The iPhone 5 was just announced this week, something that I’ve been waiting for before finally retiring my old Motorola RAZR V3 that I use when I’m home in the USA. There have been some very good articles about international traveling with the iPhone 5 already. If you’re into that kinda thing, go check out Which iPhone 5 Lets You Roam Where You Want? and Which iPhone 5 for a Global Traveller?. But as I posted last year on this blog, I favor the “dumbphone + smarttablet” approach for many reasons. This is only more true now. Here’s why…
Smart Tablet, Now Smarter
Recently I upgraded from my “classic” iPad 3G to the newest version. Why? To get tethering within the US (which has been available with many overseas carriers since the iPhone debuted), and the fact that with the new iOS, my old one will be obsolete. The camera sure is nice too. The addition of domestic tethering means that it can be the center of my digital universe. I can now work on my laptops via my iPad from most anywhere, and that makes a big difference in my quality of life. No more hunting down free wifi in a new place, buying food/coffee I don’t want just to get a connection code, or just straight up paying for it in places like airports when I only have a 90min layover and have to buy an all-day pass. Blech!
The iOS upgrade comes out next month for the iPad, and I don’t know about you, but most of the new bells & whistles that I care about from the new iPhone 5 will be included.
Dumber Phone for a Smarter You
Mobile communications companies make serious money off of pretending that voice, data, SMS text, MMS text, and international texts are somehow different. As far as the networks that handle these are concerned, they’re not. It’s all just 0′s and 1′s, nobody is analog anymore. Get any phone that’s just a phone, and you will automatically save yourself all the tempting fees that the provider will “accidentally” sneak on your bill and then try to convince you that you need to pay for separately. You don’t. Keep your phone as a phone, turn off all the extras, and it will work better as well as cheaper. True.
I have an array of cheap dumbphones that were each purchased for the country they’re from. They generally only work as Prepaids in that country, which is fine. I currently have an Australian phone, a New Zealand phone, a Canadian phone, and a European phone (with a swappable card for Switzerland, which is different). It’s been too much of a hassle or too short of a trip to get a unique phone from some of the other countries I’ve visited. In places like Brazil, I just trim down to iPad-only mode and forgo the cell. You know what? Every place I go, I have the right charger, without an adapter. I also have all the local numbers of my people there, ready to go. And with prepaid, month-to-month service, I’m not paying to be in two places at the same time. All is well.
I Love It When A Plan Comes Together
Finally there is a decent data & voice plan available within the US on month-to-month! It’s called the Share Everything plan, and it’s with Verizon. With this you can share from 2-12GB of data across all your devices on plan (dumphone, smartphone, tablet, wifi-hub, whatever…) and get unlimited talk/text, for a predictable flat fee. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s less than anywhere else. I pay $120/mo for 10GB of net, plus my dumbphone and iPad. And I’m thinking of throwing my brother on this plan for a while to help him out, it’s only $10 bucks extra per month (now that is cheap).
Most people upgrade hardware & sign up for the standard 2-year agreement to get this plan, that’s what Verizon expects you to do too. But if you own your devices outright, you can just dive right in without signing your life away. I paid the full $750 for my new iPad to be able to do this. To me it’s simply worth it. Due to a couple very bad customer service incidents back when, I had previously decided that I hated Verizon. This plan brought me back, and so far they haven’t screwed it up.
Verizon is THE carrier to get with your modern iDevices because:
- They have the best US coverage (honest).
- They work on the biggest exception-of-a-network on the globe (CDMA).
- They still work with the GSM that the rest of the world uses (iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 3).
- They’ll unlock it for you (if you ask nicely and pay your bills on time).
- They are the ONLY provider with a month-to-month option like this that isn’t prepaid (last time I checked).
Going month-to-month is critical for someone who plans to spend lots of time overseas. Why keep paying for pricey service in the country you’re not in? If you want to cancel it or minimize your rate as much as possible when you’re gone, you will need to be off-contract. If you want to drop a local simcard into your already global-ready phone (like an iPhone 4S or 5) and not pay your home carrier, you’ll need to be off-contract. If you want to have the leverage to push back on a customer service call when your carrier is trying to screw you over, you’ll need to be off-contract. C’mon, it’s the only thing that makes sense.
Seeking Plain Jane Phone
I am still looking for the US phone to compliment my new iPad (3rd gen). Whatever I get will just be a phone, and it will be soon. It will work on Bluetooth (mostly to sync with my computer), have a 3.5mm plug for standard headphones. It will be able to charge as fast as consumes power (I would prefer that it charge from a USB port), and it will work on Verizon. It doesn’t need to work anywhere else. I have other phones for that, thank you.