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Another question about phones and SIM cards

Hi folks--I will be visiting England (London and Lewes) in late May/early June. Although I have a tablet, I feel it's too large to carry around with me (back issues). So I'm thinking of buying an unlocked phone here in the US. Specifically, this brand:
Blu Phones

I do have a cell phone but not a smart phone. I don't think I'll be making a lot of phone calls (as I tend to use Skype to talk to my spouse) but would like to use it for apps such as "Walk It."

I have a couple of questions:

  1. How many GB do I need on this phone?

  2. I'll be staying near the Lambeth North Tube station, so I'd like to find a place that's not hard to get to so as to buy a SIM card. I imagine I'll be going out to buy this on spring bank holiday, and will be jet lagged, so the least hassle, the better.

If there's anything else I need to know, please advise.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
932 posts

More or less every corner store will stock Sims.
Most companies do 1 month deals with hundreds of mins UK call time, unlimited UK txt and 2 or more 2GBs of data for a 1 off £10 charge.
I will plug giffgaf as I have been with them 8 years, but Lebara and Tesco Sims are also common..as well as the BIG 4, EE , Vodaphone and O2 and Three.
The Costcutter shop, 50yds from the Tube stocks Sims.
Just check whichever phone you get is quadband, 1800, 1900, 850 ,950.
The 2 $69 ones in the link are

Posted by
2916 posts

I bought a Blu phone (Studio M) a couple of years ago, and it's perfectly fine for the little use I make of it. The problem with the one in your link (oops, see below*) is that it only has 8 MB storage. Although it takes a SD card up to 64 GB, that 8 MB of storage might not be enough. The Studio M has 16 MB, and I added a 64 MB sd card. I don't use it a whole lot, and I pretty much put everything on the SD card rather than the phone, but I still have about 10 MB of phone storage taken up.

  • When I scrolled down I saw more Blu phones, some with more than 8 MB. Based on what I said above, I would go with at least 16MB.
Posted by
504 posts

I took another look and there don't seem to be any MB phones on that list, much less 16 MG or greater.

Posted by
4954 posts

The amount of phone storage can be deceiving. What really matters is how much free space is left over. The Android OS takes up some of the storage space and so do apps. Some phones have "bloat apps" that are not easy to remove.

I used a Android with only 8GB of internal flash storage up until a month ago, for every day use. It was still quite usable, but as apps get larger I was starting to have space issues occasionally. I could see the writing on the wall. But for a travel phone it would have worked just fine if I had only a few apps on it.

However, my old phone didn't have much "bloat." Some of the newer cheap phones with only 8GB might have less free space because there are so many junk apps you can't easily remove. On the upside, if you add a microSD memory card, Android can use "adaptive storage" and use some of the extra space you add for apps, something my old phone couldn't do.

My new phone, a Moto E4 (fully unlocked) has 16GB which seems more than enough for me though some people scoff at that "small" amount. (You can add a 128GB memory card too.) The phone retails for $129 and is a super nice phone in my view. There's a similar version on Amazon for Prime members for about $100. The real reason to spend more than this for a smart phone is for a better camera in my opinion. I don't plan to use my phone's camera for much more than snapshots and use a real camera for "real" pictures.

I should point out that not all phones that work in North America will work overseas - or work well. We use different frequencies in North America that are used in Europe. Your American phone may work in Europe but may not have all the frequencies to pick up the fastest data networks. You may not care at all about this if you are not doing much with the phone...but some people would care. I know I did, because I found my old phone very frustrating to use in Europe because it was so slow, even though it was "fast" at home. But you can check the phone's specs and see what frequencies it has. It needs GSM 900MHZ/1800MHZ to work at all for voice calls and at slow 2G data speeds, and if it has UMTS 900MHZ/1900MHZ it should work as at least 3G, which might be acceptable. LTE is the fastest; I think LTE band 7 is used in many European countries.

Posted by
4954 posts

Yes, that's the one - although the RS site broke your link - try this one instead:

https://www.amazon.com/Moto-4th-Generation-Exclusive-Lockscreen/dp/B071YC3G5V/

FYI, that version of the phone for $129 is the Amazon version "with offers and ads" (annoying ads when the phone screen locks). There's no benefit to buying that version - buy the fully unlocked non-Amazon version for the same price, with no annoying ads, from places like Best Buy or B&H Photo Video. Search google for the model number, XT1768 . That Amazon version is often on sale for less than $129, the only real reason to buy it instead.

I'm not saying this is the cheapest phone that will fit your needs, but it should be more than adequate. I haven't yet used it overseas, but from the specs, it has all the bands required to work as a full LTE phone in Europe.

On another note: the reason I bought this particular phone now is that Sprint has an amazing offer for a free year of unlimited talk,
text, and data (well, $3.20/month for me with taxes and fees), if if you switch to Sprint with certain qualifying phones. This phone qualifies, and I just switched two weeks ago. The phone will otherwise work on Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon or anyone else. You do have to port an existing number to Sprint. I know this isn't what you are looking for, Sandra, but for others: Sprint does free data roaming overseas and 20 cents/minute calls.

Posted by
28078 posts

Tesco supermarkets in the UK have a Motorola Moto C Black -SIM Free for £89. For basics it would be fine. The Moto C won't set the world on fire but it isn't bad. Wy wife has had a Moto G for several years, and this is the baby brother.

There are Tescos everywhere. The Moto C has 16GB of internal, and ability to add a 32GB card. Plus the SIM of course. Giffgaff are pretty good.

Posted by
16 posts

Some carriers have "international data plans." I traveled to Austria/Germany with RS last fall, and I found this VERY helpful.

My carrier is AT&T. I checked it out online, called to see if the plan was available to my account, and I simply added it.

Utilization is as simple as installing their app. Every day that the phone picks-up an international wireless roaming-signal, the account is charged $10.

It was around $200 by the end of the trip. Totally worth it.

Happy travels.

Posted by
2916 posts

I took another look and there don't seem to be any MB phones on that list

I see that I used MB throughout my reply. I meant GB.

Posted by
504 posts

That's OK, Robert. After a while I figured that you meant GB. :)

I ordered a Moto 4E Plus from Amazon. It should arrive on Monday. For Prime members, it's $99.99 and it has extra battery life.

I know you can buy SIM cards anywhere, but I'd like to go somewhere where a salesperson will help me set everything up, considering my total lack of experience with a smartphone. Any suggestions?

Posted by
932 posts

The national chain, Carphone Warehouse, have a geek desk.Even if you take your own sim in rather than buying one direct from them, they stock all the big companies, I thinks its either £5 or£10 for them to set your phone up and check alls well before you leave the store

Posted by
1401 posts

I’ve been to the Carphone Warehouse and they were helpful with selecting a plan based on my needs. They ended up sending me to the Vodafone shop next door. They were extremely helpful in getting everything set up properly. I can recommend both.

Posted by
504 posts

Thank you so much!

I feel a lot more confident about the whole thing now.

Posted by
504 posts

Oh, I do have one more question about this:

Once I get the SIM card and therefore an account, will the phone company whose card I have, have specific hot spots that they can recommend?

Not sure I am phrasing this correctly.

I'm interested because I want to back up my photos to the cloud, and when I tried to do this in 2016, the connection was so slow at my B&B that HOURS went by and I never even finished the first day's load of pics.

Thank you!

Posted by
4954 posts

You SIM will have mobile data so you can upload from anywhere...but first of all, that will be slow, and second it will quickly eat up you SIM plan data!

Some mobile companies offer access to WiFi hotspots, but finding free WiFi hotspots out and about is easy now when traveling. Still, you'd need access to one for a while to backup photos, as backup may still take hours over the internet. Backing up a lot of photos may still take hours, depending on how many you take.

Do you mean phone photos? Camera photos? You might be better off with a device that backs them up locally, not use the cloud. Even fast WiFi may be too slow to upload a lot of photos very quickly.

Posted by
504 posts

Thanks for the reply, Andrew. I meant my camera photos. It's not particularly super-important for me to be able to do this. On my first trip to London with my tablet, I thought it would be bingo! and they'd be uploaded. Of course, I never tried it at home first (silly me). I should try it at work/school, where they've got a superfast connection.

I have very good data cards in the camera so I'm not especially worried about uploading to the cloud.