Which prepaid smartphone should I get for international travel?
December 25, 2014 8:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning my first (and hopefully not last) international vacation and I'd like to get a smartphone for traveling that can be used on a prepaid basis for both voice and data. When not traveling it will not be used as a phone, although I'd still like it to perform double duty as a mp3/move player at home. Home is the united states and travel will be to Iceland (and beyond).

Primary criteria are:
- Android platform
- Support for cellular networks available in Iceland
- Support for a variety of carriers (to minimize cost)

Secondary criteria are:
- Decent performance when used as an mp3 player or a streaming movie player over WiFi
- Support for as many cellular networks as possible worldwide (for future travel)
- A price point under $200 (less would be much much better!)

Please, dear hive mind, steer me in the right direction.
posted by waxboy to Travel & Transportation around Reykjavik, Iceland (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What phone and carrier do you have now? And is your current phone unlocked? Page
posted by k8t at 8:22 PM on December 25, 2014

If your phone is unlocked, you can buy a prepaid SIM card from Síminn at Keflavik Airport in the duty free shop on your way from the gates to customs upon arriving in Iceland (ask at the cash registers), info here. Did this w/ my Galaxy S4 (normally on Sprint in the US) and it worked great.
posted by reptile at 8:48 PM on December 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: My current phone is out of the question, I don't want to risk losing it or having it cloned while crossing borders.
posted by waxboy at 8:48 PM on December 25, 2014

Get a cheap unlocked android ($100) on Amazon. But be warned that it will age fast.
posted by k8t at 9:05 PM on December 25, 2014

Unlocked Moto g

It's literally the cheapest android phone worth buying. Don't be afraid to get the 2013 version if it's cheaper, which it generally is. You should pay right around $100.

It got lollipop, and will get updates for a while. It's well made, has a decent high res screen, decent cpu with more than enough grunt to run anything you want, proper amount of ram, etc. the newer version even has an sd card slot. Oh, and the battery life is widely regarded as good.

Good luck getting any of that, or more than one bullet point of it in any other phone that cheap. The only downside is the older version has no sd slot and 8gb of storage. But once again, so do a lot of other things in that price range.

This is also the right price range for an unlocked(or "Verizon", which are factory unlocked) htc one m7, lg g2, etc which will be a much nicer phone. These won't do lte outside the us in places that have it though, and might have band compatability issues.

Personally id buy a moto g and call it a day, though. The 3G unlocked one will as far as I know, get 3G basically anywhere that has gsm service.
posted by emptythought at 10:02 PM on December 25, 2014

As a data point, I've used my HTC One m7 in the US, Iceland and pretty much everywhere else. No band compatibility issues at all, but a) I got my phone in the UK so it was never locked into a particular network, and b) I generally use my phone for everything except phone calls.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:37 AM on December 26, 2014

What you want to avoid is a phone that's LTE all the way in the US but limited to EDGE in Europe. That's really not fun. Buying in Europe (or getting an 'international/global GSM edition' if one exists alongside a US edition) may help there.
posted by holgate at 5:19 AM on December 26, 2014

Well, you can wipe your phone before leaving and restore it when you get back, but if you don't want to do that the Moto G (either one) is indeed the correct choice. You can double check that the GSM frequencies are the Icelandic ones, and get the global variant instead of the US. That's the only thing that would affect carrier compatibility, and that's only for data, you would still be able to text and call and likely use EDGE and 3G data, though some countries and carriers are retiring the former.
posted by wnissen at 8:21 PM on December 26, 2014

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