Short-term cell phone service in the US
July 26, 2014 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American currently living overseas. I'll be coming back for a short visit in about a month. I have an unlocked GSM smartphone. I well remember the onerous service agreements US mobile phone providers extracted from all customers. What's currently the best way to get my phone to have an American number and have some data usage in the US for only a couple of weeks?
posted by eugenen to Technology (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A T-Mobile prepaid SIM is probably the best answer, unless you're planning to be somewhere very rural.
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2014

Response by poster: Hmm, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy S5 is not on their list of compatible phones, though a slew of other Samsung devices are. Can that be right?
posted by eugenen at 12:49 PM on July 26, 2014

See here.

AT&T still gets much better service than T-Mobile in my experience, and the cheapest way to get short term access to its network is one of its MVNO's, e.g. Airvoice Wireless (what I use with a factory unlocked European iPhone), Net10 or Straight Talk (with these last two, make sure you're getting an AT&T network SIM, not a T-Mobile SIM).

See the wiki for details. You can get SIMs for all of these shipped to you before you arrive via eBay sellers.

Obviously if you live overseas you'll know $40+ for a prepaid month is ridiculous, but apparently that's considered cheap here, and it's about what those three cost.
posted by caek at 12:55 PM on July 26, 2014

AT&T also has a reasonable pre-paid plan, which they call the Go Phone - $45 for unlimited talk and text plus 1 Gb data. You seem to have to call them and actually state that you would like the plan with those details to get that. Works fine...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 12:56 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can just pop the sim card in. An s5 is a very common phone and should work.
posted by k8t at 7:43 PM on July 26, 2014

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