Let’s talk phones…or communication portals when moving abroad. I don’t think I’m a expert in this field, but I’ll tell you what I’ve done…and it works for me and I’m fairly happy with it. So if you are moving abroad and leaving behind all your loved ones that you don’t want to lose communication with. So what to do?
Well we knew E was getting his work phone once we got here. But that leaves me. I don’t have a job, I don’t have any UK credit, and so, I can’t really get a mobile contract. That leaves me with pay-as-you-go, which really isn’t THAT awful. But what is awful, is getting the cell phone. So normally you sign up for a fixed contract and because of your contract you get a phone at a discount rate. Possibly free or for about a tenth of what the “retail price” is. “Retail price” is such a crock of shit…
Anyway. So I don’t have said contract and I’ll have to buy a phone outright. I am an apple snob. I can’t really explain it fully, but I got my first iPod in 2003 and haven’t turned back. And having an iphone makes my life easier. So I need an unlocked iphone. You can try to get a used and/or illegally unlocked iphone on eBay…but you have no guarantee that it will actually work in the UK. Or that it works well at all. But if you do go that route- make sure it’s not Verizon or Sprint. Verizon/Sprint phones run on CDMA which means no sim card, which means you can’t do pay as you go. I didn’t want to risk buying something on eBay and it being shit…so I went right to Apple in Chicago. You should price research. A new unlocked 5c in the UK would cost me about $1000. In Chicago, about $700 (with tax). Not cheap…but it was my cheapest option. If you can somehow get a friends and family discount or trade in or a friends or at least ship your iphone to a state that doesn’t have an apple store so you can avoid taxes…do that. But make sure the phone is unlocked…or you know a person/establishment that can legitimately unlock it.
So I got my unlocked iphone at some stupidly expensive price (but in the states. I also went to T-mobile (my only options were really T-mobile or AT&T: both shit where our parents live anyway) and got a pay as you go sim card for when I return to the states. For T-mobile there is a $3 a day plan with unlimited talk, text, and web with 4G LTE data…they also have a $2 with 2G speed data. I put money into my account and any day that my phone is on with my sim card activated, I get charged $3. So I put that T-mobile sim card in when I land at O’Hare and take it off when I depart. Otherwise I keep it in a safe location. That sim card has a set number, I call it my Americaner Cell phone number.
Now, when I got to the UK…I got a UK sim card. I personally got an EE one for various reasons…that I may or may not change. The EE sim card has a number associated with it, that is my UK cell phone number. No one from the states calls me on this number…unless there’s an emergency. But since it’s an iphone, any other iphone can text me on this number for free with imessage. So before I left the states, I set my mom up with an ipad and we text back and forth on that….and really everyone else I know has an iphone so they can text me freely. They can also facetime or facetime audio me. If all of your friends and family have iphones…I feel there’s no better way.
So with my UK iphone, it also double times as my USA iphone when I travel, but when I’m in the UK it allows me to still connect for free (other than data charges) to anyone else with an apple product. Pretty great.
But I talk to my mom kind of a lot. And sometimes you don’t have good data/wifi service. And sometimes you don’t want to stare at someone while talking. Or use your data. And for that- I have a Vonage account. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials. But here’s my basic understanding of Vonage. You set up with a Vonage account and get a little Vonage box in the mail. We pay about $35 a month for Vonage World Plus. For the UK it’s best to have World Plus and not just Vonage World. This way, you get 250 minutes Vonage calls to UK cell phones. Now, I don’t call UK cell phones from my Vonage number…but if someone calls the Vonage line and we’re not home, the call gets forwarded to my UK cell phone…and then I can talk for 250 minutes a month on my cell phone even though it’s a vonage call. Otherwise, when any US number calls my Vonage line- I can talk to them unlimited on the actual cordless home phone. Vonage also has caller ID, voicemails, and even emails you the voicemail. Brilliant!
I ordered/set up Vonage in the states for a couple reasons: 1) It’s always cheaper. 2) I already had it in the air shipment and was able to use in our temp housing before our sea shipment came/we had a permanent address. 3) I got to keep my old cell phone number (that I had since I was 16!) that everyone knows and loves and use it as my Vonage number. How Vonage works is you plug the Vonage box into a power source, as well as with a phone cord type thing into your Internet modem. You plug your phone into a power source and the phone cord into the Vonage box. Your phone line comes from the Internet! Technology is crazy!
So the problem was when I bought a UK cordless house phone. UK phone jacks are not the same as American phone jacks. Of course not. Why would it be easy? So my UK phone cord needed an adaptor to turn in into an American phone cord because I have an American Vonage box. I’m sure if you ordered a UK Vonage you wouldn’t have this problem…but it would cost more monthly…and an adaptor is only £2.
So through email, facebook, instagram, twitter, facetime, audio facetime, imessage, text message, my UK cell phone, my vonage number, and my Americaner cell phone (when I’m in the states)…I pretty much can talk to everyone I want to. And basically the only extra fee is the Vonage monthly charge- which for the time being, is really worth it.
I’m sure everyone has heard of Skype as well. I don’t personally use Skype…other than for a handful of conference/work calls. I just don’t have the need for it.
What do you use to talk to loved ones when your abroad? What works? What has absolutely failed?