New Verizon phone for the U.S., plus travel to Ireland & Japan
April 28, 2017 8:03 AM   Subscribe

How does one select a Verizon phone (iPhone) for use in the U.S., which can also be used in Japan and Ireland? It's to make & receive calls & texts, with data, too. (Not a lot, but some.) Currently they have an iPhone and changing platforms would be difficult.

My parents are Verizon customers, with an old iPhone 4. They want to get a new handset (preferably an iPhone) before an imminent one-off trip to Ireland -- but they also go to Japan once a year. Would a current model iPhone be useful everywhere?

If not, what's the best plan: to buy an unlocked iPhone and then pick up a SIM card when they land in Ireland? Can you just buy a local SIM card in Japan? And here I reveal my ignorance by asking: if they buy a local SIM card while abroad, can anyone still reach them at their U.S. number, or will all those calls go to voicemail until they get home?

Thanks for any helpful explanations!
posted by wenestvedt to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure about unlocking a Verizon iPhone (I have a Telus Nexus 6P that unlocked that works in Japan), but in terms of pay-as-you-go in Japan, I've found it confusing and expensive.

AFAIK most prepaid SIM cards are data-only, and don't do voice.

We usually use Softbank.
posted by My Dad at 8:24 AM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

This might be helpful:

(I tested with a few phones, and it said "good to go" for all alternatives, so odds are it'll work with any modern phone.)
posted by effbot at 8:24 AM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Devices sold by Verizon are already unlocked so your parents are good to go there. The iPhone 6s series sold by Verizon will work in Ireland and Japan (but not the 7 series devices, oddly), according to Apple's chart. I like the 6s better because of the headphone jack but your parents may disagree.

I don't know about local SIMs in Japan but they are plentiful in Ireland. If your parents put a local SIM in their devices, calls to their US numbers will go to voicemail.
posted by fireoyster at 10:52 AM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider before traveling internationally with an unlocked phone is that your phone will immediately connect to the local affiliate cellular carrier (in my case it's Softbank). Depending on how you have your phone configured, downloading new emails and texts, and syncing folders etc after powering on the phone could be really, really expensive. So, best to set to airplane mode before you land and so on.
posted by My Dad at 12:33 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The iPhones chart that fireoyster called out just lists the different models that Apple produces and the carriers that those models officially support. The Japanese iPhone 7 models are listed separately because they have distinct features for the Japan market, including mandatory shutter sounds and special contactless payment hardware. What the chart does tell you is the range of bands supported by each model. That's the important part. As long as there is overlap between the bands supported by the Verizon iPhone and the ones used by the Irish or Japanese carriers, you'll be good to go. For what it's worth, I used my Verizon iPhone 7 in Japan with a Japanese SIM card with no issues.
posted by roomwithaview at 7:09 AM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

>For what it's worth, I used my Verizon iPhone 7 in Japan with a Japanese SIM card with no issues.

Were you able to find a voice-only (or voice+data) SIM? If so, which service?
posted by My Dad at 7:28 PM on April 29, 2017

Thank you, everyone!

Actually, when I laid out the options, they realized that, well....using an iPad for email via WiFi was just fine and trying to get people to use a new, international phone number would be more trouble than it's worth.

So they're getting a new iPhone that works at home, and skipping the international roaming question entirely.

Thanks again!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:30 AM on May 3, 2017

Were you able to find a voice-only (or voice+data) SIM? If so, which service?
Neither. I used a data-only SIM from this service.
posted by roomwithaview at 5:42 PM on May 4, 2017

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