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Help me be able to make mobile calls while visiting the US
February 6, 2008 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I'd really like to be able to make mobile calls during my visit to the US. I'm wondering what my best option is. 1. It would be nice if I'd be able to use my old european GSM. I'd buy a cheap prepaid SIM in the US 2. if that wouldn't work I'd like to buy a very cheap second hand cellphone in San Francisco and use it with a US prepaid SIM.

So the questions are:
1. will my GSM cellphone work in the US? wikipedia tells me that the European frequencies are 900/1800/1900 but that only 1900 will work in the US. Will I be able to make decent calls with just one frequency available?
2. where can I find a very cheap possibly second hand cellphone in San Francisco if option 1 won't work? Are there thrift stores? I imagine that craigslist isn't an option since it's really not worthwhile to travel far to buy such a thing.
3. will my phone work in NY too? Or are providers/sims state specific?
posted by jouke to Technology (10 answers total)
 
Related.
posted by grouse at 12:51 PM on February 6, 2008


Most unlocked tri-band GSM phones work in the US. You will just need to get a sim card from one of the carriers that has a GSM network - Tmobile or AT&T for example. Alternatively, if you have a locked phone but it has an operating arm in the US, you can use it with a pay as you go sim from that carrier.
posted by zia at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2008


Pssst.

There are two people who can answer all this and I'm sure they can even lend you a spare cell phone. Although one of the spare ones is right here with me but I'm sure there's more. I just went to the T-Mobile store on Valencia Street and got a prepaid sim.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 12:58 PM on February 6, 2008


1. Yes.
2. 30-40$ or borrow one.
3. Not state specific.
posted by vacapinta at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2008


You should be able to pick up a SIM at a T-Mobile or AT&T store, I've known folks that did this no problem, and then some folks have had trouble getting a store to sell them just a SIM. Buying a secondhand phone is probably harder than just getting a cheap prepaid phone and airtime, like virgin mobile. If you have someone in the states who can receive it for you, you can get a free phone with $20 in airtime (the Oystr), but this only works from the website. In most big-box stores (Target, Best Buy, etc.) you can buy the Marbl for $20 or an Aloha for $15 and then buy top-up cards to fill the phone.
posted by pupdog at 1:01 PM on February 6, 2008


Ok. Now I feel rather silly.
A comment from the thread grouse links to describes that a european phone will work in combination with a T-Mobile prepaid.
Case closed it seems.
Thanks grouse.
posted by jouke at 1:02 PM on February 6, 2008


Should've previewed. This thread is like kindergarten: everybody wins "best answer".
Thanks people!
posted by jouke at 1:07 PM on February 6, 2008


yay! I won best answer!
posted by zia at 1:24 PM on February 6, 2008


No problem buying just a SIM from AT&T. I took an unlocked tri-band GSM phone that I'd bought on eBay into a local AT&T store, and the nice young man there gave me a SIM with $5.00 credit for free. I would have paid for it but he insisted I try it out, then buy more credit if I liked their network. He showed me how to put the SIM into the phone, and activated it for me. But then, I was doing my "I'm just a little old grandmother who doesn't know anything about these newfangled gadgets" act at the time. YMMV.
posted by Joleta at 9:03 PM on February 6, 2008


I asked a related question a couple of weeks back. Ended up getting a Virgin Mobile phone for $15.
posted by caek at 12:23 AM on February 7, 2008


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