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Replacing the SIM Card

We are traveling to Italy, Paris and Malta. We all have Verizon Iphones 5 or 5S. We want to replace the sim cards while in Europe because Verizon's plan does not offer data and my teenage girls "Just have to post" their amazing shots. :) The Verizon store told us this was the best way to go. Is it difficult to do? Any tips?

Posted by
9363 posts

If the phones are unlocked, it's not hard to do. I don't do iPhones, but you have to make sure they are GSM capable (I think they are, but I don't know for sure). But even with a new SIM (which changes your phone number, by the way), it's still cheaper to post pictures and such on (free) WiFi. You can do that without changing SIMs. Turn off data and roaming, then turn on WiFi.

Posted by
28078 posts

They are not going to updating their status while looking at wonderful sights are they? Or wanting to upload (big) photos while out and about? Won't they wait, or can't you ask them to wait (when I was a child I was never asked to do anything, I was told that I would) until they get to the wifi in the hotel?

Posted by
22 posts

Nigel,

I agree and they will wait. My worry is they are so use to posting that they do it without realizing it. As of now we are taking our Sim cards out and trying to just by one sim card for one phone in case an emergency call or to look at an online map is needed. Without the sim card they won't be able to post without data.

Posted by
6 posts

Since Verizon is a CDMA network, and Europe, and most of the rest of the world is GSM, there can be issues. Your Verizon iPhones will be GSM capable, but you will likely be limited in the GSM bands it can pick up due to Verizon. You will probably be limited to 3G also because you likely won't be able to get the LTE bands. 3G is usable, but if you are used to LTE, it will seem like you are moving in slow motion. And as mentioned above, if your phones aren't unlocked, nothing will work.

Posted by
31510 posts

Just to clarify, I believe all Verizon phones from the iPhone 4S and up are capable of use on GSM networks. Check with Verizon to confirm that, and also whether the phones are unlocked.

Posted by
101 posts

Yes, as Ken says, your Verizon iPhone 5/5S does have GSM capabilities and will work fine in Europe, despite it also having the CDMA bands needed for the Verizon network in the U.S. Further, it is definitely unlocked, due to an agreement between Verizon and the FCC.

I had a Verizon iPhone 5 that traveled all around the world with me, and it accepted a South African, Israeli and Hungarian SIM with no problems. I wish it was better-advertised that the more recent Verizon iPhones are unlocked (unlike, say, AT&T's), because this is important information for consumers to know. It factored heavily into my decision to choose them as a carrier.

If your Verizon SIM's are still in the phones when you arrive, be sure to turn off cellular data to avoid any roaming fees. I usually remove mine on the plane trip over. The small plastic cases that hold memory cards for cameras are good for storing the tiny nano SIM's safely so that you will be able to find them when you return home. Don't forget to bring a paperclip, or SIM ejector tool, to open the SIM slot with.

Posted by
2949 posts

Verizon may be different, but here's my experience in May of this year with a different cell phone provider. Two problems.

  • When you use a local SIM card, you get a local (in-country) mobile phone number. In France I had a French phone number. Then when I got to England I had a UK phone number. My cell phone provider had told me my number would not change in Europe, but they were 100% wrong about that.

This makes your phone absolutely useless if you need to receive calls! Loved ones back in the USA or advance bookings on your itinerary might need to notify you of some emergency. For example, our ferry from France to England was canceled and the ferry company tried to call me 12 hrs before sailing, but the phone number they had on file for me was my regular USA number, so I never got that voice mail until after I returned home and reactivated my USA SIM card. (Luckily they also emailed me, and I did get that notification in time to drive to a different port city and catch a different ferry.)

  • I also could not use my phone upon landing in USA to call our car service to pick us up at the airport, because the only way I could begin using my phone in USA was to call my provider's tech support (from another phone) and have them reactivate my USA SIM card.

I would strongly recommend checking with Verizon to see if you will encounter either one of these inconveniences using local SIM cards in Europe.

Posted by
9363 posts

I have switched out SIM cards on phones and never had to have my US card reactivated - must be a quirk of your carrier? Generally, as soon as you switch the SIM, it becomes your regular phone again.

Posted by
4954 posts

Yeah, sounds like a Verizon quirk. I've never had a problem switching SIM card with T-Mobile - my phone always works immediately when I put my T-Mobile SIM back in.

As I have noted a few times, one way around the "not having my US phone number problem" is to get a Google Voice phone number (free) and use Google Hangouts on your smart phone to make/receive calls. If you want to, you can forward calls from your US cell number to this Google Voice phone number, so you'll still be able to receive incoming calls. Outgoing calls would be from the Google phone number, though, so your contacts may not recognize your number when you call them.

To receive calls directly on a new phone number you got with a new SIM you got in Europe? One option is a forwarding service like LocalPhone.com offers (I used them a few years ago). They give your US contacts a US phone number, so it doesn't cost them anything to call you, but you have to pay a per-minute forwarding cost to LocalPhone. Incoming calls on European cell phones tend to be free otherwise, so your won't use up your minutes on your local SIM card, just the per-minute cost to LocalPhone. It's also a bit of a hassle to use LocalPhone if you have a lot of people who will call you, because the way it works is that you must add each contact (using their phone number) to your account, then you give that phone number to your contact to call. It works OK if you have say 2-3 people who will call you but not practical if you want to give one phone number to a bunch of people at once

The Google approach is much simpler/cheaper but requires a smart phone. The Localphone/forwarding approach could work if you are already traveling and forgot to setup a Google Voice account and have only a few people who need to contact you.