SIM – sala – Bim! What you need to know about Prepaid Cards

Once upon a time you got a cell phone, a service provider and both were married to each other. You couldn’t change one without the other. You were basically stuck with the situation. Now it’s possible to get a phone that can work all over the world and you can change providers by changing a card in the phone. You DO have to pick the right kind of phone, however.

The secret is understanding ‘GSM’ and ‘SIM’ Global System for Mobile Communications is the European and Asian standard which means they transmit at certain frequencies. America and Canada use another. US phones/service providers only function in the the US. But there are new phones being made that can work in Europe/Asia as well. These are the phones with tri-band network support that can operate, for example, at GSM 900/1800/1900MHz frequencies.

Right now in the US only certain providers offer GSM service, Although it’s a different frequency than that used in the rest of the world. T-Mobile and ATT/Cingular are the US providers with GSM service. Customers can use those providers with a choice of various GSM phones. Can you take that phone overseas? Maybe. You need to check the frequency range of your phone. Some are Dual and some are Triple bands. Some are Quad! Try looking at Siemens, Ericsson and Motorola for phones with this greater range. The US uses 1900 MHz and sometimes in rural areas the 850 MHz band for it’s service. The rest of the world generally uses the other frequencies and which phone you should get depends on where you plan to travel.
Yeah, I know. This is making me dizzy too. It’s the NTSC vs PAL wars Redux. Oi.

The next important point is to get a phone that’s unlocked or can be unlocked. Which means it can accept new instructions from a new provider. Phones are like computers with an ‘OS’ or instructions. Locked instructions from one provider only communicate with that one provider. IF a phone can be Unlocked, you change these instructions by changing providers.

This is possible because of SIM (‘Subscriber Information Module’ or ‘Subscriber Identity Module’) cards. The phone’s instructions are on the card. SIM’s have the Secret serial numbers that are used by the provider to track the phone so it can make and receive calls. If a phone is unlocked, all you do to is change SIM cards to change services. Your service provider can still find your unique serial number even when you change to a new GSM phone. Keep the SIM card to keep the service but put it in another phone to change your phone. The provider only keeps track of the SIM card, not the phone.

Since the card has all the really important info you need to operate a phone some clever person has made a device that saves – or backs up – your SIM info. Just slide your SIM card in it and copy info To or From the device. It’s about 20 bucks. Get info here

Ok, so why would anyone care about changing a SIM card?

Americans are not quite used to this idea but in Europe it’s the norm. The rest of the world loves PrePaid SIM cards. It’s the rage. (Visualize people dancing the Charleston). Check out the International SIM Cards

Say I got lucky and could travel to Europe and decided to visit family in Belgium. I could get a SIM card for 49 bucks and that would get me a local number, I can use it for a year (that’s some long trip!) and I can make international calls. And I can add airtime minutes with various denominations of PrePaid cards. They can be purchased at various stores locally (Belgium, in this example). If, instead, I wanted a SIM for the UK, there would be a different cost, it would last 60 days and have different rates. And I’d get a UK local number. But basically it’s a similar deal. Get phone, buy SIM, make calls. Rinse, repeat.

An American SIM card can be had for about $70 using T-moble as the service. Airtime cards are available at local stores and online. Refill cards are available in $10.00, $25.00, $50.00, and $100.00 increments.
Some online sellers like here offer a higher price – $148.95 – because they include more starter airtime minutes and a year of service. Other services like Voicemail, SMS messaging, Caller ID, Call Waiting, and 3 Way-Calling is fairly typical. You have to activate the SIM card in the country you are going to be using it in. So, while in the US you turn on and use your US SIM. If you travel to say, the UK, wait until you get there to place your UK SIM in your phone. The procedure for ‘turning’ on the SIM is slightly different depending on the SIM, but instructions are always provided from the seller.
Here is a list of phones that are Tri-band or GSM/SIM capable: Nokia 3590, 6310i, 6590, 7210, 8390, 8890, Motorola T720, V60, V60i, V66, Siemens A56, CT56, MT50, S46, Sony Ericsson T39m, T68, T68i, T306, T600, T66, P800, Timeport 250, 280, L7889

International Student Prepaid Phones:

Probably the cheapest way to go is with this seller. This is marketed for students who live outside the US but who will be visiting or studying in America. Although, I’m sure this company don’t care who buys their service. One of the things I do find interesting about this setup is that you can rent this phone. When you are done with it, you can send it back to FonePool and get a credit. That’s if you go with their ‘fonepack’. But you can also just get their ‘simpack’ which is $49 for the SIM card and 60 days of activation with T-Mobile. Just make sure you have an unlocked phone.

The best value is if you buy $100 for a year which is about 1,000 minutes and ends up being about 10 cents a minute. The least amount to buy is $10 for 30 days /30 minutes and ends up costing 34 a minute.

For an international call you get charged local call rates to receive the call. If you make an international call, you get charged $1.50 plus, local airtime. It’s suggested using an international calling card to make the calls cheaper. They use the T-Mobile provider, of course. You can send messages for 10 cents and they are free to receive.

It looks like America is getting on the SIM bandwagon – something the rest of the world has been riding on for a while. This site has a list of countires and their carriers, rates, coverage and other useful info on each. USA is at the bottom.

We now step into The Satire Zone……….

Back in the 90’s when cell phones first became ubiquitous, one could be inconvenienced by a rude newtwork executive (for example) in a restaurant while he talked LOUDLY at his table. He would ignore his date and make himself a part of everyone else’s table by default. So, the question is, several years later in a new century, what has technology done to improve people’s ability to be obnoxious? TA DA! Add music files to a phone and you have the new toy: the ‘cellphone-iPod creature’!! What a cool idea! Next step is obviously to add a Spock-like ‘Tri-quarter’ sensor reading capabilities. Now THAT is what I want!. In the meantime, companies like Apple and Motorola have made this BIG ANNOUNCEMENT about their new hybrid. It’s Just about to be released. 1000 songs in your phone, ok. Obviously, phones are adding more and more features.
I looked over a few just to see.

Sony Ericsson W800 is a music player, cell phone, video camera. Next thing you know it will cook your dinner! This quite attractive phone comes with Disc2Phone program that can read your music CD’s and make mp3’s which are saved onto the memory card. You can also get FM radio stations with this phone. Now, I personally feel that ‘terrestrial’ radio is basically a dinosaur (Hello Sirius!), but in case of emergencies it’s a nice thing to have. This phone has a tri-band network support which operates at GSM 900/1800/1900 frequencies. It has a slot for a Memory Stick Duo Pro and comes with a 512 MB card.
The 2 megapixel camera has a res up to 1632 x 1224 pixels. Which is not bad for a phone camera, although I’ve never considered any pictures one takes with a phone are going to be ‘pro’ quality. I mean, if you want a real camera, get one. But it’s nice to see someone making an effort to get nice quality for a cell device. AND you can change the SIM card.
Price: I’ve seen from $624.99 to $503.00
Samsung E530:
For some reason this phone is being marketed to women. Naturally, it caught my eye. How could I NOT look into this? I mean, is this phone ‘feminine’??? And what does that translate to, technologically speaking? What exactly are ‘Special female functions’. Does it vibrate? (Me pauses for a minute to think about THAT).

Well, looking at it, it’s a flip phone and it comes with a strap (color matched!) and a lovely case. And it’s got curves (clam shape). It does have nice big buttons. So, I admit, it’s an attractive little toy. Obviously made for female executives who want to have a phone that still has an aura of Victoria Secrets around it.
SO, what about the inside? The part that really counts? Well, it doesn’t have a memory card slot so the 90 MB’s are all you get. I guess they figure gals don’t need to get all high tech. harrumph! You’ll end up only being able to use about 80MB for storing MP3’s as the memory is Shared with everything else the phone has to do. And I think the only way to download your music files is through Bluetooth. The camera is 1 MP with 1152 x 864 pixels res. Hmmm. The quality of the photos is not great with a weakness for yellows and greens – you can easily get too much purple fringing in your images. There’s no way you can get really great pics with this camera. This is strictly a ‘take pic and email immediately’ cellphone. But not a camera for the artists among us. Although, being able to email some just made video can be nice.
Looking over some of the other capabilities I noticed that when writing text messages this phone has a T9 dictionary which can be turned off if you feel confidant with your spelling skills. Seriously, this is a good timesaver. It’s Dual band GSM 900/1800 which means only for Europe/Asia. So, an American could only use this as a second phone.

Ok, so where are these female-specific aspects? Apparently, we’ve got some software. Guess what, boys? We’ve got a menstrual calendar! Well! I better not let anyone use my phone or things could get embarrassing! We’ve got a Biorhythm chart. Where’s my rolling eyes smiley? A way to calculate your BMI index. It can count Calories. Also included is a program to let you make a Shopping list. (What? Guys don’t shop? Or make lists? Ok, I admit I don’t make lists. Happy now?) And – this has GOT to be some sort of game – getting an ‘Aroma type’. Plug in some factoids and it suggests an appropriate smell for you to enjoy at that moment. Is this some sort of Scratch and Sniff Phone? Maybe it’s the program that stinks? Gee, I’m just no fun! ;) I can see myself never using this except as a party game. Once. Maybe. Honestly, I’d rather have something that emulates Mr. Spock’s Tri-quarter. When are they coming out with that?

I have to say that I’m a little disappointed with the ‘techy’ parts. Maybe I’m just not enough of a real girl, but I really would prefer more cool stuff, a better camera, the ability to add memory, and software which is frankly not so ‘silly’. I mean, Damn, this phone is not cheap and I don’t think I’d be getting enough bang for the buck. It DOES look very very nice but for the price I’d want my phone with more balls. No offense.

Written by Cecilia