Can I replace the SIM card in my Galaxy SIII in France and Italy?
March 7, 2015 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I've read that for some smartphones it's possible, when traveling in Europe, to buy a local SIM card and put it in the phone. Is the Samsung Galaxy S III, purchased in Toronto, one of these phones?

My purpose would be to avoid roaming charges --
1) would buying a French or Italian SIM card succeed in doing this?
2) How do I find a reputable SIM card seller?
3) Approximately how much would the European SIM card cost?
4) Does the new SIM card come with a "plan" (data or otherwise)? Or is that a separate purchase?
5) Again, if separate, approximate cost?
6) How does this switch-out work (in simple terms)?
7) Would I need a separate card for each country (France, Switzerland, Italy)?
8) Would I lose all my data and apps, etc? How could I get it back?
9) Does my local provider (Koodo) mind if I do this? Or can it stop me?
10) Could I buy the appropriate SIM card here in Toronto?
11) Would it just be simpler to buy a smartphone in France?
12) Is there anything I've forgotten to ask?
posted by feelinggood to Travel & Transportation around Italy (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends if you bought it locked to a carrier or not.

Looking up the model number in the phone info area look on this wiki article which shows all the variants.

Also try calling your carrier to see if it is locked and see if they can unlock it if so.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:57 PM on March 7, 2015

I brought an unlocked smartphone to Koodo. When I travel in the States, I swap in a USA SIM card. Nothing much changes, besides my phone numbers.

I've bought SIM cards in the France and UK while travelling. Both times I did a prepaid thing. The SIM card was cheap - less than 5 € in France, maybe £ 2 in Britain - and I added as much as I needed to the card. I bought from a mobile phone store in France, because I was there as an exchange student and wanted something "reliable", but in the UK I found a convenience shop. I never had problems with either.

You should not have a problem travelling in Europe with whatever SIM card you purchase, although rates may be higher in Switzerland with a French SIM (non-EU).

Whether you go the prepaid route depends on the length of your stay and how you plan on using your phone.

I would not plan on buying a new phone in France unless you were planning to replace your phone anyway.
posted by invokeuse at 3:59 PM on March 7, 2015

[Dumb mistake about unlocking in first paragraph-- fixed on edit]

Yes, IF you have have an unlocked phone. Koodo, like basically every other North American carrier, sells locked phones. Apparently they're relatively reasonable about unlocking them; a quick skim of Google results for "Koodo unlock" seems to indicate they charge $35. There are independent unlocking services on the net at comparable prices, but they're probably a lot harder to work with, and some of them have a pretty shady feel to them.
  1. Yes, you would be charged at the same rates as any other local subscriber. Basically a SIM is the physical embodiment of a subscription.
  2. Google? Try "France roaming sim". If you wait until you're in country, you may be able to buy one from one of the local carriers or any of their many retail partners. There are also specialist companies that provide SIMs for roamers.
  3. The SIM is cheap, $5 is not unusual and $25 is stupidly overpriced. The actual usage may be expensive. If you don't keep using the SIM, it may expire, in which case you'd have to buy a new one if you went back. The expiration policy depends on where you get it.
  4. Typically the SIM is bundled with a plan, but the plan is the main cost.
  5. Cost depends on how much talk time and data you want to buy. You're basically buying a completely new phone service.
  6. You turn off the power, open the back of the phone, take out the battery, take out the old SIM, put the new one in, put the battery back, and close the back of the phone. When you come home, you reverse the process. If you buy it from a retail outlet, they can show you how to do it, but it is NOT difficult.
  7. Outside the country where your SIM was issued, you're roaming, just as you would be if you used your Canadian one. In North America, this would be a big issue; you'd get charged a fortune especially for data. I believe the EU cracked down on stupid roaming charges a while ago, so roaming rates with the EU should be similar or identical to local rates. You have to look at the rates of the specific SIM provider.
  8. You would not lose any data. It's possible to store contacts on the SIM, but I don' t think the GS3 does that by default. If you do have any contacts on the SIM, they'll be unavailable until you reinstall the old one.
  9. The way carriers normally try to stop this is by locking phones. If they unlock the phone for you, that more or less says they don't "mind". If they do "mind", who cares?
  10. Probably not. USA SIMs, yes. France/Italy, I doubt it. But Toronto's a big city and contains many things, so I could be wrong. Also, the "roaming companies" will mail you one, given a certain lead time and possibly for a fee.
  11. Well, if you have several hundred dollars to drop on it and don't mind visiting a retail outlet, I suppose it might be slightly simpler to buy a phone in France. If they'll sell you one; some carriers/countries require a local address. Don't count on using it when you get home unless you check band compatibility and it is unlocked.
  12. "Would my phone number change?". Your phone number would change, until you put the old SIM back in. That can be a big pain depending on how you use the phone. You may need to figure out about the cost of forwarding your Canadian calls to your European number. You probably will not be able to forward text messages.

posted by Hizonner at 4:39 PM on March 7, 2015

If your phone is unlocked: in Paris we bought a SIM card from a corner Tabac store for 10€ plus we put 5€ on the card to charge it up. We bought Lebara brand but Orange is also good (but I think you have to go to the Orange store to get it). I don't think it worked in Italy at least not the internet. As for what plan you buy, just like at home there are different options to buy depending on price/minute/MB/roaming that you want. These are all good questions to ask when you buy the card and that will help you decide which card to buy.

As for swapping SIM card, no you don't lose all your phone's data. It is just for the carrier. Your apps, data etc. stay the same. Your phone number will change. (We usually just send a text back home saying "this is our new temporary number.")

As for how to swap out the card - YouTube it for your make & model of phone. There's a tiny hole on the side of your phone and you use a pin to push it in. Then the card tray will pop out.

It sounds like this is all new to you so your best bet is to go to an Orange store (French version of Bell or Fido) and talk to them. I have found the level of knowledge at a Tabac store varies depending on who is there that day and some of them really won't be able to answer your questions. When you buy the SIM card it comes with a little booklet with instructions on how to activate it (you usually have to call them). It's pretty straightforward just don't lose that booklet :P
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:03 PM on March 7, 2015

When I moved from Argentina to Uruguay I unlocked my S III myself after a bit of googling. It was three years ago, so I don't remember the exact steps, but it did involve something similar to the last section of this wikihow article. I can almost confirm it's legit.

You also want to check the frequency bands used in France and Italy are supported by your phone, otherwise it won't be of use.
posted by Promethea at 3:32 AM on March 8, 2015

If you need to unlock your phone, or test it to see if it is unlocked (this is called carrier unlocked, meaning you can use anyone's SIM card). I recommend GalaxSIMUnlock app from Google Play.
posted by mbarryf at 9:47 AM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's pretty straightforward just don't lose that booklet :P

It will also have instructions on how to check the balance on the SIM's plan, rates and so on- there are special codes you "dial" to do this. It's a real pain if you lose the booklet or forget the numbers to dial, since you can't otherwise check how much money you have left on the plan.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:05 PM on March 8, 2015

You will need an active SIM card for a different carrier in your phone during the unlock process for this phone model, as I just found out to my inconvenience. It is a thirty second process once you get the code.
posted by jeather at 8:01 PM on March 8, 2015

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