when docked at the ports..
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