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Ask Slashdot: SIM-Card Solutions In North America?

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the not-our-strong-suit dept.

Cellphones 146

An anonymous reader writes I'll be returning to North America for July for the first time in a few years, and I'm curious how the phone carrier market compares with the rest of the world. My last time in the U.S., I had to pick up a disposable phone with all kinds of unnecessary environmental waste (charger, packaging, etc.), and *still* had to register it with another domestic (!) phone number and credit card. I don't think I could get a SIM card there without a contract. Anywhere else I travel, picking up a new SIM card with pre-loaded credit is trivially easy. In my last trip to the UK, I just put GBP 10 into a vending machine at the airport and picked up a loaded SIM card for my phone which aldready has my contacts and settings. No ID, no name, no hassle. What are the best options for me in North America (U.S. *and* Canada)?

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You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (5, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | about 6 months ago | (#47340957)

T-Mobile has a pay-as-you go SIM. I think AT&T does, too.

T-Mobile's is cheaper, but they have coverage issues (may not be a problem, depending on where you go).

See also this story [slashdot.org] .

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (5, Informative)

scream at the sky (989144) | about 6 months ago | (#47341039)

Prepaid service in Canada sucks ass.

Services like Wind and Mobilicity are dirt cheap, offering unlimited voice and data, but stop working as soon as you leave your major urban areas. They also use AWS frequencies, so unless you have a phone that works on 1700 HSPA you're SOL. If you are going to Canada first, look at Wind because they also have an offer where you can get unlimited US Roaming on your account for $15, this would save the need to pick up a second SIM while in the US.

The big 3 (Rogers, Telus, Bell) frankly don't give a crap about prepaid service, and charge so much for it that it makes more sense to go onto a contract plan and cancel service the same day you leave the country (no more 30 day notice required thanks to the CRTC and the WCOC. Rogers gives the best compatibility with hardware (GSM 850,1900, a fist full of HSPA and LTE Frequencies as well) where Telus and Bell only support HSPA (850, 1900) or LTE on a handful of frequencies.

If you are just going to be in major urban areas Chat-R Wireless (which is just a Rogers Wireless sub brand) has the best rates, but as soon as you are outside of a major urban area your pay through the nose in domestic roaming charges, and the biggest data plan they offer is 200MB for a month (if this matters to you). I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think Chat-R offers a nano sim, so if you have an iPhone 5/5S/5C or an HTC One M* you're SOL as well,

Expect the SIM to cost you between $10 and $20, as well as your first month service upfront.

Disclosure: Industry pro, I've worked in the Canuck retail telecom industry since '99. I've worked for every provider in the country in one aspect or another, and they all suck, I'm cynical and jaded about it, so take advice with a grain of salt, the size of a Buick.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (3, Informative)

c6gunner (950153) | about 6 months ago | (#47341139)

Prepaid service in Canada sucks ass.

Depends on your needs. In Canada I tend to go with Koodo mobile; pay $15 for the month as a base charge, then buy however much data or voice I'll need. I conserve my data usage so 1 gig of 4G data can cost me for 4-5 months. And both data and voice with them are "Canada wide", so no roaming or long distance charges, plus they never expire. I had my phone with them for a full year, and on average it's cost me about $25 / month, total.

In the US, on the other hand, I tend to shell out the $60 per month so I can have unlimited data and calling. Unfortunately you're right about Canada not really having any decent offerings for "unlimited use".

I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think Chat-R offers a nano sim, so if you have an iPhone 5/5S/5C or an HTC One M* you're SOL as well,

You can walk into any cellphone repair shop and have them punch your existing sim to a nano.

Re: You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47342303)

Except koodo is telus and telus sucks. They actually had their legal counsel stand up and court and tell the judge that they didn't have to supply service to me but that I had to continue to pay them until the contract was complete. I kicked their ass in small claims. They consistently over-sell their bandwidth in both internet and cellphone services. Telus sucks. It's true.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (5, Informative)

Michalson (638911) | about 6 months ago | (#47341487)

If you are only going to use it in Canada either 7-Eleven's "Speakout" or Petro Canada Gas Station's "Petro Canada Mobility" provide a cheap way of getting onto Roger's Canada wide network without any of the restrictions they slap on their in-house brands Chatr and Fido. There used to be a nice cheap way to get data but since they starting offering Android phones you'll get the same insane fee (10$ for 100mb) as the other Canadian carriers but without any unlimited option. SIM cards are $5-$15 dollars depending on current promotions and you can purchase a SIM card, airtime or phone over the counter in 30 seconds (just make sure you say clearly which provider you want airtime for, these are gas station/convience store clerks, not telecom pros). Speakout tends to be slightly cheaper/better package deals but 7-Eleven locations in Canada are few and far between.

I'll agree that Wind does offer a good deal if you want to go outside of Canada, not just in the US but their roaming rates are far more competitive then other Canadian carriers.

But you might want to look into what roaming rates you can get from a carrier in your own country first, they might be better.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341049)

I'd recommend prepaid plans (gosmart mobile, etc.,). Those don't require a credit check, and it's just a less of a pain in the neck for temporary service...

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341089)

The problem I had with T-mobile is that they use a different frequency in the US compared to in Europe.
And it wasn't supported by my phone.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341175)

What ridiculous phone is that? I have a variant of the Galaxy S4 that is a US T-mobile Exclusive. It still worked just fine with Tmobile (4E) UK, 4G and everything. Pop in the SIM, and after a few minutes, it was good to go.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341647)

A phone that wasn't 4G.
Most of the newer phones support all the various frequencies, but the one I had at the time didn't.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (1)

toonces33 (841696) | about 6 months ago | (#47341585)

With my ancient Razr not-so-smart phone, I had to manually change the settings for the phone to select a different set of frequency bands. But it was doable.

WIth my current smartphone, I don't seem to need to do anything. I got off the plane at Heathrow and it just worked.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 6 months ago | (#47341809)

If you travel internationally and want to use your same phone, then owning a phone that's internationally capable is a prerequisite.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (1)

Albanach (527650) | about 6 months ago | (#47341209)

Clearly you want GSM, so that means AT&T or T-mobile in the United States. AT&T has much better coverage nationwide, but if T-Mobile has coverage where you are heading they are great.

You can get a Net10 sim with unlimited calls, texts and 2.5GB of internet access, and pay $50/month. They're an AT&T MVNO. Probably not as cheap as you've seen in Europe, but it's pretty good when compared to most other plans. Net10 sim cards are available on Amazon.com I don't know if you can find it in stores.

Re: You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341481)

I recoment in usa getting Gosmart Sim $20 from eBay for first month.
unlimited calls, text and 2g data. $35 a month after that or in store.
Works great on my friends carrier unlocked uk gsm phone.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 6 months ago | (#47341789)

I tried to get just a sim card from AT&T. They told me that they sell them, but only to people who already have a monthly account. T-Mobile roams on AT&T towers.

Re:You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341947)

T-Mobile has a pay-as-you go SIM. I think AT&T does, too.

T-Mobile's is cheaper, but they have coverage issues (may not be a problem, depending on where you go).

See also this story [slashdot.org] .

This. They do a day by day deal for $3 a day - 200mb of 3g data and then unlimited Edge/GPRS + unlimited US calls.
Take an unlocked phone.

Works well in my experience in SF.

You'll want either AT&T or T-Mobile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47342035)

Simple Mobile is a bring-your-own-phone service company. Simply purchase a SIM card from them, plop it into your phone, and you are off and running.
There is no annual contract.

Carrier pigeon (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47340961)

Take along a carrier pigeon...

Not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47340965)

I don't know why you had such a problem. There are many GSM carriers that offer SIM/pre-pay, and have for as long as I can recall.

You can usually get these at the checkout counters near gift-cards in box box stores. I know AT&T and T-Mobile both have pre-paid/GSM service.

Re:Not a problem (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 6 months ago | (#47341259)

It's a problem since you need to find a vendor that carries those.

Re:Not a problem (2)

Dahan (130247) | about 6 months ago | (#47341557)

I don't know why you had such a problem. There are many GSM carriers that offer SIM/pre-pay, and have for as long as I can recall.

Agreed. He doesn't say exactly when his last trip to the US was, but AT&T and T-Mobile had prepaid SIMs "a few years ago". I don't know if there are any airport shops that sell them (seems like there would be), but as you say, they're readily available in various stores outside the airport.

However, AT&T's prepaid plans [att.com] suck for tourists... if you have a smartphone (and seeing that this is /., I bet OP does), AT&T will make you get a "smartphone" plan, which starts at $25 for a month of service, and doesn't actually include any data--that's an extra $5 for a measly 50MB. T-Mobile has prepaid plans [t-mobile.com] that I think would work better for a short-term visitor, e.g., perhaps their $3/day unlimited plan.

But I think the best prepaid plans in the US for visitors come from "MVNO"s--basically companies that resell access to either AT&T's or T-Mobile's network, such as Airvoice [airvoicewireless.com] or Ultra [ultra.me] . Unfortunately, their SIMs tend not to be available in actual physical stores, which makes buying their service impractical for a visitor.

Re:Not a problem (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47341977)

if you have a smartphone (and seeing that this is /., I bet OP does), AT&T will make you get a "smartphone" plan,

How do thy do that? What's a their definition of a "smartpone" and how do they detect it?

You can just buy a sim (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 6 months ago | (#47340973)

You can pay cash for a SIM at just about any big box vendor.

But US phones are mostly frequency locked to carriers.

If you are lucky (or are willing to settle for edge data rates) you can likely find a network that your phone works on. That will lead you to a group of pre-paid SIM vendors.

It starts with which network your phone will work on and how well. Do your research.

Re:You can just buy a sim (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 6 months ago | (#47341047)

But US phones are mostly frequency locked to carriers.

While that may be true, it's pretty easy to avoid such phones. Just going with a GSM provider takes care of most of it.

Re:You can just buy a sim (3, Interesting)

schnell (163007) | about 6 months ago | (#47341241)

But US phones are mostly frequency locked to carriers.

Kinda sorta used to be more but not so much now.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that, unlike pretty much the rest of the world, US carriers did not standardize on the GSM technology family. Back in the day, AT&T and T-Mobile chose GSM, while Verizon and Sprint chose the CDMA technology family. So right there you had incompatible technologies between carriers that didn't exist most anywhere else in the world (except for Japan and Korea, mainly).

Phones built to run on the GSM family of technologies use SIM cards and are generally "SIM-swappable." Some phones, typically the ones bought on a contract for a discount, are "SIM-locked" to a carrier meaning that the phone has to be unlocked by the original carrier before the phone can be used with a SIM from another carrier. However, pretty much all cheap/prepaid phones are not SIM locked and can be swapped easily. Phones built to run on CDMA family of technologies do not use SIM cards so are a moot point for "SIM swapping."

Oh, and don't forget this in your research - there are at least three popular SIM card sizes roaming (no pun intended) in the wild these days, and they are mutually incompatible. So don't expect to take the full-sized SIM out of your feature phone and transfer it to the micro SIM slot of a Galaxy S4 or the nano SIM slot of an iPhone 5s ... although of course you can buy adapters that will make smaller SIMs fit into larger slots.

In case you're wondering, the fact that all four major US carriers are using LTE nowadays should make the situation less complicated, but it really doesn't. That's because there are virtually no phones out there that use LTE exclusively. Unless your carrier has VoLTE deployed, your "LTE" phone is just using LTE for data but is falling back to 3G CDMA or GSM/HSPA to make your voice calls. So even though every LTE phone has a SIM, phones on legacy CDMA carriers aren't full "SIM-swappable."

Long story short - SIM swappability these days is far less about carrier locking and more about SIM sizes and which network you're trying to use. Good luck!

Re:You can just buy a sim (4, Informative)

Briareos (21163) | about 6 months ago | (#47341365)

Oh, and don't forget this in your research - there are at least three popular SIM card sizes roaming (no pun intended) in the wild these days, and they are mutually incompatible. So don't expect to take the full-sized SIM out of your feature phone and transfer it to the micro SIM slot of a Galaxy S4 or the nano SIM slot of an iPhone 5s ... although of course you can buy adapters that will make smaller SIMs fit into larger slots.

Except of course that SIM cards are mostly plastic, with a smart-card-y bit where the contacts are, so it's perfectly possible to cut a regular SIM card down to whatever size you need as long as you use a template and a pair of scissors or one of the cheap SIM cutters you can get on Amazon or ask the guys in the next phone shop to do it for you...

I used a mini SIM in my Motorola Milestone until I got a Samsung S3 when it came out and I needed a micro SIM card - converting my SIM was a rather short and simple home crafting project.

Re:You can just buy a sim (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 6 months ago | (#47341421)

I am not sure what the point of your post was, since it seems to be mostly irrelevant.

As far as I can tell, the person asking the question wants to just get a SIM card and put it into his already unlocked phone. Obviously, he needs to ask for the right size SIM (to match his exisitng phone) when buying.

So, the only question is whether his phone supports the necessary frequencies and standards for either AT&T's or T-Mobile's network.

Re:You can just buy a sim (1)

toonces33 (841696) | about 6 months ago | (#47341603)

I have seen SIM card vending machines near the luggage retrieval at some international airports in the U.S.

U.S. phones aren't so much frequency locked to carriers - they are what they call "subsidy locked" to one specific carrier, but that happens when you purchase a phone from a U.S. carrier. If you are coming from outside of the U.S., and have an unlocked phone, then all you should need is the SIM card.

Some older phones had a more limited set of frequency bands - my old Motorola Razr was a "quad-band" phone that could work anywhere that I could find a GSM signal. But even older phones had fewer bands, which typically meant that they might not work in some locales.

Re:You can just buy a sim (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341997)

You can pay cash for a SIM

Bullshit. The Republicans made that illegal with their bullshit fake anti-terrorist laws that are an attempt to increase terrorism. I work for Best Buy, and if you try that in my store, we will call 911. If you attempt to flee, we're supposed to stop you. We don't even try to stop shoplifters after our policy to beat them to death was exposed after our door guy beat a shopper to death in Spartanburg, SC after the cashier screamed that she didn't like his signature. The Republicans have completely fucked the cellphone market. You must sign contracts and give your SSN. We will not sell to foreign nationals. Lies like yours are going to fuck over the OP. I guess you want to see him arrested and/or beaten if he tries to leave.

Re:You can just buy a sim (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47342047)

You can pay cash for a SIM at just about any big box vendor.

Sorry old chap, don't get your banter.

What's a "big box vendor"? Somoeone who sells big boxes? Most sim cards I've seen are rather small.

Re:You can just buy a sim (2)

sparkeyjames (264526) | about 6 months ago | (#47342317)

Big Box refers to the big boxy buildings that their stores are usually in.

Go Phone - AT&T Store (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47340975)

Go into any AT&T store, and ask for a "Go Phone" SIM card... it is free, they activate it in the store with no credit check (and no ID check... you can make up a name and tell them you are getting it fro some friends coming from Europe)

Then go online and put money on it and select a plan.

Re:Go Phone - AT&T Store (1)

Fjandr (66656) | about 6 months ago | (#47341125)

Unless it's changed recently, MyGoPhone SIM cards are not free. AT&T will doing you for $10 to get one.

frist! best option is to stay where you are (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47340981)

We have enough idiots asking stupid questions here already.

Re:frist! best option is to stay where you are (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341067)

Dear sir, is not our fault that your mother left you at 2 yo and your father hated you.
Please crawl back to the cave (or under the bridge) where you live.

Sign An Annoyed Citizen .

Re:frist! best option is to stay where you are (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341235)

His father didn't hate him really. He loved him...or at least he loved that pretty young mouth and tight child asshole. He loved them both over and over apparently.

Re:frist! best option is to stay where you are (0)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47342039)

I'm debating whether to give this +1 funny or +1000 insightful

H2O Wireless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341001)

I have seen displays selling SIM cards and cheap cell phones in several grocery stores in my area (Arlington, VA). However, I haven't tried any of them.

When I got my GSM smartphone for use in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, I got a SIM card from H2O Wireless at https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/mainControl.php?page=index . I've used that SIM card for over a year now with no contract and no problems. You could probably order a SIM card from them before you leave for the states and thus have it with you when you land.

Re: SIM-Card Solutions In North America? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341023)

Almost all of your options will require a trip to a brick and mortar retailer of some sort, whether they be freestanding corporate stores, big box stores or third-party independent dealers. Prepaid options in the US are primarily focused on monthly flay-rate service with unlimited voice, messaging and varying levels of data access with the most common monthly data allowance now being 3GB at the high end with LTE access included. AT&T and T-Mobile are the two GSM carriers in the US, while their networks also power a spate of independent virtual operators, the majority of which operate online and have a smaller physical retail presence, However, depending on the service provider, you may be required to show ID and any sort of online account management also requires personal information.

Go with Apple and AT&T (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341025)

So it costs you a little more, but do you want to be seen as a poor European tourista who can't even afford an iPhone with LTE service from AT&T? Ha! No wonder the Americans had to save your asses in WWII. As for Canada, all cities are close to the border so you can get signal from America.

Re:Go with Apple and AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341415)

Ignore the last sentence. The signal from the U.S. into Canada only extends for a short bit. Relying on using AT&T in Canada would be extremely unwise as you'd be paying roaming rates for connecting to Canadian providers.

Re:Go with Apple and AT&T (0)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47342065)

Ignore the last sentence.

Woooosh.

any gas station in the ghetto (3, Funny)

steak (145650) | about 6 months ago | (#47341029)

go to any gas station in the ghetto and buy all the sim you want.

Re:any gas station in the ghetto (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341489)

Down for outright racist comment

Re:any gas station in the ghetto (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341953)

Down for outright racist comment

Fuck you up your tight white ass.

Re:any gas station in the ghetto (0)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47342083)

"the ghetto" is what the advanced parts of the world call what you know as "the USA". You know, lots of fat pasty white people sitting on those little electric carts.

Straight Talk GSM or Ting CDMA (2)

Kagato (116051) | about 6 months ago | (#47341043)

For the most reasonable rates I'd go with Straight Talk (WalMart) for GSM or Ting for CDMA service. Not sure if you can get away with not giving a name, but neither need any form of contract. I would skip the airport Kiosk and go right to a WalMart of Target for the pre-paid cards.

H2O wireless - Sim without Phone (2)

Stonent1 (594886) | about 6 months ago | (#47341053)

BestBuy sells H2O wireless SIMs that do not come with phones. The card says use with any unlocked GSM phone.

Re:H2O wireless - Sim without Phone (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341265)

> BestBuy sells H2O wireless SIMs that do not come with phones. The card says use with any unlocked GSM phone.

I use H2O Wireless. It even works with GSM phones that are carrier locked to AT&T. I know it because that's what I'm using, never even had to register with ATT, just bought the phone at wal-mart and bough the H2O sim at bestbuy. It is a really good deal for very low volume callers, I spend $10 for 100 minutes that last 3 months.

Another alternative is Lyca - which anyone from Europe will already be familiar with. Their american operations are bare-bones but super cheap and their minutes don't expire as long as you top-up with a couple of bucks every couple of months. You can buy a Lyca sim at Target.

http://www.lycamobile.us/en/

Re:H2O wireless - Sim without Phone (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47342099)

I use H2O Wireless. It even works with GSM phones that are carrier locked to AT&T.

presumably because it's a MVNO on the AT&T network.

Instead of posting an article (-1, Troll)

eviljav (68734) | about 6 months ago | (#47341077)

Instead of posting an article with your question, go read a wiki page.

Re: Instead of posting an article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341151)

Seriously, this post was like when Grandpa types his Google searches into Facebook.

Re:Instead of posting an article (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 6 months ago | (#47342081)

"go read a wiki page."

A relevant example of which would be...?

Re:Instead of posting an article (1)

St.Creed (853824) | about 6 months ago | (#47342261)

"go read a wiki page."

A relevant example of which would be...?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org] :)

no problem (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 6 months ago | (#47341085)

ATT T-Mobile and resellers (at 7-11,etc) all offer SIM cards without contract.

T-MOBILE, T-MOBILE, and one more time T-MOBILE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341099)

All other providers SUCK de LUXE! Even Africa one gets better and easier SIM offerings than USA. Mexico also fares for the bottom of the barrel though...

Re:T-MOBILE, T-MOBILE, and one more time T-MOBILE (3, Interesting)

raburton (1281780) | about 6 months ago | (#47341163)

> Even Africa one gets better and easier SIM offerings than USA
Some parts of it yes, Kenya was just like here in the UK. In Ethiopia I had to go to a government office with my passport, fill in a form, and provide a passport photo for them to keep just for a pay as you go sim. Although you could buy them unofficially off the street too.

Re:T-MOBILE, T-MOBILE, and one more time T-MOBILE (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47342119)

I was naif, in the Ivory Coast I went to the Orange HQ. They looked at me like I was an idiot and told me to buy it off an itinerant street vendor.

His eyes lit up when I told him I wanted to buy the 1 month internet prepaid plan - ($30 if I remember right).

I believe the AT&T MVNO "H2O Wireless" is best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341101)

https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/
They have decently cheap data and unlimited talk/text. Plus it's AT&T which is the best GSM network.

Verizon has the best coverage but is CDMA so you're SOL with a GSM phone and it's the most expensive as well.

Striaght Talk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341105)

Here: http://www.shopstraighttalk.com/bpdirect/straighttalk/Start.do?action=view&locale=en&market=GSM4&productFamily=simcards

They'll set you up with a sim, unlimited voice, sms, and data* (with all sorts of fine print on limitations) for about 50 USD.

get a canadian gsm phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341107)

either pre-paid or no contract with free US roaming and no long distance charges in north america

our one gsm provider does offer this service under one of the many different brands it uses to make you forget their is only 1 gsm provider

Pre-paid SIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341113)

It's no big deal. Go into any T-Mobile or AT&T store and they'll set you up with a SIM for about $10. I've done this a few times and it has worked out just fine.

Disposable phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341127)

Are you a drug dealer or a terrorist? We need to know which so we know what carrier to suggest.

Tourist != terrorist (3, Funny)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#47341177)

My aunt is a drug dealer [wikipedia.org] , you insensitive clod!

OP is a tourist, and there's a big difference between a tourist and a terrorist.

Re:Tourist != terrorist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341195)

ok well when your a tourist are you more likely to try and resell drugs, or harm people randomly?

because one carrier's pricing is best for SMS and has free incoming calls, perfect for your terrorists remote detonators. While the other carrier comes with free call display and more airtime perfect for arranging all your various clients and suppliers...

Re:Tourist != terrorist (2)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 6 months ago | (#47341413)

OP is a tourist, and there's a big difference between a tourist and a terrorist.

After going through customs a couple times, I'm pretty sure the US government considers them to be the same thing.

Re:Tourist != terrorist (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 6 months ago | (#47342129)

Are Homeland Security aware of this?

prepare (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 6 months ago | (#47341133)

There are a bunch of companies selling SIM cards online (e.g. Telestial), both for the US and for global roaming; just search on Google. I've found that kind of mail-order to be the best source for SIM cards for travel.

Walmart, some electronics retailers, and some drugstores also sell cheap prepaid SIM cards that are easy to activate.

Since only half of US carriers use GSM, your choices are a bit limited. Also, most Americans apparently prefer subsidized phones and subscription plans, since the prepaid BYOP plans are just not that popular.

Carriers in USA, and subcarrier (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341135)

There are many companies having a contract with a big carrier who buy in bulk and resell it at a price which is VERY competitive. A while back I moved my kid from Sprint to Ting and the primary difference, is price and phone deals.

The selection of phones which you can get from Ting is more limited, but if you already have one it's a non-issue.

The cost of the service is really aimed towards those who are not the top users. My kid send thousands of texts, limited calls and data and her bill went from the ~$100 to ~$30. Ting charges for use for 3 services: minutes, I/M and data, broken down into ranges that increase by about $4 for each increase.

http://www.unlockedshop.com/a-full-list-of-gsm-carriers-in-the-usa/ has a list of all carriers. A bit of research should reveal a selection of GSM sub carrier with great pricing.

Well Americans are not advanced to use SIMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341137)

We tried it a few years ago, but most Americans could not figure out what to do with the sims, some even were reported puttin them in there months and I heard one had to go to ER to have it removed from the inner ear. See what you need to learn about Americans, is we love easy stuff If it requires anything more then pick up and use, we loose interest in it all together and we have fits of drama rage.So as you can see SIMS do not work well in the land of the free and spoiled. Yes its more logical to use SIMS, yea its smarter to not have contracts...but you see...here in Merica and we do it our way Merica or die...!!!

Question is stupid (5, Informative)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 6 months ago | (#47341147)

Instead of asking Slashdot such a silly question you could also just google getting a gsm sim card in the us [google.com] .

Lo and behold!

#1) "The best Prepaid SIM Cards" [pcmag.com]
#2) "SIM Cards - Best Buy" [bestbuy.com]

It's been trivial to do this for about a decade and 5 seconds of googling got me the answer. This is one of the stupidest ask slashdots ever, and they are almost all incredibly stupid. I'm not looking and I'm going to guess tImothy put this story up.
checks the top of the page
Yup. Fuck timothy.

Re:Question is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341261)

Ask Slashdot was always intended as Troll magnet in the hopes of alleviating the number of stupid posts overwhelming the other carefully crafted articles. Like so many other things Beta broke it. Still, browsing at -1 gets you the best comments. What's with the Timothy haters? You try and keep the sewage pipeline of Slashdot drivel fully queued up and see if you can do as well.

Re:Question is stupid (3)

ve3oat (884827) | about 6 months ago | (#47341787)

"Instead of asking Slashdot such a silly question ..." You are way off base. I am a Canadian who isn't very happy with my mobile phone service and the OP's question is very relevant as I don't know enough about the technical parameters to just google an answer to my concerns. The answers here have been, largely, very informative for me. This is all about what is so very wrong with the Canadian mobile phone market and the regulations governing it, and I expect it extends to the U.S. market as well. I just hope our blessed CRTC is paying attention to this conversation.

Re:Question is stupid (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 6 months ago | (#47342067)

I don't know enough about the technical parameters to just google an answer to my concerns

With search engines, you simply start out with a simple "global" question, and narrow it down. If you can't ask the "big question" and narrow it down based on search results, that you really don't know what you're asking in the first place.

Re:Question is stupid (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 6 months ago | (#47341987)

This is one of the stupidest ask slashdots ever, and they are almost all incredibly stupid.

This trend is not just with the "Ask Slashdot". Dice decided that they wanted to expand the Slashdot Audience to the variety store magazine rack PCmeg crowd - Slashdot Beta is a part of that project. It's all about maximizing page-views before flushing the whole thing down the toilet.

Re:Question is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47342233)

Umm... FAIL!

#1 : is an 18 month old article. If ANY article talking about cell phones, service, or the like isn't within 6 months, it's out of date by a long shot! MERGERS happen in a fraction of that time.

#2 : I wouldn't go to Best Buy if that was the ONLY place to get a cell phone on the planet. I'd go without. And I say this as an American!

So yes, for 5 seconds of googling, you got 'relevant' links, that are either out of date, or the LAST option in the world, when it comes to trusting a company! Bravo! Then again, we're talking about US cellular providers here, so EVERYONE is fucked even before they sign up, so there's that.

Voice, data or both? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341149)

You didn't really mention if you are looking for voice or data.

I am in Canada, so I can only answer your question for Canada.

One of the cheapest options for voice is 7-11 mobility, which is really just a reseller for rogers. $25 for a year of pre-paid service, free incoming texts, 25 cents outgoing text 25 cents a minute voice. It is a prepaid service, so no credit check or anything. They also have 100 Megabyte per month data for $10 a month, which can get you through a few emails and emergency GPS use at least. You can buy just a sim card, although you may need to bring a sim card cutter to cut to fix your phone size.

4 Band GSM (1)

PPH (736903) | about 6 months ago | (#47341167)

You have a 4 band GSM phone, right?

I had to pick up a disposable phone

This would be the case if your GSM phone only supported the two EU bands. Or if you mistakenly walked into a shop that handled non-GSM carriers (Verizon).

Have a 4 band phone and go to an AT&T or T-Mobile shop (or reseller) and pick up a prepaid SIM. No problem. Your phone isn't carrier locked, as you can swap SIMs in the EU. Using that phone here will not be a problem here. Carrier locks are used if you buy a phone on contract (to keep you from skippig out on paying the phone subsidy). But if you own it outright, the carriers don't care.

P-Tel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341187)

I am thinking about trying P-Tel out as they have 2 cent texting and 5 cent minute voice. I'm waiting for my SIM cards to come in the mail.

https://www.ptel.com/ is sometimes down.

I still need to decipher https://www.ptel.com/plans for the pay as you go stuff.

Just had the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341193)

T-mobile. $3 a day no contract or even better if you do get a contract. Link it to google voice and its great.

H20 wireless or similar (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 6 months ago | (#47341219)

Go to Best Buy, get a sim card for $10. Go online, activate. Minutes are in $10 increments good for 90 days, 5c a minute for talk and text

Re:H20 wireless or similar (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 6 months ago | (#47341277)

The problem I encountered last time I tried that I was offered two options, either a phone packaged with it or to lock my private phone to that SIM.

Not so fast... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341267)

I see all these idiots saying "buy a pre-paid SIM" but there's a catch. When You activate the phone, the phone company needs your name, address, etc. This is (unconstitutionally) required by the US Patriot Act.

The real question is: what companies are not going to pitch a fit when You are just back from overseas?

Why is this hard? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 6 months ago | (#47341301)

Get an unlocked phone that has a sim socket.. Buy prepay sim cards off the shelf.. at anything from a drugstore, grocery to a kiosk at the mall. I have even seen them at gas stations lately..

All done. ( for the US anyway, i assume Canada has stores that sell them too )

And if you want to be really fancy, get one of those multi-band dual socket china phones. ( i have one, it can do both at&T/t-mobile style GSM and Verizon CDMA.... *at the same time* even... )

Go to Utah (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341309)

There's a vending machine next to a data center there, put in USD$10 or BTC equivelant for your very own SIM card no questions asked. Just ignore the pinprick when you go to pull out the card. The card you get will be NSA certified to be Unmonitored(tm).

I don't think I could get a SIM card there (-1, Flamebait)

nurb432 (527695) | about 6 months ago | (#47341311)

At least down here in the states all you have to do is OPEN YOUR EYES. they are everywhere.

Re:I don't think I could get a SIM card there (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 6 months ago | (#47342117)

I have never once seem SIMs for sale in person anywhere in the US. This of course is not necessarily a representative of all locations, but it shoudl at least explain why some people find this to be a difficult question to answer and why they would appreciate someone who could answer it.

Prepaid sims... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 months ago | (#47341315)

The UK system of vending machines in the airport is extremely convenient (and the vending machines typically support a bunch of languages and different network sims too), i wish other countries did something similar...

You can buy prepaid sims in most countries but often not in the airport, and quite often the pricing will only be displayed in the local language etc so it can be hard to work out what you're actually getting for your money (and quite easy to get ripped off in the small phone shops).

I just want a cheap prepaid sim that the people i'm visiting can call me on, and with a decent data allowance so i can use google maps etc. It would also be extremely convenient if you could buy them before you travel and have them shipped to you.

Re:Prepaid sims... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341451)

In the UK, get a GiffGaff SIM. You can either buy a monthly 'goodybag' with data and minutes - various prices depending on what you need, eg. £12 for 250 minutes + unlimited data good for 30 days, or ju lstoad some credit which is then good until you have used it up at 10p/minute for calls, but irritatingly expensive for data.

Don't know if they will ship the sim internationally.

at&t offering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341337)

my friend if visiting from india this month and needed something short-term for "hey i'm ready, come pick me up" kinda calls. He had a iphone 4 (unlocked because they are pretty much all unlocked outside the US).

Walked into AT&T retail store. showed ID and for $25 for a SIM, new phone number and 250 minutes; data is $0.01/5kB (really) (thats $10 for 5MB)

Thank God you wern't travelling to India (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341613)

Getting a Sim Card seems to require you to give up the soul of your unborn child.
They say it is because a bomber blew up a train using a mobile phone.
The horse has bolted and they are trying to shut the stable door.
All I need repeat the event is to use a foreign 'burner' phone.

No roaming on some networks (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | about 6 months ago | (#47341673)

My carrier '3' has a deal where calls & texts in the US come out of my UK 10GBP/Month deal.
That's right, no roaming.....

I was over there last month and it seems that you have to use the 'T-Mobile' network. This is fine in the Cities but in many areas there was only AT&T or no signal at all. I was in the Rockies so this might not be the case for other parts on the US.

This has to be the way forward for all networks. Now if only I could get rid of roaming charges in India and other countries that I visit on a regular basis
   

Do actually need 24/7 coverage? (1)

houghi (78078) | about 6 months ago | (#47341689)

If you have network connection on most of the places you go and you have a smartphone, you could just use VoIP. I use http://www.poivy.com/en/index.... [poivy.com] whenever I am not in Belgium and it works great for me.
There are many more out there. I do not need an incoming number, but there will be VoIP providers who have that as well.

Prices will vary depending on the country you come from. Using your own server at home might also be an option.

Freephoneline (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | about 6 months ago | (#47341707)

Get Freephoneline. Pick up a sim with Data.

Idiot... (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341729)

Instead of making a post on /. to garner the support of the anti-America circle jerk, how about you use Google and answer your question in less than 15 seconds?

Fucking morons...

consumer cellular (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341883)

You can get a "consumer cellular" SIM at Sears. They resell AT&T. Good prices and no telecom attitude.

Straight Talk and Nexus 5 D820 (1)

Zeio (325157) | about 6 months ago | (#47341907)

I have used Straight Talk for years. They sell BYOP activation kits. It comes with 4 sim card and a CDMA activation code. micro/nano AT&T, micro/nano T-Mobile. I use AT&T Straight Talk.

With the Nexus 5 you take the micro AT&T, and you get unlimited talk, text and data (up to 3GB on 4G, the rest on a throttle) for 45/mo. Its also got LTE as well as HSPA+/HSDPA.

There is a 60/mo plan that allows SMS and calls to international numbers if you need it.

I prepay a year at a time and get this for $495 for 12 months.

I use a rental SIM when traveling to Japan from here ( http://jcrcorp.com/mobile/mobi... [jcrcorp.com] ) . Europe I've used Swisscom prepaid.

Anyways, the Nexus 5 D820 seems to go everywhere and work.

Amazon (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 6 months ago | (#47341979)

If you're planning ahead, some vendors on Amazon sell sim cards, including Net10 sim cards, international sim cards, and others. I believe that if you have an Amazon account anywhere, your login works in Amazon for any other country (My only experience is having an account in USA and buying stuff on Amazon.de). If you have the card before you leave, that is simplest and provides the most functionality. Then, if you want to shop for a sim card with a better rate, your phone will be working while you do so. Or, an airtime vendor like wirelessrefill.com might be able to sell you airtime at a better rate for the first card.

AT&T, $40 micro-SIM with 500MB data (1)

Athanasius (306480) | about 6 months ago | (#47341985)

I bought an AT&T micro-SIM for my Samsung Galaxy S3 for $40 in May this year. That came with 500MB of data, there are other plans as well. If I'd loaded it up with enough there was some advantage if I was planning on spending more time in the USA within the year.

I simply walked into an AT&T store in Hollywood, asked, and got great service.

The only issue was when in some small towns that only had service from some other provider (I think it was Page AZ which only had CellularOne).

Tr0llkore (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47341993)

fucking confirmed: aarogance was the twop. Or were,

Speak Out! (1)

patchouly (1755506) | about 6 months ago | (#47342377)

Try the 7-11 "Speak Out" sim card. The sim card is $10 and can be used in most modern phones. Then you buy minute cards. The best part is instead of the minutes only being active for one month, they are good for a whole year. So, buy a $25 card and you have an emergency phone that has minutes for a year.
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