daveon: (Default)
A few people have posted on some of my London stuff about apps and travel planning stuff.  I wanted to flag a potential issue and suggest some thoughts based on what I do.

The core problem, especially for US visitors to the UK, is that the cost of international data roaming is insane and, unless things have dramatically improved in the last year, and you don't have a UK cellphone account, access to free WiFi is highly spotty, at best.

The second problem is that the US carriers are under no obligation to unlock your phone, so it's not a matter of buying a PAYG SIM card and popping it into your phone.  That's assuming you're on T-Mobile or AT&T - Sprint and Verizon are CDMA based networks and don't have SIM cards so while modern devices will work on UK networks it will be as roaming devices complete with US roaming charges.

Have I mentioned that the Roaming Charges are FUCKING INSANE?

I can pre-pay 300MB of data for $60USD - which based on my standard use patterns is about a week and half/two weeks - 800MB is $120...  if you go over that it's $5 a MB...  It's amazing how many apps and websites use that kind of data just starting these days.  So a LOT of people coming from the US are going to have Data Roaming set firmly in the off position.

So options:
Ideally you have a spare unlocked GSM phone - given what we do I've about 6 lying around my office so I'll probably take a handful for everybody in our party and buy PAYG SIMs when I land from which ever carrier gives me the best deal.

If you don't have an unlocked phone, you can ask your carrier to unlock the device ahead of a trip to Europe.  If you're a post-pay customer in good standing the might do this.  I've heard mixed reports.  I'm planning to do this with my Lumia.

You could get the phone unlocked yourself, but be warned, that will void most US carrier warranties so you'd want to think twice if it's on contract.

I'd be interested in hearing from UK friends on best WiFi options.  Most of what I have seen is "The Cloud" and without an O2 account either I've had to really shop around for free hotspots or pay per day.

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