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old cell phone/new sim card question

Our cell phones will not accept sim cards. We found an old Sony Ericsson phone in our junk drawer that will accept a sim card. The phone is around 8 years old. Are Sim cards pretty standardized, such that we could buy a sim card to fit this phone, once we arrive in England?

Posted by
8889 posts

There are 3 sizes of SIM cards: The original size, "micro" and "nano". Newer phones use the smaller cards. The shop selling you the card will be able to provide the correct size. It is a simple matter of cutting off plastic with a special cutter.
Photo here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/GSM_SIM_card_evolution.svg

A second question: is your phone "unlocked"? If you don't know, you can only find this out by trying a SIM card in it and seeing if it works.
Also, depending on which country you are from (You haven't filled that information in), you almost certainly need a plug adapter and possibly a voltage converter for the phone charger.

P.S. If a phone does not accept a SIM card, it means it is not "GSM" and is some other standard which does not work in Europe.

Posted by
167 posts

I have been using an unlocked cell phone (cheap!) that I bought in Italy 3 years ago. It was a TIM phone, but I do not think the brand is significant, the fact the phone is unlocked is the important thing.
I have used the same phone on separate trips to Spain and Portugal.

Have never been to England, but would imagine it to be as easy.
So very easy, buy a sim for the country you arrive in, I buy mine at the airport, pop in the new sim card and remove the existing. I usually save mine from the prior country for a return trip.
I find it very useful to have a cell phone to use locally in whatever European country I am in.
I also use the same phone to call my husband back in the states, a very cheap system that I have used for many years...but that is another post!

Posted by
1821 posts

The easiest solution is if your cell phone carrier has a travel plan for Europe. ATT for example has the Passport plan that let's you keep your home number. The data comes in very handy while traveling also.

What do you mean when you say your phones won't take sim cards?

Posted by
823 posts

A better question is what GSM frequencies does you old Ericsson phone operate on. North America operates primarily on 850 and 1900 Mhz while Europe operates on (primarily) 900 and 1800 Mhz.

Here's where it gets tricky, early North American market GSM phones were (primarily) dual band; only supporting 850 and 1900 Mhz. About 8 years ago is when most manufacturers started selling only Quad-band phones that worked on ALL four frequency bands.

Google your phone model number and look at the specifications. If it is indeed a Quad-band phone, call the provider where you last had it active and ask them to unlock it. They will probably tell you it can't be done but be persistent. If worse comes to worse, you might need to take it to a local repair shop that offers "jail-breaking" services. (Easy to find on google.)

If it is Quad-band and you do get it unlocked, there's a really good chance you'll be able to walk into a cellular provider and walk out 5 minutes later with a pay-as-you-go SIM.

I was very satisfied with my O2 service the last time I was in the UK.

Posted by
11292 posts

Work2Travel's post is very important. You can get SIM cards of the correct size, and a locked phone can be unlocked (one way or another). But if it doesn't have the European frequencies (bands), it won't work in Europe, no matter what else you do.

Older phones can have 2, 3 or all 4 bands; the only way to know is to look up that exact model. Sometimes the carrier's website will have that information, if you can't find it on Google.

Posted by
31524 posts

nancy,

I can't provide a definite answer to this without doing some research on the European cell networks, but there could be another complicating factor. Even if the "old phone" is unlocked and has the necessary frequency bands, it may still not work.

Many cellular networks are decommissioning their older GMS/GPRS/EDGE (2G) cellular networks and replacing them with newer UMTS/HSPA+ (3G/4G) systems which operate on the same frequencies. For example, Rogers (Canada) will be shutting down their older 2G GSM infrastructure by 2018. The Europeans often seem to be ahead of us with technology, so I suspect they'll be doing the same thing and may be further along in the process than networks in North America.

Some further information on the Sony phone would help.....

  • what model is the handset?
  • what network was it connected to?

Yes, SIM cards are standardized and an older phone probably uses the standard (full size) SIM, rather than the micro or nano versions.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you all for such great responses. I have been able to figure out that I have a 2 band phone 850/1900. It does not sound like it will work in the UK. So now I am back to finding a nice (cheap) replacement to use. Off to Amazon or Ebay.......

Posted by
11292 posts

" Off to Amazon or Ebay......."

If you're just looking for a basic phone, it's easier to wait until you get to Europe. That way, you are sure the phone purchased there will work there. Carphone Warehouse is a UK chain selling a large variety of phones and service from different carriers.

Or, if you let us know your current carrier, we can help you with other options. Many carriers have inexpensive models that will work in both the US and Europe. Some have high fees for overseas usage, and some do not.

If you do want a phone that will work in Europe, another source is B&H Photo Video. Note that "feature phone" is their euphemism for non-Internet phones. Check specs carefully to make sure it will work in Europe, and call them before ordering if you're not sure (they do a lot of business with international visitors and should know which phones will work where). http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/smartphones/ci/24039/N/3955685938

Posted by
31524 posts

nancy,

No, that phone will most definitely NOT work in the U.K.

While you could look for a phone on Amazon or wherever, the easiest and probably cheapest solution will be just to visit a Carphone Warehouse or other shop when you arrive in England. An alternative would be to buy a phone with a SIM card from one of the travel phone firms such as iRoam, Cellular Abroad, Telestial, Mobal or EuroBuzz (there are others). The latter option will provide you with a working phone as soon as you step off the plane.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks again. As stated earlier, our current phones do not accommodate SIM cards, and we now know the "junk drawer" phone is definitely not up to snuff for this application. I appreciate the numerous recommendations--rather leery of some of that cheap stuff on Ebay. My husband is really the techie, so I know we'll proceed with caution, and maybe even consider buying something in England, as suggested. Someone asked about our current carrier--we have Verizon.

Posted by
31524 posts

nancy,

Thanks for the additional information. You could contact Verizon and ask about their international roaming package. It may not be too expensive for occasional or "emergency" use.