Where My World Phone Leaves the US November 23, 2011Posted by Peter Varhol in Software platforms.
My last phone purchase was an HTC Merge running Android. I purposely got a world phone, even though my carrier is CDMA-only. I purchased a GSM SIM through Telestial, along with some prepaid calling minutes.
I confess to some trepidation in communicating with this approach. I read the reviews on Telestial, and they were generally positive, but people did have occasional problems. The biggest problem seemed to be data services, which left on can quickly drain the prepaid minutes. Android doesn’t seem to have a way of turning off data services altogether, but you can turn off data roaming, which seems to serve the same purpose.
So I arrived in Amsterdam after my eight-hour flight, and while in the KLM Crown Room club I pulled off the back of the phone and looked for the spot to insert the SIM. First problem – while I found the slot, it didn’t seem to go in exactly as the documentation illustrated. I inserted anyway, figuring that no harm would be done, and there didn’t seem to be any other way of inserting it.
The phone booted, and asked for my PIN to unlock the SIM, so I figured it was correct. But five minutes later, I still didn’t have a signal. So I shut the phone down and rebooted. Still no signal. But half an hour later, before I left the club, I had a signal. I couldn’t reasonably make a call yet, because it was about 2AM on the US east coast, so I shut off the phone to get ready for my next flight.
I acquired a signal in Berlin, too, and had one while there and in Frankfort coming home, and was easily able to make high-quality phone calls to the US, at $.50 a minute. I kept data roaming off (but was able to connect on wifi for part of the time), and didn’t incur any data charges.
I realize that people have been doing this sort of thing for years, and that a native GSM phone in the US (through AT&T or T-Mobile) offers similar benefits (although connectivity worldwide depends on both wireless company partnerships and signal frequencies), but it demonstrates how easy it is to communicate across natural and political boundaries these days.