Best Burner Phone for a Month in London?
June 4, 2014 8:45 AM   Subscribe

This has become somewhat of a perennial AskMe question (previously in 2013, previously in 2012, previously in 2007), but as the mobile communications landscape is ever-shifting, it never hurts to have up to date information. So, if I'm spending the month of August in London, which of the several offerings is the best PAYG-SIM phone to grab upon arrival? I will be bringing my iPhone (AT&T), but turning off data roaming and using it as wi-fi only when I can. Are there deals on low-end smartphones that are worth the extra cash, or is it still best to just grab a simple flip-phone with SMS?
posted by grabbingsand to Travel & Transportation around London, England (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why not grab a UK SIM and use that in your iPhone?
posted by Magnakai at 8:47 AM on June 4, 2014

You have two separate questions: which phone to buy, and which SIM to put in it. For a month's usage, the answer to either is basically "anything you like". giffgaff is a no-frills SIM company running on O2's network, which IMO is fine -- but all the providers offer cheap deals you can buy at any corner store.

If you need a phone as well, go to any store and buy the cheapest one you can. You should be able to find an old crappy one for next to nothing, and Tesco sells cheap Android smartphones if you want one step up. Of course, if your iPhone takes a SIM and is unlocked, you can just put a UK SIM in that.
posted by katrielalex at 8:53 AM on June 4, 2014

Response by poster: Why not grab a UK SIM and use that in your iPhone?

Provided AT&T will allow an unlock, that might work. And once I return to the US, returning the original SIM will just restore my iPhone to the domestic AT&T network?
posted by grabbingsand at 8:56 AM on June 4, 2014

Best answer: Yes, you just pop in the UK sim in the UK, and the phone works on its UK number - go back to the US, pop in your US sim, and it's back to its American self. Pretty seamless. The big if is whether AT&T will allow an unlock.

If you do get an unlock, Three will give you a month of unlimited data and a bunch of calltime for £15. I've seen vending machines with prepaid sim cards in the arrivals areas of Heathrow and Gatwick, or there are shops like Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U in pretty much every high street.
posted by penguinicity at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, request an unlock from AT&T and then get a SIM for it. Switching back really is as simple as returning the original SIM (and maybe turning it off and back on again). I've done this a couple of times with an unlocked AT&T iPhone (in the UK and France).

As for which plan, are you going to want to use data? SMS? Make voice calls? Just as in the US there are different plans that prioritize different things.
posted by mskyle at 9:12 AM on June 4, 2014

Keep in mind that you'll keep paying the base amount you pay for your AT&T plan (just no roaming fees). If you want to temporarily discontinue that plan while you're gone, beware the fees they sometimes give you to do that--sometimes it's cheaper to just keep paying the base amount.
posted by Beardman at 10:14 AM on June 4, 2014

The AT&T international data plans aren't unreasonable deals, as long as you keep a watch on your usage. The AT&T website makes it pretty easy to add and remove them, and the iphone app keeps track of your international data usage. I've used a $60/mo for 300MB data, and then used Skype for voice calls and it more than covered my time away from WiFi for trips around 12 days in larger cities in Europe. Most of my texts went through iMessage, but a few stray international SMS texts added another $5, plus a few bucks of Skype voice minutes I'd already paid for.
posted by bendybendy at 10:27 AM on June 4, 2014

« Older Outdoor allergies, why do you torment me so?   |   Bought new running insoles; horrible blister after... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.