Please help me overhaul my international cellphone setup
June 20, 2012 4:29 AM   Subscribe

I live in the US, but I spend quite a bit of time in the UK. Please help me overhaul my (currently ridiculous) cellphone arrangement, so that I can make calls cheaply, and be called by other people cheaply for them, in/from/to both places, preferably with email access too.

I realise this reads like the ultimate wankerish "first world problem". Sorry about that.

My current ridiculous but fairly inexpensive arrangement: In the US I have an old T-Mobile smartphone, on pay-as-you-go, which costs me $50pm for all the calls, texts and data I ever seem to need. I make cheap calls to the UK using Google Voice, which I occasionally recharge with $20 or so. I also pay about $9pm for a local UK number through United World Telecom, which people in the UK can call me on cheaply (in addition to the $9, it costs me a few cents per minute when they do). When in the UK, I use a pay-as-you-go dumbphone from Asda Mobile, which needs recharging with £20 of credit every week or so. I don't have any easy way of making cheap UK-to-US calls, or of letting people call me cheaply US-to-UK, or of accessing data services in the UK.

My ideal arrangement: A single iPhone, which is cheap to use in the US but also cheap to use in the UK, for calls, texts and data. Plus, an American number and a UK number, on which I can always be reached at that same phone, for a cost to the caller of a domestic call.

I don't expect to get all the way to my ideal arrangement. But can you suggest a setup that would be substantially closer to it? I don't mind paying some money upfront to get this up and running, but want to avoid nasty roaming costs thereafter.

Thank you!
posted by oliverburkeman to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I use an Alcatel One Touch 918 Dual Sim, which has a decent punch for a low cost Android. I have a Dutch sim on sim holder 1 and load up a pre-paid one from wherever I am on sim holder 2. Both sims are active at all times (you can choose which one to use for what at all times and will receive calls to both). I am very happy with this arrangement (less than a year into it, though).
posted by magullo at 5:50 AM on June 20, 2012

There are several issues here which I will try and address one by one:

I am assuming that you will find it useful to have all your communications consolidated in the fewest possible accounts and devices.

Option 1: Get a account: will give you an account which in which you can have a UK and a USA landline number for about $2 a month each. These numbers can ring on a voip device at home but can be forwarded to a UK mobile number for the cost of £0.04/minute. Localphone will also give you local numbers in USA/UK or any other country which get patched to an overseas number for pennies a minute. (Upside: Single bill for incoming numbers, incoming calls and outgoing international calls; can be used on simplest mobile phone. Downside: You have per minute charges for receiving calls (although reasonable).

- you could expand this further if you have a more advanced phone say an Iphone / android to use their app which allows you to call out cheaply directly.

- your calls are routed via 3G (not very good), WiFi (great) or local number (per minute charges by your cellphone provider)

Option 2: Get a Vectone Sim: This gives you the following: USA calls for 5p a minute , UK 5p landline and 10p to mobile and uniquely, gives you the option to buy landline numbers which link directly to your mobile for £9 per month per country. Of course, I don't know if you receive more calls or make more outgoing calls because this one is better if you receive lots of call because it is all you can eat on incoming. Option 1 is better if you make a lot of calls and receive fewer.

There are many other options obviously but it starts to get messy and complicated.

I hope this helps.
posted by london302 at 6:55 AM on June 20, 2012

While Stateside, I use T-Mobile, but once abroad, I switch to a Truphone SIM. It's registered with a US number, which lets calls be redirected to Google Voice, and there's the option to add multiple numbers.
posted by evoque at 7:22 AM on June 20, 2012

I have a Truphone SIM as well. And I have a US and European number attached to it. The same phone/SIM works here and in the US.

I can't speak to the costs though because we use it as a second phone. That is, normally we have European SIMs we use on Europe where we live and my US family has a phone plan to make cheap calls to us.

The Tru numbers are only known by our families. When not at home (traveling in Europe or the US) we carry the Tru SIM so that either family can call us using a local number.
posted by vacapinta at 7:36 AM on June 20, 2012

Thank you very much for these fantastic answers. I now need to research each of these options properly and figure out how they might best fit together. Truphone in particular looks amazing.
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:55 PM on June 20, 2012

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