I switched my mobile carrier to T-Mobile last summer, in part, because their simple choice plans offer free unlimited data in 120+ countries, and includes most of Europe. I tried to find some detailed accounts of how this worked out for others, but was frustrated by how little detail I found. With that in mind, I wanted this detailed report to be out there for someone else wondering the same thing, but couldn’t find good answers.
In August of 2015 I traveled to Spain, Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands over the span of four (4) weeks. There were three (3) of us in our group traveling together. All on T-Mobile simple choice plans, and all on iPhone 6. We all had the same experience overall.
Coverage: You roam onto local networks. Because T-Mobile exist in the Czech Republic and the Neatherlands, you would most (but not always) connect to a T-Mobile network. This would be “T-Mobile NL” or “Telekom DE” in Germany. But there were many other networks that we would connect to, and it sometimes would change throughout the day. Most of the time it would show as a 3g connection, but other times it shows as a LTE connection. But regardless, data was always throttled to 2g speeds. In generally, if the locals had a signal in the metro/train/building, so did I.
Messaging: I did not get charged for any SMS (text) messages. iMessage worked as normal, with read receipts coming through, delivery notifications, etc. Whatsapp worked totally as normal. Facebook massager worked totally as normal. Google handouts worked as normal. These were a huge benefit! If we sent a (as in just 1) photo, it might take 30-40 seconds to send.
Calling: Wi-fi calling is great. We could use this at the local starbucks, or our hotel. We paid nothing when calling back to the states. Normal calls got billed at 20 cents per min as expected. This happened a few times, when our uber driver called because he couldn’t find us. The cost to place a normal call to the states, or to the county we were visiting was the same – 20 cents.
Calling Alternatives: There are a few phone app alternatives we tried in our travels. Whatsapp has a voice calling feature. It worked great to call others in or group, or make calls back to the state. Do note that there is a “low data usage” setting, that we kept on at all times. I had 57 minute conservation with my sister in California, and the quality was great, and the app reports it used only 13.9 MB of data. I had no echo or noticeable lag. Facebook messenger also a voice calling feature that we briefly tested, and it worked great too.
Maps: Google maps works fine, although it can be slow at times. We used it for transit directions and walking directions. I recommend also having an offline map app as well. I used “Maps.me” in this and prior trips. Download the countries you are going to in advance.
Apps: I could log into my credit union app, and transfer money, no problem. Gmail app worked fine, although it could take a few more seconds to load. I would get into my small google doc with travel information. Apple’s weather app worked normally. Google translate app also worked fine on the connection. Uber and Apple’s “Find my Friends” also works as normal. That exchange rate app? It updates as normal too. Wikipedia app had no problems either.
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