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  1. #1

    Questions on using cell phones overseas & unlocking issues

    Will be traveling overseas next year. Current cell phones will not work where I am traveling. Too old and wrong network connectivity-CDMA only phone. Smart by the standards when bought; dumb as a brick now.

    I have narrowed my search for a phone to a service provider (AT&T), but I am willing to look at others. Top choices on ly list of phones are Samsung Galaxy S III or iPhone 5. Want a smartphone that will work overseas but don't want to pay the exorbitant roaming charges for overseas service. That means I want an unlocked phone. After a considerable length of time researching, it appears I have several choices:
    1. Buy an unlocked phone-very expensive.
    2. Buy a phone from the provider and pay roaming charges-could be more expensive than 1 but could be less if I make very few calls and/or virtually no data use (if so why have the phone).
    3. Buy a phone while overseas for temp use there. Cost-depends on phone and plan. But have to learn a new phone. How do I get my address book and other features into the phone quickly so it is usable. All in all this may be the cheapest approach, but has operational downside.
    4. Buy a locked phone in the U.S. and do one of the following. See if AT&T will unlock the phone prior to trip. If not,
    a. Pay third party to unlock phone.
    b. Pay off the contract at a slight discount, and then have AT&T unlock the phone. This is probably the cheapest way to get an unlocked cell phone and have no issues or concerns with what the service provider may/may not do to you.

    My questions to the forum:

    1. Have I missed a some other way to meet phone needs while overseas? If so, what are they?
    2. What are the implications of using a third party to unlock a cell phone that is under contract? AT&T wouldn't tell me except that I would void the warranty. A review of their service agreement did not reveal any specific prohibitions against doing this. I may have missed it, or it could included under the heading of things not specifically listed in the customer agreement--a real catch all.

    My apologies if I missed obvious threads in the forum that have already addressed this. noob to the forum, smartphones, and oversea use of same.

    Thank you for any input that would be helpful.

  2. #2
    4. Buy a locked phone in the U.S. and do one of the following. See if AT&T will unlock the phone prior to trip. If not,
    a. Pay third party to unlock phone.

    I think this point would be a good choice and it will cost less..There are several commercial vendors online like who are engaged in cheap unlocking could rely on them

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2012

    Original Poster
    Thank you for your input. gene

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2013

    Galaxy S4
    Last year I travelled overseas. I bought a T-Mobile Galaxy S4 while there (USA). We were in country about 2 monthes, when I bought the phone I asked about unlocking before I returned. They told me no problem. Before we left I returned to the T-Mobile store and the clerk helped me go throught the process of getting the unlock code which was basically a phone call to T-Mobile. When we got home, I checked my email and there was the unlock code. My phone is now unlocked. I can use it locally and of course use T-Mobile again on my next trip overseas.

    Last edited by chrisretusn; 02-06-2014 at 06:39 AM.

  5. #5
    If you go down the road of unlocking a locked AT&T phone, you'll get almost nowhere with going to the store. I'm not bashing the stores, but they have policies in place prohibiting associates from commenting on unlocking (at least this was how it was explained to me when trying to unlock my note2) I've seen calling service providers work to unlock. ATT can hit/miss. Depends on who you get on the other end that day, and how you phrase it. I had a friend call in and unlock his Inspire then & there. I've also seen T-mobile support dish out an unlock code in a few minutes. Calling in can work.

    There are phones floating around which are factory unlocked, and also dual sim models. Consider browsing ebay. There are some nice unlocked phones. They sometimes require shady transactions, but I've purchased unlocked from overseas. There are just some cool toys not available in the states. Shop around. Watch reviews.

    Some phone carriers do not require unlocking to change service providers. Example: in the states, you can use a retired ATT phone with Net10's BYOD program. It takes some time to reconfigure APN settings to run data, but it's an option here, and probably there under some network.

    I don't have quotes on overseas' networks, but from conversations I've had with people visiting from Europe, prepaid and cell plans in general work radically different. From how I've had it explained, it is more common to have a cell plan that works similar to Tracfones minute by minute system, than most of our networks "unlimited at $[55]" in the states. The main difference I've seen is expiration of units. I've had visitors tell me units are much cheaper, and take much longer to expire on European networks, than their imperial counterparts.

    If you're dragging a smartphone, something you didn't consider is a text-over-wifi type app. They are frequently low cost, if not free. This won't replace primary service, but if this is a short visit it can help alleviate some plan cost, texting over the residence's wifi.

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