I thought this would be a relatively simple matter until I started analyzing the technical issues involved. The solution was further complicated because most of the customer agents I spoke with for the different carriers really did not understand their own service offerings and many said that prepay phones could not be used for roaming in foreign countries.
For traveling abroad in nearly 180 countries around the world, Sprint adds unlimited and 2G data speed with calls costing 20 cents per minute. Beyond international travel, each customer inside the US also receives 10GB of LTE mobile hotspot data and plans like iPhone Forever or Galaxy Forever that offer a new iPhone or Samsung device after 12 equipment installment payments.
Between traditional subscription plans on the big four carriers, prepaid services, and companies reselling those four networks, you have hundreds of options for family plans, but the two-line rates of Metro by T-Mobile and the four-line deals of Verizon’s prepaid service come out on top. These plans each use one of the top two networks, let you bring your own devices (the best way to save money while still getting a quality phone), and offer conveniences like the capability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot and roam overseas without paying painful-to-extortionate extra fees.
These companies usually configure their SIMs with two phone numbers: one for use in North America and one that will work everywhere else. Dual-number SIMS can be a problem if you want to receive text messages while outside North America via your U.S. number. These systems only allow subscribers to log in with their alternate phone number (usually assigned in the UK) when overseas. This means that unless text messages are directed to that number, they cannot be received.
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But like the Unlimited Choice plan that preceded it, the Unlimited &More plan comes with a few big catches. Video streaming is limited to standard-definition quality, with the speed capped at 1.5 megabits per second. The plan doesn’t provide mobile hot spot capabilities, so no tethering your computer to your phone. (Verizon has similar restrictions.) And people who subscribe to the cheaper unlimited plan no longer get free HBO.
Keyboard and interface refers to the style of the screen and keyboard of the phone. On some phones, you use the number keys to type text messages. On some phones, you get a flip keyboard that looks like a standard keyboard. Some phones have touch screens with a display of a keyboard that you use right on the screen. A 4 inch or bigger display refers to the size of the screen. Most phones with 4 inch or bigger display screens are usually touch screen phones.
If your usage only slightly exceeds the cap on a service’s limited-data plans—say, you use 3.25 GB in a month and your carrier offers a 3 GB plan—you should see if that plan lets you roll over unused data from months when you don’t hit your maximum. Also, see if that service offers unmetered slow 2G service once you exhaust your high-speed data, so your phone will still always get basic (read: slower) Internet access. These features may let you choose a less expensive plan.
When you're purchasing a cell phone, make sure the device you select has sufficient memory, speed, camera precision and general functionality to meet your needs. You can choose between locked phones, which require you to pick a carrier, such as T-Mobile, AT&T, Boost or Verizon, or you can go with an unlocked model that works on a variety of networks. Best Buy, Amazon and B&H Photo Video are just a few stores that sell unlocked phones, including Apple iPhones and Android devices. Consider a prepaid phone with limited functions if you're purchasing an inexpensive device to take with you to festivals, nightclubs and other places people frequently lose expensive cell phones.
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