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SIM card for my tablet for data only?

I'm probably going to be okay with my phones - I have T-Mobile, and, if I understand it correctly, they should work for calls and data in Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. BUT, I'm thinking I'd like to take my android Lenovo Tab 4, 8 inch also, and I can put a SIM card in it that I would use only for data . . . basically google maps, and various travel site access, surfing the web, etc.

Given that I'm not extremely tech savvy, can someone let me know if this is an okay idea, and, if so, what would be the best brand/company from which to purchase a 30 day card?

Also, maybe some who uses T-Mobile could tell me how I can best use it there - anything in particular I should know?

Posted by
5646 posts

First of all, you may be able to use your T-Mobile phone as a WiFi hotspot for the tablet. This is often what I do when I travel.

T-Mobile works pretty automatically as you travel from country to country. You do have to enable roaming. Then, at some point, it will roam and connect to a local network in each country. You'll get a text welcoming you to the country, informing you about the data and free texting and 25 cents/minute calls. Data is "2G" speeds which means it may be slowed down sometimes. Probably won't notice.

Tip: if you want to call home for free, you can probably setup WiFi Calling on your phone - that will let you skip the 25 cents/minute if you can hang out on a good WiFi connection for a while and make your call. Otherwise, there are free calling apps like WhatsApp and Google Voice. (Google Hangouts too but it is being retired later this year.) Google Voice will let you call US numbers for free from Europe (even from your tablet I think, as a speaker phone), even landlines. But you need to set it up first at home before you leave. WhatsApp requires the other person to have the app also, but it's very popular in Europe.

There are different wireless companies operating in each country. Show up at a mobile store and they can just set up the SIM for you. (In Italy, you'll need your passport too to buy one.0 Not sure which country you will visit first, but if you wish to buy a SIM for the tablet, presumably you'd be able to buy one SIM in the first country and use it in the others. Check these blogs for details. For Italy, I'd probably stick with TIM or Vodafone.

Posted by
1005 posts

I've recently done the same thing with my Android tablet. First, make sure your tablet is unlocked (if you're not sure,ask your provider). Then, if you're not tech savvy, go to a phone store in Italy and buy your SIM card there. They'll help you install it to make sure it runs properly, and explain how to top up your account. You can roam around the EU with your SIM card with no additional charges. Remember that data is often slower than Wi-Fi, so don't expect the same speed and don't try to download videos.

Posted by
33 posts

Thanks for the replies.

I'm wondering about a VPN service . . . just reading about this to find out what it is. Anyone have any ideas about worthwhile or not, and, if so, what company is recommended?

Posted by
5646 posts

If you need to ask what a VPN is, you probably don't need one - not anymore.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a way to secure all of your internet traffic (websites, emails, etc.) so it is encrypted and cannot be viewed by anyone. You do this by making a connection to some other network besides say the hotel WiFi's network. Companies run VPN services and let you subscribe (usually for a fee). E.g. if you are in Italy, you might subscribe to a VPN service back in the US and when you connect to it, no one in Italy can see what you are doing - all of your web traffic is encrypted and directed back to the US VPN company's networks.

I run a VPN server at home (most people don't, but it's pretty simple; runs on my router). So I don't have to subscribe to one. When I'm in Italy, I can connect to my VPN at home, and then all of my traffic gets directed through my home internet network. If you were monitoring my web browsing, you'd think I was at home, not in Italy.

In 2005 you might have wanted VPN, because most websites used SSL encryption. Back then, if you were on WiFi, people with the right equipment could view all of your web traffic e.g. web email, private messages, etc. (But not your passwords or credit card numbers.) Today, most websites are encrypted with SSL ("HTTPS"), so anyone with the right equipment trying to decipher your web traffic will see gibberish. At worst, they'll see WHICH websites you are visiting. So for example if you visit you credit union's website without a VPN, someone could tell that you are visited that website and guess you might have an account there. But they wouldn't get anything from what you are actually viewing on the site (not your username or account number or anything). They might find out this information in other ways anyway - e.g. you use your credit union credit card when checking in to the hotel.

I wouldn't recommend a VPN now to anyone but the most privacy-conscious user who is paranoid about people finding out anything at all about your internet activity. Even on an open public WiFi, your websites that use SSL are all being encrypted anyway these days , even without a VPN.