Flexing that unlimited vacation policy and staying abroad for more than a week or two? Consider replacing your SIM card and using a local service provider. First, make sure your phone is unlocked. You can do this by swapping your SIM card for another one and confirming that your phone still works, or simply calling your service provider. The FCC requires that providers unlock all devices so you can use them on any network, so simply ask your provider for an unlock code. One caveat, though: That rule doesn't apply if you're locked into a contract or you haven't paid for your phone in full.

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Wirefly offers great deals on a large selection of smartphones, cell phones, tablets, mobile hotspots, and other wireless devices for the nation's most popular carriers. Use Wirefly’s innovative cell phone and plan comparison tools to ensure you are getting the best deal on the market. Shop with confidence knowing that Wirefly wants to help you find the best prices on cell phones, cell phone plans, TV, and Internet service.
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.

You can also look at phones that are ranked as best in class. This includes rankings for phones with the best battery life, thinnest form factor, highest quality display, and other high-end features. However, battery life is frequently dependent on your habits and how you use your phone. For example, if you check your email or text a lot, or you have lots of long conversations, you will burn battery life more quickly than someone else.
Why we love it: In addition to HD streaming, a 20GB mobile hotspot allowance, 500GB of Verizon Cloud, and a massive 75GB data de-prioritization threshold, Verizon's Above Unlimited includes unlimited talk/text/data in Mexico and Canada and 5 TravelPasses/month for use in more than 130 countries (each TravelPass entitles you to 24 hours of your regular unlimited benefits while abroad). All backed, of course, by Verizon's awesome network. It may be expensive, Above Unlimited delivers the goods. 

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Among the basic-economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data, Sprint deserves some credit for requiring the fewest compromises beyond the streaming-video 480p resolution enforced by all four: Sprint’s Unlimited Basic, $60 for one line, still includes 500 MB of LTE hotspot use (more than I use in most months) and overseas roaming (though at slower speeds). T-Mobile Essentials, at $60, offers only free texting overseas—international voice and data are extra—and limits hotspot use to 3G speeds (although OpenSignal rated its 3G downloads highest among all four). Verizon’s $75 Go Unlimited caps hotspot use at a punitive 600 Kbps, while AT&T’s $75 Unlimited & More bans hotspot use outright.
Assuming you make fewer calls than average, and you don’t need Verizon’s better network, Ting offers flexible billing and a choice of Sprint and T-Mobile coverage. Ting consistently ranks high in Consumer Reports reader surveys and placed well in past PCMag surveys (although it faded in that site’s latest round of reader assessments). And with Ting’s recent addition of third-party device financing, you can even have some of the same low up-front phone costs as with the big four.

After prodding Verizon to end overage fees with a nifty bit of skywriting in 2015, the “Uncarrier” T-Mobile played its trump card by switching all subscribers over to a single unlimited plan known as T-Mobile One. As of September 2018, all new subscribers receive unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data. And though “unlimited” is never truly unlimited, T-Mobile doesn’t start throttling speeds until you’ve hit 50 GB of data usage. It’s a generous limit at a great value — especially because video and music streaming won’t count toward that data cap. T-Mobile One costs $70 for one line, and each additional line is about $10 cheaper. T-Mobile prices include taxes and fees, while Verizon’s comparable 75 GB plan costs $95 before taxes and fees.

If you're not on an unlimited plan, Verizon offers a daily travel pricing option called TravelPass. It’ll cost you $5 per day per device for each day you’re out of the country if you travel to Mexico or Canada. In more than 100 other countries — including China, France and Germany — Verizon charges $10 per device per day. Talk, text and data on TravelPass are subject to the same allowances you have on your Verizon plan stateside; in other words, the data you use in Europe draws from the tiered data plan you have at home. Note that data speeds are only 4G for the first 512MB each day when you have a TravelPass; after that, you're throttled to 2G speeds.


Usually, unlocked cell phones have the carrier's branding on the device. To test whether your phone is locked, insert a Telestial SIM Card or a SIM Card provided by a different carrier (than that of your device). If your device connects to a network and you are able to use the service, your phone is not locked. If your device does not connect to a network or you are unable to use the service, your phone may be locked.
The number one reason is because the 6S is compatible with CDMA and GSM networks–therefore usable worldwide. While all Apple products are a target for thieves, standard features including iMessage and a powerful camera makes iPhone superior to other phones when traveling internationally and traveling light. The iPhone 6S is smaller in size than many iPhones, so it’s less likely to be a target. It’s also older–a secondhand 6S won’t leave as big of a dent in your pocket if it’s stolen. What’s more, the automatic backup and syncing features will help you hold on to all your photos and information.Compared to previous iPhones, the 6S is made out of sturdier material (for more heavy usage) and has a better front-facing camera (for Skype and Facetime calls back home to family and friends). And, as with all iPhones, you’ll appreciate the long-term investment. Apple’s hardware always have a long-term compatibility with software updates.
International travel has always been a challenge for mobile users. From anticipating roaming charges or setting up an international calling plan to purchasing an adapter for your phone charger, traveling internationally requires some pre-planning. One way to avoid potential hiccups is to purchase a phone that’s suitable for international travel. To find out what cell phones work best for traveling abroad, we reached out to a panel of mobile enthusiasts and tech bloggers to gain some insight. We asked them:

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.
If you need a lot of data more than you need the widest coverage, the T-Mobile One unlimited plan, augmented by the $15 One Plus add-on to enable full-speed tethering, is a well-priced plan (even after recent T-Mobile price hikes for One Plus) on a network that still provides pretty good coverage. T-Mobile’s network isn’t quite as good as Verizon’s—you’ll likely encounter more places where you can’t get a signal—but it’s still good, and third-party studies (for example, ones from PCMag and OpenSignal) report that a few years of upgrades have boosted T-Mobile above AT&T and Sprint. T-Mobile also bests Verizon in terms of international-roaming plans, and a wider variety of phones work on T-Mobile’s GSM network than Verizon’s CDMA network (though the best phones are available for both).
With Verizon’s TravelPass you can use your plan in Mexico and Canada for $5 per day. The charge jumps to $10 per day for use in other countries. Usage in Canada and Mexico are included in Verizon’s Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited plans at no additional charge. Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan includes five TravelPasses each month, good in more than 130 countries. The carrier also offers monthly and pay-as-you-go international roaming prices.
Among the basic-economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data, Sprint deserves some credit for requiring the fewest compromises beyond the streaming-video 480p resolution enforced by all four: Sprint’s Unlimited Basic, $60 for one line, still includes 500 MB of LTE hotspot use (more than I use in most months) and overseas roaming (though at slower speeds). T-Mobile Essentials, at $60, offers only free texting overseas—international voice and data are extra—and limits hotspot use to 3G speeds (although OpenSignal rated its 3G downloads highest among all four). Verizon’s $75 Go Unlimited caps hotspot use at a punitive 600 Kbps, while AT&T’s $75 Unlimited & More bans hotspot use outright.

Verizon’s best plan for most people is also its least obvious offering: the 5 GB for $55 deal. It’s difficult to find this plan on Verizon’s homepage, but you should see this option if you select a phone, add it to your cart, and scroll past Verizon’s flagship “unlimited” offerings when selecting a plan. (Verizon’s website quotes a $60 rate for this plan, but signing up for auto-pay using a checking account or debit card gets you $5 off—though this precludes running up points on a travel-rewards credit card).
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The difficulties I encountered are instructive as to what a prepay customer should understand bout service limitations when travel outside of the United States is contemplated. My experience also pointed to a glaring security problem for tracing criminals, terrorists, stalkers or others that seek to use their phone to facilitate illegal activities.
Clean Slate (formerly contract buyout) offer: Clean Slate: Amount based on ETF (early termination fee) charged or remaining phone balance. Req. port from other carrier to Sprint, remain active & in good standing for 30 days before card issuance & buyback of working phone in good condition (the device is unlocked, powers on and there are no broken, missing or cracked pieces) tied to offer. Phone must be deactivated & all personal data deleted. Device will not be returned. Reg, & submit final bill with ETF or phone balance w/in 60 days of switching at sprint.com/joinsprint. Allow 15 days after registration approval for Reward Card arrival. Excl. discounted phones, 100+ Corporate-liable, prepaid & ports made between Sprint or related entities. Prepaid Mastercard: Card is issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. No cash access or recurring payments. Unused funds will forfeit after the valid thru date. Card terms and conditions apply.
If you need quality voice and text coverage but use little or no data, and you’re willing to stick to a small, if growing, subset of Android phones, Republic Wireless is the best bet. At just $15 a month, it’s the cheapest way to get unlimited voice and texts, and adding 1 GB of data (with hotspot support) on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks tacks on another $5.
With two sets of rate plans, Verizon’s higher costs make it less of a budget-friendly option though they do offer “go unlimited” as the lower tier that caps streaming video at 480p and cuts back mobile hotspot speeds. Their “beyond unlimited" plan adds 720p streaming video on phones and 1080p on tablets alongside 15GB of mobile hotspot use every month.
AT&T is a name we're all familiar with, a telecommunications behemoth whose history stretches back centuries. The company is a formidable player in the cell phone industry, especially when it comes to coverage: the breadth and reliability of the carrier's network is second only to Verizon's. This great coverage in one of the key benefits of going with AT&T for your next cell phone plan. 
Ashley Turner is director of Gadget Valuer – one of America’s biggest gadget trade-in comparison sites. Launching in 2009, the founding team wanted to create a completely independent recycling comparison website after running an actual phone recycling site. Such experience in the recycling market means Turner is constantly in touch with the latest trade-in trends and consumer habits.
The phone can also be charged using a special ‘Dash’ charger. This promises a 63% charge in just 30 minutes, and unlike many other quick chargers, it doesn’t cause the phone to heat up to an alarming level. It does this by moving the majority of the heat management into the charger itself, as opposed to it being within the phone’s hardware. This makes it ideal to use in countries with high temperatures.

Among the basic-economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data, Sprint deserves some credit for requiring the fewest compromises beyond the streaming-video 480p resolution enforced by all four: Sprint’s Unlimited Basic, $60 for one line, still includes 500 MB of LTE hotspot use (more than I use in most months) and overseas roaming (though at slower speeds). T-Mobile Essentials, at $60, offers only free texting overseas—international voice and data are extra—and limits hotspot use to 3G speeds (although OpenSignal rated its 3G downloads highest among all four). Verizon’s $75 Go Unlimited caps hotspot use at a punitive 600 Kbps, while AT&T’s $75 Unlimited & More bans hotspot use outright.
I write about all things "cyber" and your right to privacy. Before joining Consumer Reports, I spent 16 years reporting for The Associated Press. What I enjoy: cooking and learning to code with my kids. I've lived in the Bronx for more than a decade, but as a proud Michigan native, I will always be a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan no matter how much my family and I get harassed at Yankee Stadium. Follow me on Twitter (@BreeJFowler). 

Clean Slate (formerly contract buyout) offer: Clean Slate: Amount based on ETF (early termination fee) charged or remaining phone balance. Req. port from other carrier to Sprint, remain active & in good standing for 30 days before card issuance & buyback of working phone in good condition (the device is unlocked, powers on and there are no broken, missing or cracked pieces) tied to offer. Phone must be deactivated & all personal data deleted. Device will not be returned. Reg, & submit final bill with ETF or phone balance w/in 60 days of switching at sprint.com/joinsprint. Allow 15 days after registration approval for Reward Card arrival. Excl. discounted phones, 100+ Corporate-liable, prepaid & ports made between Sprint or related entities. Prepaid Mastercard: Card is issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. No cash access or recurring payments. Unused funds will forfeit after the valid thru date. Card terms and conditions apply.
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