We've been researching (sound familiar) our telephony options for our eventual move to Thailand. We definitely want to make sure that what we decide will actually work for us when we move. This was actually more confusing than we thought it would be but we have put our plan into action.
Let's start off with the basics. A cell phone. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? In Thailand the cell service carriers there use the GSM standard which is, of course, an international standard that the US generally does not use. In the US most carriers lock their phones to their service so you can't easily change providers once you enter into a contract. The US has also recently passed a law that restricts your ability to jailbreak or unlock your cell phone. Yep, it is against the law.
So at this point we have decided to find an unlocked phone that is GSM compatible on frequencies both here in the US and in Thailand. We want to pay as we go. No contracts. That means we needed to research Pay As You Go providers here in the US and would need to purchase one of their sim cards to put in the phone.
Ideally we would like a plan that provides unlimited voice, text, and data. Data is the hard one to find an unlimited plan for.
Reading reviews of the different providers and comparing plans is a minefield in itself. We found that, for our area, the two networks that are offered through the Pay As you Go service providers are ATT and T-Mobile. We know from previous experience and from friends who currently use them that T-Mobile in our area pretty much sucks. Sorry T-Mobile, but where we are you just don't cut it. In other areas we know you are the better service, just not here. So we limited our search to providers who use the ATT network.
Unfortunately, ATT got wise to something that their iPhone customers found out about and had started taking advantage of. When their contracts were up with ATT they were able to have ATT unlock their phones (if they met the stiff requirements to do so) and then bought a $15 sim card that uses the ATT network through Straight Talk pay as you go service, purchase a $45 card for 30 days of service and get unlimited voice, text and data. So ATT stopped allowing Straight Talk to sell the sim cards that work on the ATT network.
Thank goodness for the interwebitudes, and eBay in particular. Some of the now unavailable sim cards would of course show up on eBay. So we checked eBay and found some for anywhere between $45 each and $150 each. These were new, unopened, unused sim cards that work on the ATT network through Straight Talk. So we found the "good" sim cards and now we needed to decide on a phone. An unlocked phone could be very pricey, but it was time to decide.
iPhones are waaay to pricey for us. We each want a phone and don't want to break the bank to get them. We've had iPhones and really do like them but we have also had Android phones and liked them just as well.
Of course a lot of the Android phones are pricey also. Let us save you a lot of time and just say that we ended up buying the Google Nexus 4 phones. But you need to search around to find a decent price. We found them priced all the way up to $1229 each because they are very popular right now. HINT: Buy them directly from Google. We got them for the suggested retail price of $349 for the 16GB version.
So we ordered the phones and ordered the sim cards from a seller on eBay. When we got them we purchased the 30 day, $45 Straight Talk Pay As You Go card, went to the Straight Talk website and easily signed up and activated the phones. They assigned us a phone number based on our zip code and now we have unlimited voice, text, and data phones that we can activate in Thailand by purchasing a sim card there and changing it out.
The best thing yet for us though is that I am going to use my new phone at work because I am required to be accessible 24/7 by phone. If I use my own smart phone my job will pay me a $103 per month stipend. Do the math!