If you’re anything like us, you use your phone for everything from navigation, email and to-do lists to movie reviews, online shopping, and settling late night bar arguments. I always have mine with me and for better or for worse, it’s a huge part of my daily life. It’s probably the most important piece of equipment I use when traveling so I wanted to make sure I chose wisely in picking one to bring with me. While I had a few things in mind when doing my research, the most important thing was that it would work pretty much everywhere I went.
The Technical Part
There are two types of radio technology in cell phones; CDMA and GSM. In the US, Verizon and Sprint use CDMA while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM as do most of the rest of the world. The main difference used to be that GSM phones used SIM cards and the card identified the subscriber and could be swapped out at will while on a CDMA phone, the phone itself was programmed with the subscriber info and was locked to that phone. The two radio technologies are not interchangeable and that’s why sometimes you need to buy the phone variant specific to the network on which you have your plan. This is mostly the case when the network subsidizes the cost of your shiny new phone and doesn’t want you running off with it to a different network as soon as your contract is up.
Still with me? Great!
Now that the world is using 4G LTE networks, a SIM card will be found in every 4G phone (not just GSM network phones) as the LTE standard is built on GSM technology which requires the card. This is good because now you can just pop a new SIM card in your phone when you get to a new country. The important thing to consider these days is whether your phone is a dual band, tri-band, or quad band phone. The US, Canada, and areas of Central and South America work on the dual-band combination of 850MHz/1900MHz while everywhere else uses the combination of 900MHz/1800MHz. Those are the frequencies the phone is programmed to run on and will hunt for them when turned on. A tri-band phone has its original frequency pair but also is able to jump on one band of the other pair. This is better than dual band but still not a fully global phone. If you want to ensure your phone will work wherever you travel, it will need to be quad-band which can run on either pair of frequencies.
Once you know whether your phone will actually work when you travel, in order to get it to play nice on a network other than the one for which you bought your phone, you’ll need it to be global unlocked. This can be as easy as calling up your carrier, telling them you will be traveling for as long as your little heart desires, and hoping that’s reason enough for them to give you the unlock code you’ll enter when you insert an international SIM card into your phone. Remember: this is different from domestically unlocking your phone. If your account is in good standing they’ll most likely give you the code right away however there is a chance they’ll ask for a small fee in return for the code. It is also an option for you to work with a reputable (read: do your research) company which can also offer you the unlock code for a small fee.
Way More Simple
All of this can be a little overwhelming if you’ve never looked into it before so if you find yourself getting a little confused, you can always call your service provider to see where your phone is capable of traveling. If you don’t mind trading in your current phone for a different model, it’s way more simple to grab a new or refurbished one and you’ll be able to pop in a new SIM card as soon as you land and be uploading those over the wing sunset shots before you know it. My old phone had a few years under its belt and was showing its age in embarrassing ways such as losing signal just as an Uber fare hopped in my car so needless to say I was in the market. I decided to get a new global unlocked quad-band phone that came off the assembly line network unlocked and able to connect to either pair of frequencies used around the world. I’m not here to tell you which phone is the ultimate hands-down choice for traveling but after doing my research I decided on a Huawei Nexus 6P and haven’t regretted it for a second. It’s the forerunner of the Pixel line so it’s an Android phone, doesn’t have tons of preloaded bloatware, has a huge battery, great front and rear facing cameras and since it came out a year prior to when I bought it, it was pretty cheap. Don’t let the age fool you, though. It’s a solid phone for a great price and will let you swap out local SIM cards wherever you are with no problems jumping on whatever local network you choose. It’s still a solid phone today and even cheaper now that the Pixel 2 has been released, which makes it an even better choice.
So that’s about it! Hope this helps you out if you’re looking for a great phone to travel with and to summarize, you’ll want a global unlocked quad-band phone to ensure you’ll always be connected.
If you're interested in the Nexus 6P then hit this link to check it out on Amazon! --> Huawei Nexus 6P