Best way to use US smartphones in Germany?
June 6, 2011 8:05 PM   Subscribe

How best to use US cell phones in Germany for in-country and out-of-country calls?

Did a requisite search, but didn't find anything particular to my situation. Basically, I've got a Sprint Nexus S 4G (Android) and a Blackberry Tour. Both can be used overseas, as both have radios that're compatible out there. Both have WiFi as well. Say the phones will be going to Germany.

What I'd like to do:
- Have people in the US be able to call either phone
- Have each phone be able to call each other, from US-Germany and within Germany itself
- Have each phone be able to call US numbers
- (Optional) have the ability to text to/from US/within Germany.

Sprint offers a plan that's just expensive as all heck.

I've looked into Google Voice and Skype, and really can't make easy heads or tails of using either: would I have to turn off data services (3G/4G) and use WiFi only to avoid charges? If I'm not on WiFi, how will Google Voice calls get through otherwise?

If both phones have Google Voice numbers, and say one of the phones is in Germany, if I were to call, what number would I call? The US Google Voice number, or an international number?

I presume that the the German phone would call the US phone using country code + Google Voice number.

Basically, I'm looking for a simple explanation of how I can place these calls, cheaply, with minimum fuss, specific to these phones, without the use of SIM cards (Nexus S 4G has none, and the Blackberry needs to be unlocked). Thanks!

(I'm not interested in answers that do not involve purchasing pre-paid phones at this time.)
posted by herrdoktor to Technology (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You may not be interested in it, but it's your best answer.

Neither Google Voice nor Skype will work if there isn't a data bearer of some sort - either 3G or WiFi. If you turn off 3G data (which is outrageously expensive while roaming abroad) and there's no hotspot that you can access nearby, that means neither one will work.

Your best bet (yes, I know you don't want to hear it, but sorry) is to purchase an inexpensive unlocked GSM phone, buy a local prepaid SIM in Germany, and top it up as needed.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:22 PM on June 6, 2011

Google voice doesn't use (3/4G/wifi) data, it uses minutes. So no advantage over regular roaming. Also I'm pretty sure the nexus 4g isn't a world phone "world". If it doesn't have a SIM, you can't use it in Germany or GSM-countries.

Get a cheap unlocked gsm phone and local sim as suggested above. Check your google voice messages frequently for missed calls.
posted by polexa at 12:22 AM on June 7, 2011

With an iPhone you can do this - but only wherever you are online with wifi - so I presume it should be possible for the android at least.

For Skype you would need credits to call out, and a skype-in number for people who aren't themselves using Skype to call you. You can use skype for texting all phones.

With the iPhone I would use the Talkatone app - direct your google voice calls to transmit to your gmail gchat and use the Talkatone app to make and pick up calls. You should also be able to text using the google voice web interface, but it's only free to the US and Canada. I don't know but I guess there's something like it for Android.

If you're not on wifi and you don't have an international SIM with a data or phone plan, nothing will get through at all.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:40 AM on June 7, 2011

Response by poster: Called around, and here's the best I could come up with:
Sprint can deactivate the Blackberry on any given date, and reactivate it on return to US. This will allow the phone to use all data services/txt/etc. by popping in a SIM card from overseas. The phone is a more recent model, and is already unlocked-- older Blackberry Tours have to be unlocked, and this can be done by calling in to Sprint. They'll guide you through it (involves punching in codes/numbers).

So, long story short: Blackberry is turned "off" on the US side, can have full use of its radio and data capabilities overseas with a SIM card. And while on WiFi, can of course have full access to web/e-mail/etc.

Thanks for all your suggestions. I'll leave this open if anyone else has comments or suggestions, or find problems with the way this method works.
posted by herrdoktor at 9:09 PM on June 10, 2011

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