Mobile phone for 5~ months in Berlin?
January 6, 2009 3:19 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are going to be living in berlin for the next 5 months, and we're going to want to grab german SIM cards. I'm having a hard time however finding any useful information.

Which of the major carriers makes the most sense for us? We don't use our phones too too much, and have skype etc for international calls.

Does anyone offer short-term contracts? Are we stuck with pay-as-you-go?

Is there any chance I could get some sort of data-package without a multi-year contract? I have a 1st gen iphone and would like to be able to use the maps app while exploring around the city.

How does intra-euro roaming work? I'm going to be doing some traveling, and would love to have reasonable use of my phone during that period without having to keep getting a new number.

Thanks in advance, mefi.
posted by cmyr to Travel & Transportation around Berlin, Germany (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hey I live in Berlin, can't offer much personal advice (haven't been here long) but there was a discussion on the local couchsurfing forum recently that offered some different options:

& Welcome!
posted by mannequito at 4:28 AM on January 6, 2009

I was recently in Berlin for 6 months, and this situation was pretty annoying. The main two service providers are O2 and Vodafone, both of which offer only two-year contracts. As far as pre-paid phones go, I don't think there is much difference between the two carriers, and in-network calls are probably cheaper for both (they were for Vodafone). I was also charged a bundle when I made calls from other countries. Vodafone did not provide service in every country I visited, and the charges from local providers were so high that the phone was pretty much useless except for emergencies.
posted by null14 at 4:38 AM on January 6, 2009

Check out the Toytown Germany site. Lots of info and advice there from expats living in Germany; here are a couple of threads from that site that might help you.

Where to buy a prepaid cell phone in Berlin

Pay as you go mobile phone options in Germany
posted by Valuev at 6:13 AM on January 6, 2009

Best answer: I am sorry that I have to correct you null14.
There are four true network providers in Germany (those that build cell towers and own a network): Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom aka T-mobile, O2 and E-plus. Everyone else are just resellers.

Vodafone and T-Mobile are the biggest fish in the pond. E-plus is the smallest, their reception is not as perfect as that of Vodafone and T-mobile but they have good prices and normally reception is not a problem.

In Germany you only pay for calls you make, not for calls that you receive. It's the same for sms.

It's a jungle out here, when it comes to phone plans, so take my information with a grain of salt.

With only 5 month you will have to get a prepaid/pay as you go sim card.

A well known not too expensive reseller of the E-plus Network is Symio. For 0.09 Euros/minute, 0.09 Euros per SMS, 0,24 Euro/MB. The sim card costs around 10 Euros with 5 Euros already on the card. For 10 Euros they offer a data package of 1GB that you have to use up in 30days. If you are over the limit you can either buy another GB or pay 0.24 Euro/MB as above.

Roaming should be no problem, since normally all providers have partners in all other countries. I'm a bit baffeld that null14 had problems with his vodafone sim card, since they even own many networks all accross the world. Maybe they allowed only roaming on their own networks and not with partner networks? This is something you have to check, some prepaid cards do not allow international roaming or roaming has to be activated for them.

Using your phone outside of Germany you will pay something for incoming calls. Outgoing calls and data get more expensive. See here.
So calling with your phone in Germany to Germany costs 0.09 Euros/min, calling from Germany to north America costs 1,85 Euros/minute, calling from another European country to north America costs 1,49 Euros/minute (yes it's cheaper according to their web page).
And so forth.

So if you want to make a lot of calls home (home according to your MeFi page) a different provider might be better for you. There are a lot of them. (Or you might buy an additional calling card, so that you only pay the 9cents + calling card charges.)
posted by mmkhd at 6:14 AM on January 6, 2009

This site has an overview of prepaid SIM cards I use a Solomo SIM card, which I had to have mailed to me here in Munich, but it has cheap international calling. Roaming seems reasonable too, particularly if you use their callback service.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 6:21 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used a SIM for my last trip to the continent and was very happy. It's not prepaid but works the same way (they bill at the end of the month).
posted by devbrain at 6:34 AM on January 6, 2009

I've got an O2 pay-as-you-go phone that's honestly a pretty decent deal. If you top up €30 at once, the "bonus" they add brings the per call charges down to 0,11 and the per text charges down to 0,08. I had no problems roaming in Austria and Switzerland, though of course it was more expensive. Can't help with the data question, though - I bought the cheapest text-and-call-only phone I could possibly find.
posted by ubersturm at 7:54 AM on January 6, 2009

Hi und Wilkommen in Berlin! My contract-free solution was to head straight to the Saturn in Alexanderplatz and get a Blau SIM card. It's pay as you go, and while the rates aren't great, they're relatively reasonable by European standards. If you don't know it already, you won't spend as much time talking on your cell phone and you'll be sending far more SMS's.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:40 AM on January 7, 2009

Response by poster: For the record, I ended up going with simyo, an eplus reseller mentioned by mmkhd. Their rates are competitive, and they offer pay-as-you-go data for a reasonable rate.
posted by cmyr at 1:54 AM on February 6, 2009

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