Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Mobile mobiles! (My findings on cell phones abroad)

August 4, 2009 · 14 Comments

Hey everyone! So these past few days I have been doing some research on cell phones. I have an At&t phone that can be activated to be used abroad. They have this World Traveler plan that (at least for my phone) it would cost me $5.99 a month in addition to $0.99 a minute. My text messages would cost $0.50 to send but nothing to receive. They made it seem like a good plan, but $0.99 a minute seemed a bit pricey to me. I have skype, which does have a feature to call telephones and I forget exactly how much it costs, but it is pretty inexpensive, you just have to use your computer. Right now I am going through other types of phones. Here are my findings:
Orange– www1.orange.co.uk
This mobile service is based out of the UK…to call to America (under their Pay Monthly plan) would be 1.10 pounds. Under their Pay as you Go plan it is 1.30 pounds per minute. The site was a little confusing, so you might have to check this yourself.
Virgin Mobile– www.virginmobileusa.com/rates/InternationalCalling.do
It is $0.20 per minute in the UK, with $0.20 to send a text message, $0.10 to receive one (This is probably in addition to a certain package and paying for the phone).
O2- www.o2.co.uk
Under Pay & Go there is a service called Discount Country if you will be frequently calling one country. For the US it is 9p per minute and 2.55 pounds per month. Discount Country is also available to pay monthly. It is 9p per minute as well, plus 3 pounds a month.
International Traveller Service is only available under the per month category. It seemed to be geared more towards business people. It would be 2.99 pounds per month and 17p per minute to the US. For some European countries it would be 17p per minute.
I have not gotten a chance to check out this site yet.
Magic Jack– www.magicjack.com
I could not get this link to work for whatever reason, but it is supposed to have good rates.

To me, the Virgin Mobile seemed like the best deal for me. Of course, you all know you have to purchase a phone and pay for a package in addition to the international rates. If anyone has any other findings or advice, please post it! Thanks!

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14 responses so far ↓

  •   becca136 // Aug 4th 2009 at 10:59

    I have researched Magic Jack and found it was kinda like skype. With MJ you talk on a landline type phone through the internet. The Magic Jack device plugs into your computer and has a phone jack on it so you can plug in a landline type phone. You have to dial by using the computer (just like skype). You have the option of using a headset instead of a phone. Yes Magic Jack can call any phone internationally without any additional charge, BUT remember what the person whom you are calling is paying for the international call. If you and your family back home are both using Magic Jack you might as well just be using skype for cheaper, because you are both attached to the computer and still can’t go anywhere (however you are paying $40 for the first year and $20 for every year after). I think I read somewhere that if you have a wifi internet connection then you can use your phone in the wifi area of your comp. (kinda like the “hot spot” that some phone services offer). However, that still leaves you stranded in your bedroom (that is only if we have wifi). So you make your choice… to me it just sounds like a more expensive skype.

  •   aidanoshea // Aug 4th 2009 at 12:40

    Does anyone know if it would be advantageous to buy a phone (and plan) now or when we get to England? I’d like to deal with all of that now, but I wonder whether it would be any cheaper to be assigned a British number since I’ll be mostly making domestic calls while I’m there

  •   hankreas12 // Aug 4th 2009 at 13:19

    Everyone I have spoken with (alumni of the Norwich program and other friends that have studied in the UK) recommend just picking up a basic mobile phone when you get to England where you pay as you go similar to a “tracfone”. I’ve heard that it is usually quite affordable as well.

    Phones with international capabilities such as Blackberries and I-Phones have a nasty habit of dropping a lot of calls and apparently become more of a hindrance than a help. Although they may seem more convenient then a pay-as-you-go option I have heard nothing but negative experiences from students who have used Blackberries or the like while abroad.

  •   allisonmschell5 // Aug 4th 2009 at 14:38

    Thanks everyone…I agree with you becca, it seems like Skype and MJ leave you confined to your computer. I might use skype every once in a while to make some calls, but I do want to get a mobile while I am there. That seems like the best option!

  •   allisonmschell5 // Aug 4th 2009 at 14:39

    Also Aidan, I think it would be better to buy one in England because, like you said, we will be mostly doing calls around there and back home. I think I would have used my phone if I were only going to be in England for a few weeks, but since we will be there the whole year, it seems worth it just to buy an English phone.

  •   buonacos // Aug 4th 2009 at 14:59

    Thanks for all the research Prof. Qualls!

    I think I’m going to just buy a local pay as you go phone and rely mainly on skype to talk to my parents/friends at home. I’ll probably get the option to call landlines through skype so that I don’t have to rely on the other person being at the computer at the same time. Frankly, the only place I would be making calls to my parents to begin with is in my room, so it doesn’t bother me that I would be limited to my computer. Clearly, I’ll give them the cell phone number for emergencies, but otherwise it seems like skype is the cheapest option.

  •   allisonmschell5 // Aug 4th 2009 at 15:01

    Well, that was all mostly me Sarah haha. Prof. Qualls gave me some names of mobile companies and I tried to look up the rates. Your plan seems like something I will do Sarah 🙂

  •   aidanoshea // Aug 4th 2009 at 16:20

    Thanks Henry and Alli. You guys are right, I just wish I could get one now since I need a new phone (for home) anyway, and it would have been easier to get my parents to pay that way. Oh well.

  •   Chelsea Gilchrist // Aug 4th 2009 at 21:11

    This is something I have *some* experience with, so I’ll add my two cents in.

    1) My brother was just in Canada for a month, and my family and I just went up for a week as well. American phones (even non-international ones) work in Canada, but for a hefty price. For a single month of making calls while roaming using Verizon (which I’m pretty sure is what someone with a global phone would be doing in England) it was $500 OVER our regular monthly Verizon bill of ~$120. $0.99 really adds up quickly, so from this experience alone, I would think that someone trying to use an American-based international phone for about 10 months would be a BIG money drain. The guys at my local Verizon store confirmed that fact, and I think it says a lot when people that work for a company tell you NOT to use their service.

    2) I lived in Holland last summer, and while I was there I got a cheap pay-as-you-go sort of phone. At least in Holland, regular supermarkets had their own cell phone plans and lines of service, and a very basic phone was about 20 Euros. My only complaint about it was that when I travelled to other countries, the phone wouldn’t make calls, but it did send texts. Perhaps that’s something that can be negotiated with the cell phone company before you leave on a trip, though.

    3) I’ve been doing a bit of research on phones myself…I found one plan that seemed to be beneficial for our circumstances from O2. Apparently, every time you add money into your account to get more minutes, you get a certain number of free international-call minutes, which would be useful for occasionally calling home using a regular cell phone rather than using Skype. It says the page is currently down for maintenance, but this is the link (it’s the last plan on the list): http://shop.o2.co.uk/tariffs/Pay_and_Go

    The UK phones on the various carrier websites seem to be pricey. I don’t think they do free phones or very cheap phones the way we do here…I think we’re going to have to pay about 40-80 pounds up front for basic phones, unless they have cheaper ones in the stores that they aren’t showing online.

    4) I’ve heard good things about getting your usual phone “unlocked” before you leave, so it will work on any network. Once you’re in England, I think all you have to do is buy a SIM card from whatever network and stick it in your usual phone, and it should work. However, I’ve never done this myself, so perhaps it’s not as easy as it seems, and many Verizon phones don’t use SIM cards and don’t even have slots for SIM cards, so it wouldn’t work for those phones.

    Anyway, sorry for going on, but there’s what I’ve found out so far :).

  •   buonacos // Aug 5th 2009 at 08:59

    Oops! Sorry, Alli. That’s what happens when I don’t pay attention.

  •   allisonmschell5 // Aug 5th 2009 at 09:23

    Wow thanks Chelsea! That really helped me out alot. My dad is thinking that he wants me to just use my current phone abroad under the World Traveler plan, but $0.99 a min is rather expensive and I think that would be unwise. I am going to check out the O2 site…I think that might be our best bet! Thanks for doing the research :).

  •   kstaab77 // Aug 5th 2009 at 11:39

    I have to agree with the things that everyone else has said about buying a new phone in England. I know from experience that pay as you go phones are probably more common in Europe, even among the locals, than the more-expensive plans. It allows you to get a basic phone really cheap because they expect you to make up the difference in buying Top-Ups for the phone. (For example, on Virgin Mobile’s website, the cheapest phones for pay as you go are 15 pounds. O2’s cheapest seems to be 35 pounds, but I’m finding their website confusing.) The only problem that can occur with the pay as you go phone is forgetting to Top-Up. Again, this isn’t a horrible dilemna because most grocers and quick-marts allow you to buy credit that is specified to your service provider and now, with the wonders of technology, you can Top-Up online. It looks to me that the charges for Vodafone, O2, and Virgin Mobile are all very similar for calls/texts within the UK, but I would certainly use skype for calling my family back home.

  •   jeylam // Aug 13th 2009 at 11:21

    Thanks everyone for doing such amazing research. I did call the Verizon carrier and even they suggested that I buy a prepaid phone once I get to England because it seems that the Verizon phones purchased in the US work on a different system than the UK cell phones. So even if I wanted to use my current cell phone in England, I wouldn’t be able to.

    So I am hoping that buying a prepaid phone in London won’t be a hassle and I will be definitely relying on wonderful invention called “Skype” =]

  •   Karl // Aug 15th 2009 at 16:46

    Let me add my two-cents here….late.

    Although you may do as you please, I would urge you to consider a pay-as-you go mobile here. We have Virgin and I just bought two phones. They had phones under 10 pounds (ours were just under 15). You can “top up” (add money) to your phone online, at a gazillion stores and newstands, on your phone, and even at ATMs. Easy peasy.

    I also have Skype and Magic Jack. Skype is good because you can see the person you are talking too if you have a webcam. Magic Jack is great too. There is no per call charge to you or anyone else you call in the states. You can call landlines or cells and there is no charge to you. The thingy is $20 and $20 per year for service. The only hitch is that the phone jack in the UK is different. However, you can take the handset cable off and hook the MJ to your phone via the handset chord.

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