How to get a sim card and use 3G data in the US on your mobile

Yanke Doodle Data

UPDATED SEPT 2011

It’s not just the expense of roaming which makes using your mobile in the US impractical, there’s a number of reasons which make it hard. I’ve written this to explain how you can get a local sim card for calls, texts and data, but beware, even if you are roaming with your own sim, unless your phone is compatible with US networks you may run into problems.

What you need to know:

1. In the US they use different network technologies

In the US only AT&T and T-Mobile support GSM/3G(UMTS). The other major carriers, Sprint, Verizon and MetroPCS use incompatible CDMA technologies and only a tiny handful of dual-mode phones support both.

2. In the US they use different frequencies, so your usual phone may not work (or have no 3G access)

The two GSM operators, AT&T and T-Mobile support different frequencies for GSM and 3G services as used in most of the rest of the World. So you need to check if your phone will be compatible with their 3G frequencies, otherwise you’ll most likely be stuck on GSM/EDGE (slow).

In most countries GSM is on 900 or 1800, and 3G is at 2100. Many 3G phones bought outside of the US will therefore not work at all in the US. Confusingly the phone manufacturers often sell separate European and American versions of the same phone, but with different frequencies supported, beware! For example, the HTC Desire Z sold in Europe or Asia does not support 3G in the US, at all.

So you would like to get a local sim card for your trip to the USA?

3. In the US Prepay accounts with data are fairly limited and expensive

You are more likely to have a phone that supports AT&T’s 3G, as all iPhones do. But even with a compatible phone, prepay sim card accounts are quite expensive, and offer various restrictions on data connectivity or pricing:

  • UPDATED AT&T – Their GoPhone prepaid option finally now offers a sensibly priced option for unlimited data use. The new $50 plan, launched in June 2011 is good for unlimited talk, text and data. Beware that without this unlimited plan data is charged at a whopping $20 per Mb. (If you have an iPad see below for more on that later).
  • h2Owireless – a virtual network operating on AT&T, they are offering an all you can eat talk, text and data plan for $60
  • T-Mobile – I’m a big fan of T-Mobile, their “4G” network is fast, and their pricing is much cheaper than AT&T. (No longer the case). It really worked great on a business trip in Sept 2010 where I left my laptop tethered to phone all day long; the connection was rock solid and fast. (Sadly, a year later in Sept 2011 that was not the case, I just couldn’t get tethering to work at all). There is one big drawback with T-Mobile, your phone is less likely to be compatible with their flavour of 3G. Assuming you can get a compatible phone, T-Mobile now offer unlimited data on Pay As You Go. To use it you have to buy a $1.49 Web DayPass every day for 24 hours unlimited web access by clicking this link on your phone, which should pop up when you try accessing any website in your browser. If you are a more frequent visitor, or a heavier user their Prepaid plans are great value. Unlimited Text and Data can be had from $30 per month. As a third alternative T-Mobile also offer data-only prepaid plans, for $10 you can get 100Mb which lasts 7 days, or for $50 you can get 1Gb which lasts a month.  T-Mobile also support tethering, although you may have to pay an additional $15 for that (I believe it depends which phone you have). To get a T-Mobile SIM visit any T-Mobile store. The SIM costs $10, and includes $3 credit.
  • Simple Mobile – a “mobile virtual network operator” on the T-Mobile network. Just $60 for their sim only unlimited talk, text and data plan.

Anything else?

Do remember, to use a local sim you need to make sure your phone is unlocked.

Google Voice:

I really recommend this fantastic free service where you can claim a US number and make free calls from your PC. But the cool thing is you can divert this number for free to any US landline or mobile number, receive voicemail transcripts by email and, best of all, access the number online when you are outside the US and still receive calls, texts or voicemail. Pay as you go mobile numbers will eventually expire if not used, so it’s better to put the Google Voice number on your business cards. Please note, to register for a Google Voice number you will need to access the above link from an IP address inside the US. (Or you can use a VPN service to do this from outside the US).

What about the iPhone?

The iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G will work only with AT&T.

What about the iPad?

This is also compatible only with AT&T, but the good news is AT&T do a special iPad data-only prepaid plan. For $25 you can buy a block of 2Gb, which lasts for up to 30 days. If it runs out you can buy another block; cool. Not so cool is that to get a sim card you’ll have to go to an AT&T shop and pay $15. You’ll also most likely need a US credit card to activate it, although my UK issued Amex card worked fine with a made-up US address. If your card is rejected you can get around this by going to CVS or Walgreens and getting a prepaid VISA card to make the payment with. I thought the special iPad plan would be a great way to get a cheap data plan for a dongle, mifi or even to use with a phone but I believe the sim card will only work in an iPad. If you know otherwise, please let me know!

Alternatives:

Truphone is a global mobile network operator which offers one sim card which works in the US, UK and Australia, and can have a local mobile number in each country. In the US data is charged at 20p per Mb, and it uses the T-Mobile network.

Although they are few and far between now, dual-mode phones are likely to become more common. The next iPhone is rumoured to support both CDMA and GSM based networks and this may make it easier to use Sprint or Verizon when in the US and a GSM network when outside the US. Dual-mode phones currently available include the Motorola Droid Pro XT610 and the BlackBerry Bold 9650.

FAQs:

  • Are there are phones that will work on both T-Mobile USA and AT&T, as well as access 3G world-wide? Yes, there’s a few smartphones that support 3G on 1700/1900/2100.
  • I really want to use T-Mobile 3G, where can I buy a compatible phone? You can buy compatible phones but they are harder to find outside of the US. It might be better to pick up an official branded T-Mobile USA phone on ebay or Craigslist. They will work for 3G outside the US too, assuming the phone is unlocked.
  • Will things change when AT&T and T-Mobile merge? In March 2011 AT&T announced they had reached agreement to acquire T-Mobile USA. Both businesses will continue to be run separately for the foreseeable future pending regulatory approval, and if this is granted it will take even more time for pricing and technical issues to be resolved. The latest (Sept 2011) is that AT&T have a long battle ahead of them to get regulatory approval for this merger, so it’s business as usual.

Who am I?

I’m Scott Allison, this is my blog. I started my first business selling mobile phones online in 1996, then co-founded award winning B2B telco abica, and now I’m working on new business, Teamly. I’ll be at SXSW in March, please say hello if you see me!

64 Responses to How to get a sim card and use 3G data in the US on your mobile

  1. c0up says:

    Cheers for the great overview. Good to know that my Galaxy S i9000 can only get 2G coverage if I do decide to get a data plan on T-Mobile when I’m over there for SXSW

  2. Hi Scott, Great post and really helpful for anyone travelling to the US. I work for a German company and a few colleagues have asked me in the past if there is a prepaid sim card they can get to have a data connection with their unlocked iPhone in the US. AT&T told me this wouldn’t work with their prepaid plans. The only way I know to do this is to use a T-Mobile prepaid sim card, which only gives you EDGE data on the iPhone. Do you know of any alternatives? Thanks, Johan

  3. Jeanet says:

    Thanks for this Scott, wish I’d read this a couple of days ago before spending hours trying to find out all this stuff for myself. Based on my searching I was going to get a T-mobile sim only but I have a Motorola Milestone which has 900/2100 3G frequencies which I figured was enough since T-mobile offers the 2100 frequency but now I know the phone needs to support both frequencies they offer (1700/2100).
    I was looking at Truphone but their site doesn’t offer much information. Since they use the T-mobile data network, would I still need a phone that supports both 1700 and 2100 3g frequencies?
    And how does their subscription work? Can you get it for just one month (just need it for SXSW)?
    And can I lie on the webform and choose the US as my country of residence so I get a US number rather than a UK one (without having to pay the extra $5 to get add a number from another country) but still pay with a Dutch creditcard? Hope you can help, otherwise I’ll try e-mailing them. Thanks again for the article.

    • Yes, you would need a 1700/2100 for Truphone as well. I’m not sure about their subscription rules and regulations, so you better check with them!

      The lack of support for US frequencies was the main reason I didn’t get a Milestone. Currently I have a Motorola DEXT, and will shortly replace it with a CLIQ 2. It’s so much more convenient having one phone that works wherever I go!

      • Jeanet says:

        True, but I do love my Milestone (if only they’d hurry up with that update to Froyo). But it’s definitely something I’m going to look into when buying my next phone (which won’t be for a long time because there’s still no phone out there to rival the Milestone in my opinion). They should put that on the Truphone website, because this way a lot of people are going to be very disappointed.
        Thanks again. Have fun at SXSW.

  4. Ben Wilkins says:

    Very helpful post, thanks Scott! I’ve got an iPhone so have been browsing the AT&T website for a sim only plan but it seems that i need to purchase a handset in order to be able to get a PAYG sim. Am i missing a trick with this? Any help you can give me would be much appreciated.

  5. jeanet says:

    I´m a little disappointed with T mobile. I got the $30 a month prepaid plan (which I just wont refill) which gives me 1500 minutes/texts and should also give me 30mb data. I knew the 3G data wouldn´t work because of the different data frequencies but had expected to get at least 2G data use, but I get no data at all (except for wifi when available of course).

    So do you know which frequencies the Simple Mobile provider uses, are they the same as the t mobile frequencies since they use that network.

    • Yes, they are the same. T-Mobile data should work, I suspect you need to change the APN on your phone to make it work.

      • jeanet says:

        Ah, providers in The Netherlands don’t use an APN so I’d never dealt with that before. But I’ve looked up the settings and now it works. It says E so I’m guessing that means I’ve got an Edge type data connection. Better than nothing :) Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  6. Les Smithson says:

    Great blog, I wish I’d found it a few weeks ago when I started looking in to this. Have you any direct experience of Simple Mobile? I have some questions about international shipping, activation and their SIM kit. I emailed them a couple of times but they don’t reply.

    • Good luck with that! I have no experience, but I’d be very surprised if they offer international shipping. You could just go to one of their dealers on arrival, buy one on ebay, or if your goal is to get a US number in advance of your arrival use a US VPN service to grab yourself a Google Voice number which you can divert to the US mobile number once you’ve got it.

      • Les Smithson says:

        It turns out I was having intermittent email problems and some replies weren’t getting through – oops!

        The end result is that Simple Mobile won’t ship, but these guys – http://www.mrsimcard.com – resell them and do ship internationally. They also activate the sim card for you in advance so everything is ready to go as soon as you land. The SIM card arrived in the post this morning, as promised. So far so good.

        mrsimcard charge a hefty premium for this service, but needs must as we don’t have a lot of the time to shop around for this stuff when we arrive.

  7. Nick says:

    Hi
    thanks for your interesting blog.
    I visit Southern California and Las Vegas every October and am looking for the cheapest way to use my unlocked iphone 3gs for data only, I won’t be using it for any texts or voice calls. Is there a sim card available which fits the bill?
    Thanks
    Nick

  8. Matt says:

    Scott,

    Great information and you saved me from spending money on stuff that will not work.

    I want to get data onto my laptop. So I have been looking carefully at specs for 1700/2100 sticks/dongles and did not find any. Try the T-Mobile site I thought — they must have something compatible. I found the Rocket 4G with these specs:
    1900 MHz;UMTS/HSPA+: AWS Band IV / 2100 / 1900 / 850

    Am I completely lost or have things moved on and now 2100 is all that is necessary?

    Thanks, Matt.

  9. Rick rezac says:

    Hi Scott!
    Listen, i just lost my Nexus 1, I live in Thailand, was from OC, Calif.
    Now my son is looking for an AT&T or T-mobile HTC phone
    Any suggestions if they all will work here? seems like the numbers are about the same

    I really need to know, and there are many shops here that do the unlocking, rooting and whatever.

    Hope to hear back from you soon

  10. Hi Scott,

    I’m gonna visit USA next week and I already have a phone. I just need a simcard that only offers data plans. Where can I get it?

  11. Glenda says:

    Hello Scott,

    I am visiting the US soon and my friend bought a prepaid T-Mobile Pay as you go phone for me.

    Can I activate the T-Mobile phone from outside the US? I’d like to already have a phone when I get to the US.

    • Perhaps you can by calling T-Mobile? I’ve always activated sim cards in the store with them, and I’m not sure if they sell pre-packaged and pre-activated phones.

      Even if it’s active the prepaid service has no roaming activated, so it won’t work outside the US for sure.

  12. terry omorogbe says:

    Hi, my name is terry and i newly arrive the United state, what I am not happy about is that, I have been here since the past two weeks and I do not have a sim card. Please I want to know if i can buy any sim card and start using it on cheap. I heard that they will be charging 50usd every month. Please let me know I i can go about this because, I am a young guy and I do not have 50usd to be paying every month. Also, I want to know how much card i can be loading to call outside the country. Thank you

  13. terry omorogbe says:

    Hi, my name is terry and i newly arrive the United state, what I am not happy about is that, I have been here since the past two weeks and I do not have a sim card. Please I want to know if i can buy any sim card and start using the sim on a chip nokia phone . I heard that they will be charging 50usd every month. Please let me know how i can go about this because, I am a young guy and I do not have 50usd to be paying every month. Also, I want to know how much card i can be loading to call outside the country apart from the U.S . Thank you

  14. Cat says:

    Hi there

    Sorry I’m so confused..wondered if you could help me?
    I have an HTC Desire Z bought in the UK. I desperately want to use data on my phone(not particularly bothered about calls and texts) when on holiday in the US in a few weeks. This is particularly for navigation (Google maps). So I was thinking about buying a trusim to make this drastically cheaper, but yourarticle says my particular phone WILL NOT support 3G in the US. Do you know if it can use GSM instead? (I will make sure my phone is unlocked before I go obviously).

    I don’t want to waste my money buying a sim for the US if my phone is just not going to work for data at all.

    Any advice you can offer appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Cat

    • Your phone is not compatible with US 3G, but you will get GPRS or EDGE signal. I’d definitely recommend a US SIM, but if you get a tru sim I’d still pre-cache Google Maps around the areas you will be travelling to before you go, to save on data.

  15. Cat says:

    OKgreat thank you so much. I did some pre-cacheing of the maps the other day actually so glad to know I had the right idea.
    Is there an sim card option other than tru-sim which you would recommend?

    Thanks again :)

  16. Jess says:

    Thanks so much for your blog it has been so helpful!

  17. Gina says:

    Hi Scott,
    This is all very interesting. My phone is an HTC Desire from the UK and all I really want to do is get a local pre-paid sim card so I can make inexpensive calls to family and friends in the US while we are on our road trip. This won’t be a problem, will it? And, I think with this, I’ll still get some data use out of this, either GPRS or EDGE. Will you please confirm this? Will I have to do anything to my phone to prepare it for the new US sim card?

  18. Gina says:

    lol! yes, that’s very helpful. thank you.

  19. Matt G. says:

    Does anybody know if this phone works (will work?) on the T-Mobile GMS 2G Network?:

    http://www.mobilecityonline.com/wireless/store/productdetail.asp?productid=28747

    It is a Motorola Droid Razr (the new one)
    It appears as if it will, just looking to get a second opinion.
    Thanx all.
    MG
    Tampa, FL

  20. YiYi says:

    Hi, do you know if the HTC Titan that was released in Asia will work (3G) in the USA? Thank you!

  21. Steve Reineke says:

    Great overview…I discovered many things I didn’t know about sim cards and carriers. I’m trying to install a security system that alerts me via GSM 900/1800/1900 cellular. I need to purchase a prepaid sim card for it to work. It sounds like I need to go to AT&T. Is there a product you could recommend?

  22. Jessica says:

    Hi Scott, I will bring my unlocked iphone 4s to Orlando for business for 6 weeks next February. So I just need to go to AT&T to get a go phone plan $50 monthly unlimited plus $25 for 500MB data plan? Do they provide Micro SIM card or I need to cut it myself? Do I need to buy the cheapest $20 gophone handset as well? Apart from AT&T store, can I get the SIM card in other places?

    Thank you,
    Jessica

  23. ben says:

    Doesn’t dual-mode refer to the number of supported 3g frequencies, ex. UMTS 1700Mhz/HSDPA 2100Mhz (not that it’s cdma and gsm, which would be called a very RARE world phone)?

    In any case, its a bummer that a quad band gsm phone needs to ALSO support THREE 3g frequencies, inorder to be compatible on any gsm and 3g network.

    However, what about “international” prepaid sim cards? Assuming you have an unlocked, quad band phone, do these actually work in any country with gsm?

    Some even claim that you can receive calls for free! Seems too good to be true.. does anyone have any experience with these?

  24. Benjamin flowers says:

    Hi Scott can you please help me I have a vodafone sim card from verizon wireless and it’s a old tore up phone and can you give me a number for sim card or something so I can use it in my AT&T iPhone 3GS made by apple it was my moms old iPhone she got a new one and gave this one to me

    Thanks my email is benjaminflowers14@yahoo.com

  25. Benjamin flowers says:

    Hi Scott can you please help me I have a vodafone sim card from verizon wireless and it’s a old tore up phone and can you give me a number for sim card or something so I can use it in my AT&T iPhone 3GS made by apple it was my moms old iPhone she got a new one and gave this one to me I live in west Virginia us

    Thanks my email is benjaminflowers14@yahoo.com

  26. Benjamin flowers says:

    Hi Scott can you please help me I have a vodafone sim card from verizon wireless and it’s a old tore up phone and can you give me a number for sim card or something so I can use it in my AT&T iPhone 3GS made by apple it was my moms old iPhone she got a new one and gave this one to me I live in west Virginia us and one more thing can you give a number to dial or sim pin to jail break my iPhone so I can use it to make calls and stuff thanks

    Thanks my email is benjaminflowers14@yahoo.com

  27. francis says:

    Hi Scott, the AT&T Gophone rate plan stated that a data package must be purchase for smartphone users for use with any plan, including the $50 unlimited plan. I have a SonyEriccsion Xperia X10 mini pro, not sure if I can use data on the unlimited plan without paying extra?

  28. X Pat Trailing Spouse says:

    I scoured the web looking for articles to help me begin to choose a phone and yours was the clearest!

    Your list of phones that will work with both T-Mobile and AT&T and in Europe was GREAT! Thanks. Now I will go see if those phones are sold in the stores here in Germany.

    My situation is that I moved to Europe and will spend some months in Europe and some in US, on an ongoing basis.

  29. AT&T pay as you go sim is not recognized in motorola phone says:

    Hello,
    I must begin and say I am not tech savvy. I just bought an unlocked Motorola Milestone XT720 and I have a pay as you go AT&T sim card. The phone is not recognizing the sim card. An AT&T customer service rep was nice enough to try and put the sim card in himself, but the phone never recognized the sim card for him either. Can anyone offer any advice on what I am doing wrong? Be detailed please.

    • Usually means one of two things:

      1. Faulty phone
      2. Phone has been reported as stolen and therefore blocked by the networks

      • AT&T pay as you go sim is not recognized in motorola phone says:

        Thanks Scott. It must be faulty because I bought the phone new from a dealer off of Amazon. Last question before I return the phone: Are there any settings I should check or adjust? Once again, thanks for the prompt response.

  30. X Pat Trailing Spouse says:

    Hello, I went shopping today in Germany for a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. I found one in a T-Mobile shop that I was allowed to buy unlocked. I wanted to confirm that the Nexus had the 1700 band; for me this was important so I could use T-Mobile SIM cards in the United States (and not be limited to only AT&T SIM cards) when I travel back to the US. (My situation is that I will live some months in Germany and some months in the USA, for some time to come.)

    A conscientious T-Mobile sales clerk looked it up on his computer. Surprise: he said the Nexus sitting right in front of me (with its flimsy back plastic cover coming off, by the way!) did not support 1700.

    I thought this was weird, since some online commentators were raving about the Nexus “pentaband” phone that included the 1700 band (which is what is needed to use a US SIM for T-Mobile).

    It is also weird because T-Mobile USA is the U.S. operating entity of T-Mobile International AG, which is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.(At least that’s what Wikipedia says.) It would be reasonable for T-Mobile here in Germany to appreciate the interests of the phone user who lives on two continents and thus to sell pentaband phones. But no. It just isn’t so. Well, they do sell Nokias, many of which are pentaband, so perhaps I am too harsh. I definitely digress! So on with my story . . .

    I stopped in at big electronics retail store in Germany where I found the Nexus again (again with its flimsy back cover coming off. I will be duct taping my new phone soon after buying it) and the salesman there said the Nexus did have the 1700 band. But he said that off the top of his head without looking anything up online. Hmm . . . could I trust him? Or did he just want to rack up a sale that day?

    I returned home and looked up specs at the German Samsung web site and at stores of a couple of German retailers’ web sites and could not get confirmation of the 1700 band.

    I had better investigate this mystery before dropping nearly 500 Euros on a phone that needs duct tape, I decided!

    I backtracked and figured out that the enthusiastic online reviewers whose articles I had read were UK based and that the “pentaband” Nexus some online reviewers were talking about, the one that I need, is this model: GT-i9250.

    http://www.samsung.com/uk did list specs for the GT-i9250 that did confirm the 1700. Now I just have to figure out if this specific model is actually available to me in Germany. Or not! So I will go back to the store later.

    Along the way I did chat with Samsung US (chat feature) and they were helpful but one thing they said was that Samsung US does not support the GT-i9250 phone because it is the international version. Sooo . . . if I have a problem with the phone while I am in the US that’s my tough luck??? Well stuff like that is part of the life of X Pat Trailing Spouse. So I just sighed a little.

    Anyway, Scott Allison, you warned us to watch out for differences in models overseas and US so I just wanted to write in with this example.

    • Thanks for the comment, very amusing (and frustrating for you!). I’m pretty sure that apart from the non GSM variants of the Nexus, that the Nexus you get in Germany is pentaband.

      Good luck!

      • X Pat Trailing Spouse says:

        Thanks Scott. I appreciate your reading that – it’s cool that you are watching your blog page! And thanks for giving me one more indication that I may be on the right track. One little correction to my story: Technically I did not go to a T-Mobile shop here in Germany; the stores with the big pink T are Telekom shops here.

  31. Dong says:

    stay as far away as possible from Simple Mobile. This company is run by scam artists. They suspended my account even though I had a balance and for no fault of mine. Customer service people do not have any authority to do pretty much anything. They can just give out information.

    Anyway, They refused to reactivate my account so I had to buy another SIM card and then I tried to activate a new number. after paying $12 for the SIM and $40 for the plan, they activated a new number but gave me an out of area phone number. I argued with them that the number was not the local number in my county let alone the town I live in. No help. They said thats what their system gave and thats what I will have to live with. They refused to refund my money and do anything about it.

    Stay away else you will regret.

  32. X Pat Trailing Spouse says:

    This is an update from my January 27 and January 28 comments. This particular message is probably most useful for anyone who is living in Germany sometimes and US sometimes and trying to figure out what to do about smartphones and SIMs. I will just be talking about what I did.

    1. I was able to buy Samsung’s Nexus GT i9250, which is the international unlocked version, here in Germany. I have yet to try it in the US, but my expectation is that it will be able to use a T-Mobile SIM card there, and AT&T SIM too, so I won’t be locked in to one if one of those entities jacks up the price suddenly.

    2. Here in Germany I bought a blau.de SIM card. I chose it because they have a protection of max 39 Euro (that’s like $52) per month no matter what you accidentally do (like leave the phone on soaking up data). Well, there may be some exceptions, like roaming, but I haven’t yet translated every little word on the web site! Anyway, even if you max out, they let you keep using the web but they slow down the data speed drastically. And no long-term commitment required on my part. Very key.

    Anyway, the blau web site and printed instructions seem nicely straightforward, even for me, having to translate it to English using Google Translate (the blau.de site is in German) as I work through the activation and sign-up process online (gotta give them my name and stuff), which is something one must do after one buys the SIM card. SIM cards are available at retail outlets (or online but that’s too much of an adventure for X Pat Trailing Spouse). The instructions indicated that I was supposed to do this signing up before putting the SIM card in my phone. And so that’s what I did.

    I have been using the phone cautiously for a few days and I can log into blau.de and easily see what I did and what it cost me, with only minor delays (90 minutes or a day, for example, depending on what I am concerned about). Sorry if this sounds like a commercial; I can only “report” on the SIM card I tried!

    Sorry, any traveling-Americans-on-a-busy-schedule-who-have-always-used-Verizon-and-barely-know-what-SIM-cards-are, I do not know if a German store retailer would do the sign-up-and-then-insert-SIM process for you on the spot, or if you would have to make sure you could make time to sign up online at your hotel that night on someone’s real computer. In my case I had the time to do it at home using my own computer. This process can also be done by phone but with my halting German that was unthinkable.

    Now that I think on it, this is kind of an important issue for me, too: My blau.de SIM card is good in Germany. When I am in another country there are roaming possibilities but my plan is to buy a different SIM card when I go to another country from another provider in that country. So I am hoping that in Europe the retailers can walk me through sign-ups in their languages . . . I will just have to wait and see.

    Once signed up, with a little time for blau.de to process my online input, I was able to get Internet service right away. So, so far I can say that I like blau.de as a SIM card provider in Germany. No surprises, no games. So far anyway! The Nexus screen is crisp and clear and easy to read and data came in fast. Yay. Of course I don’t know what I’m doing yet; I have never used Android. Gulp.

    3.Now I will veer slightly away from the main topic of this blog about international calling to share the one little adventure I had in beginning to use the phone. At first I thought I had made a huge mistake buying the expensive Nexus, but it was OK in the end. This might happen to someone in the US or in Germany, I imagine.

    I wanted to get onto my own home WiFi wireless network so I would not chew up data through my service provider as I got acquainted with my phone.

    At first I could not get on my own home wireless network; I figured out the steps, which are quite simple, but my phone just kept telling me “authenticating.” I scoured the web to see who shared this problem and what they did about it. I am not the only one who has had difficulty getting the Nexus to use a home wireless router– even if the house’s personal computers were hooked up with no problems. (Knowing I was not alone did not make me feel better. Nope, not one bit).

    This is of course when I discovered that the Samsung Nexus manual–which is available online and does NOT physically accompany the phone (how eco-friendly, but different) –is pretty bare bones . . .

    The solutions that helpful people writing in Internet forums had found generally involved going into their own home routers and changing some settings. This is not something I do every day, so figuring out exactly what I should do consumed some mental time and energy. I did not want to lose the existing connectivity of my home PCs so I went cautiously.

    But fortunately, X Pat Trailing Spouse thinks it’s fun to read a router manual in German. (I have a German router). Those endorphin rushes when the gibberish suddenly makes perfect sense! And fortunately the manual had lots of screen shots.

    I had to do a lot of web searching (thanks, all you people who DO write up stuff on the web in English) to figure out which setting to try to change first.

    In my case I had to turn off WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) in my router. WPS, I learned, is the very thing that is supposed to make wireless set-up easy by letting people push buttons or use PINS, somehow. In my case it just seemed to get in the way.

    Disabling WPS does not undo my existing router security, I learned. But don’t take my word for it! I am just parroting someone else, to whom I am very grateful (forums.extremeoverclocking.com/t332383.html ). (I was afraid at first to turn off anything of three letters that started with W).

    Now I am up and running! I hope that my little story of my particular case is helpful to anyone else about to face a similar situation.

  33. nikki says:

    Hi I have a HTC desire HD will this work. I am going to Florida for a week.

  34. Alex says:

    One QUESTION my iPhone 3Gs is unlocked and jailbroken but I have no sim or plan I was thinking in buyin those 30$ prepaid plans with the phones that carry SIM cards just like my 3Gs if I buy one and them take out the sim card and insert it in my 3Gs will I be able to call and use 3G?? Thanks

  35. anna says:

    I have a 3GS purchased in Beijing two years ago and am now back in the US for good. I don’t need to replace the phone where can I buy a prepaid sim?
    thanks
    Anna

  36. Catherine says:

    My boss is goin to Florida in 3 weeks and is looking to purchase a phone where he will be easily accessible by email, what phone would you recommend? he is only staying there 2 weeks then returning to the UK

  37. Steve says:

    Great summary. Planning a trip to the US in 2013 so this will be useful. My unlocked LG phone is quad-band GSM and 3G 850 / 900 / 2100 so it sounds like I can use it with a local SIM card. A question about iPads. My iPad2 is wireless only (no SIM). Will it be compatible with American wireless networks at motels/hotels where I stay? The iPad was purchased and is used in Australia.

  38. rane says:

    Excellent post, thanks! I’m travelling to US next month and I need data plan that has tethering enabled (must be a micro sim). I have one extra unlockec iPhone 4 (GSM) I would like to use as hotspot to share the connection to my other devices (iPad and another iPhone). What are my options from AT&T?

  39. sana says:

    hi scott
    I am traveling to US and i have a blackberry phone, will i be able to do bbm chat with T-mobile 10$ sim card

  40. Sankara Rao says:

    Hi Scott

    My question is a reverse one. I have T mobile Exhibit II 4G> Will it work on 3G frequencies in Europe? I am not able to get any definitive answer for it.

    Rao

    • Yes, definitely! :)

      I’ve been to write this post for Americans travelling abroad. Thankfully that situation is much easier. Also, if your phone is unlocked it’s a lot easier and cheaper to get local sim cards, which will save you a fortune.

  41. Paolo Lim says:

    Hi Scott!

    I plan to go to the US this spring. Would you know if there are mobile phone kiosks at the San Francisco airport arrival hall where we can buy prepaid sim cards, preferably T-mobile, AT&T or Virgin mobile?

    What settings to I need to edit when I slip the AT&T sim into my unlocked iPhone purchased from overseas? If this is not possible, will a Nokia E72 work for prepaid 3G data?

    • Virgin Mobile in the US do not have sim cards; different technology. I think there may be vendors at the airport, but I’d go direct to the AT&T or T-Mobile stores instead. (they are everywhere). The airport places rip you off.

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