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cell phone use in England

Just have to ask a few more questions about using a smart phone in England. As established in a previous thread, we don't have phones that can be used there, so are researching the possibility of buying a used smart phone to upgrade our phone plan and then take it to England (pop in a SIM card there). Thinking of staying with Verizon service, (except for when we're in England), so the phone needs to be both GSM and CDMA.
I was told today by a Verizon employee to settle for nothing less than the iphone 6, if going with an iphone. Does anyone have an iphone 5 or 5s that they've used in England? Or do people like Samsung Galaxy? I don't want to use Verizon's international plan--seems too pricey. I'd prefer to buy a phone that we can use in other countries--England for now--and just get a SIM card there.
Since we're leery of buying a brand new smart phone, I'm trying my best to find a good, functioning, useful-in-England phone on Ebay.

Last alternative: rent a couple simple phones when we get to England. Is it easy to do that at Heathrow, and is that a good option, since we've lived this long without smart phones so far?

Posted by
2139 posts

You need to decide what you want from a new phone because at one extreme you're being advised about an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy, and at the other extreme renting a cheap simple phone in England.

If you want to get a new smartphone an iPhone may be overkill for your current needs. They are great phones but not cheap. Look at a budget smartphone e.g. a Moto G (the 3rd edition is good value).

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-unlocked-phones,review-2927.html

As a rule of thumb electronics are usually chapter in the US than the UK. So you could track one down on Amazon in the US and bring it to the UK.

Then when in the UK all you need is a new SIM - visit a Carphone Warehouse for advice.

https://www.carphonewarehouse.com/

If you just want a simple, non-smartphone then you could easily buy a basic phone for £10 when you arrive in the UK. I don't think anyone rents phones anymore - they are practically disposable.

Posted by
934 posts

You can pick up perfectly decent Android phone for 60 ( diminished!) pounds.You absolutely do not need an iPhone esp not the priciest model he would be delighted to sell you

Posted by
28105 posts

My wife has a Moto G and it is all she needs. And it has a memory card slot. And it is cheap.

I have an iPhone 4S. I've had it for 4 years, just about to contract for another year.

We own them both outright.

I just found the first app that won't work with the 4S after the app had an upgrade - My Supermarket. I won't miss it and I really don't expect to upgrade the 4S for at least another year.

I wouldn't suggest an iPhone for very basic use. All the apps most people need are on android. If you do want an iPhone, I'd suggest a 5S. Very few people "need" a 6 or 6 plus. I don't know enough about the SE to know what its pitfalls might be but I have heard good things.

Posted by
31519 posts

nancy,

A bit of further information would be helpful.....

  • Are you planning to upgrade your phones at home?
  • Is there a reason you want a smartphone like the iPhone 6 for your trip?
  • What type of uses are you considering for the travel phone - emergency use, calling hotels, sending texts or is data required?

You could possibly upgrade your current phones to something like an iPhone 6 / 6S or the newer 5SE, and that way you'd have a phone that work both at home and in Europe. However if you were planning to use a local SIM card in the phone when you arrive in England, you would have to ensure that the phone was "unlocked".

Posted by
13 posts

To answer the request for a bit more info:
Getting a smart phone would definitely upgrade us, and it would become my phone when we're back home in.the US.
I thought a smartphone would be a great 3- in- one kind of thing to travel with - calling/texting, taking pictures, utilizing the data capabilities. The idea would be to also get an additional "simple" phone that my husband would use, just so I could find him when we get separated on our travels. (It happens.)
I wanted the smart phone to be useful in either country, to make it a more reasonable investment. Also wanted to try and accomplish this with a used or refurbished device.
I'm a bit worried I might buy something that will be lacking in one of the necessary features. I know it has to be unlocked, and both GSM and CDMA, but it also has use the correct bands, too, I think. ( Not sure I have that right.) I want it to be CDMA because I think we're staying with Verizon.

Posted by
13211 posts

Nothing less than an iPhone 6? My husband manages just fine in the UK, Italy, New Zealand, and elsewhere with his iPhone 4S. And I am happy with my Nokia flip phone that I have had since 2010.

Posted by
4776 posts

Interesting... When I was looking to upgrade my phone (Nokia flip phone), the salesman also wanted me to buy the iPhone 6s. I settled for the iPhone 5s.
My daughter has the iPhone 4s & she had no trouble using it in Scotland for the 5 months that she was there studying.
My Nokia worked great when I traveled to Spain last year.
The bottom line... You need a phone that is "unlocked", & then you can buy a SIM card in England.

EDIT:
Nancy, I forgot to mention that I love my new iPhone5s, but if I were to upgrade now, I'd probably choose the new iPhone SE
(which came out a couple of months after I'd purchased my 5s). Keep in mind that most cell phone stores are no longer selling the iPhone 5s (I got mine at the Apple Store)

You may want to compare the newest iPhones here: http://www.apple.com/iphone/compare

If you decide to upgrade & buy a new smartphone, you basically have to pay for it outright (no monthly payment plans), in order for your provider to unlock it.

Hope this helps ;-)

Posted by
31519 posts

nancy,

I you upgrade your current phone to an iPhone 6 / 6S / 5SE, it should work on both the CDMA or LTE networks, at home or in Europe. Ask your Sprint rep's about that. You'll also have to ask if the phones are supplied unlocked, or whether there's a charge for that.

Those using basic flip phones may find that in a few years they won't work as cellular networks are planning to decommission the older GSM network, in favour of LTE and HSPA. Here in Canada, Rogers is planning to do that by 2018. As the old saying goes, "the writing is on the wall" and these days smartphones are the "smart" option.

Posted by
21300 posts

Nancy, last year I was facing the same situation: I had only a basic flip-phone and was planning a trip to Europe. I knew I was going to want access to the Internet on my very long trip, so I needed an updated phone. I didn't want to carry a separate camera, so I paid some attention to reports on the camera quality of the various phones on the market; that's an area where you may be giving up something by going with an older/used phone, but that may not be important to you.

I spent a huge amount of time reading phone reviews online--time I would have preferred to spend on trip-planning. I ended up with a Samsung Galaxy Android phone; I think it's a 5-inch model. In truth, any phone from one of the respected manufacturers would probably have met my needs, because they can all perform the basic functions.

Size is something to think about. Smartphones are heavy and getting ever larger. You probably will use the phone a lot for Internet research, so going too small might cause regrets. Take a look at some webpages you might visit (this one, TripAdvisor, your webmail application, etc.) on each model you are considering to be sure they can be read comfortably and you're OK with the scrolling. Keep in mind that you'll want to get some sort of case for the phone, which will add a bit of bulk and weight. There's a definite trade-off between portability and usability.

The other thing that matters for me is memory--another area where an older phone may limit you. I got as much internal memory as was available on the model phone I bought, I made sure there was a memory-card slot, and I bought the largest card my phone would take. Those turned out to be good decisions, because I download maps for use offline, and they seem to take up a lot of space. I'm also happy that the Galaxy can be connected to my home computer so I can easily transfer trip-related documents and photos back and forth, since I'm not set up for Wi-Fi at home. The newer Android phones also allow you to attach a USB key for lots of extra storage (useful for videos; otherwise probably not an essential feature if the phone allows a large memory card). I don't think iPhones work with USB keys for extra storage; I'm not sure whether they take memory cards.

Finally, if for some reason you buy or otherwise acquire a new phone, be aware that (as I learned at the last minute), a phone bought in the US may need to be used in the US for at least one phone call before you take it overseas and pop in a foreign SIM. I don't know why. This may be just an Android or Samsung situation; I never read about it during my pre-purchase research.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for all the good advice and especially the specifics that some of you shared about your own experience. I appreciate all those speedy replies! I'm going to have my husband read all your answers, since he always has good questions and considerations with stuff like this.
It's still a bit daunting, but I think we're getting closer to a solution.

Posted by
28105 posts

Don't always count on having much or sometimes any signal if you are in the countryside. Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Cotswolds are notorious "not-spots" and if there is cell signal there will be no data signal. Or you might find that instead of 3G you are out of data but a voice call or text can get through.

Often there is decent coverage in cities and large towns, and along motorways (illegal and unsafe to drive and text or call (unless hands free) but ok for passengers). Along railway lines it can be very spotty.

Posted by
13 posts

Acraven, which Samsung Galaxy model did you end up with, and most importantly, has it functioned well in both countries? Who is your carrier in the US? For instance, we're sticking with Verizon, and it looks like the only s5 that would/should work well in both the UK and US is the 990V.

Posted by
934 posts

There's cmda and quadband unlocked GSM phones on eBay ,ex Verizon , to buy at $28 dollars plus $12 shipping cost.
Seller is tintin6820.

Posted by
31519 posts

"You may want to look at Project Fi by Google."

One caveat regarding "Project Fi" is that it only works with a few specific phone models. For the majority of people, especially those of us using iPhones, it's quite useless.