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Any advice regarding cellphone contracts for someone who travels a lot?
Thread poster: Simon Chiassai

Simon Chiassai  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:59
English to French
+ ...
Oct 2, 2013

Hi everyone,
After losing several large and well-paid jobs because I was out when the email came in and could not reply right away, I have decided to buy a smartphone so I can access the Internet and my emails no matter where I am. I am hoping that it will enable me to leave my desk a bit more without being worried that I might lose out on potential income, and to make the most of my time.
There is one issue though, I travel a lot. And by traveling, I mean I move around quite a bit. I have lived (more than 3 months) in 6 different countries within the past 2 years. This is problematic because of roaming fees. Short term contracts, or pre-paid phones end up being very expensive while long-term contract are almost impossible to get out of, and I don't want to pay for 2 years if I'm not going to be able to use the contract after 4 months.

So I'd like to know if you guys know of affordable international cellphone contracts (I am currently in Germany), or if people in a similar situation have found a solution.

Thanks.


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cecilea7
United States
Local time: 07:59
Member (2010)
Portuguese to French
+ ...
I am in a similar situation Oct 2, 2013

and have not found anything worthwhile. I'd be interested to know if there is anything out there.

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Agnes Lenkey  Identity Verified
German to Spanish
+ ...
Jajah is a very good solution Oct 2, 2013

Hi Simon and Cecilea:

I am using the services of http://www.jajah.com/ (for many years already), although I must admit their tariffs are higher when using it with a cell phone, a land line is much more convenient. But sometimes I use it for my mobile, too. Check it out and if you have any doubts, e-mail me, I can maybe explain its functioning to you. It is really intended to be used internationally.

The BEST solution I found for my SPANISH (home line and) cell phone is http://www.hablamania.com/, they are really very cheap for my international calls which I have to make very often.

I have never tried it out, but they say SKYPE has this functionality of making calls and they say it does function very well and it is quite cheap – but I do not know exactly how it works. Maybe you can have a look.

General rule is to pay for some credit in advance and start using these additional services from the phone you use.

Hope this helps a little, best regards,

Agnes


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:59
Member
French to English
+ ...
Skype works on mobiles Oct 2, 2013

(at least, I have it on good authority that is the case)

So I'd have thought the cheapest solution might be to buy yourself some Skype-out credit, then buy the cheapest possible 'naked' SIM card allowing internet access in each country you visit to slot into your smartphone that you carry around with you.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Two separate issues Oct 3, 2013

Simon Chiassai wrote:
After losing several large and well-paid jobs because I was out when the email came in and could not reply right away, I have decided to buy a smartphone so I can access the Internet and my emails no matter where I am. I am hoping that it will enable me to leave my desk a bit more without being worried that I might lose out on potential income, and to make the most of my time.


It is important that you understand the limits of this approach. You will probably not be able to "accept" the jobs while you're away from the computer, but you will be able to reply to the client within minutes of him sending the mail, and if you can appease him by telling him when you will be able to look at the files, he might hold the job for you.

If it is a regular client whose files you are familiar with, you can confirm jobs even if you can't preview the files. However, you can't really preview all file type on a smart phone or a tablet, and so the real value of having a smart phone is not in confirming jobs but in confirming that you are not unavailable any time soon. For many clients, mere response is sufficient, even if you can't confirm the job yet.

I have lived (more than 3 months) in 6 different countries within the past 2 years. This is problematic because of roaming fees. Short term contracts, or pre-paid phones end up being very expensive while long-term contract are almost impossible to get out of, and I don't want to pay for 2 years if I'm not going to be able to use the contract after 4 months.


E-mail requires either Wi-Fi or a data bundle, so you will have to have a SIM card with a local service provider wherever you are. Even if you read your mail "without downloading it", the roaming charges will still work out to much more than having a subscription with a local firm.

I'm afraid using prepaid plans is the cost of business, for you. Even if you use forwarding services, they still require you to have a local point of contact where they can forward stuff to. The value in forwarding services is not the cost but the accessibility.

You don't need a pre-paid phone -- just a pre-paid SIM card for your phone (as long as you can be certain that your phone is not SIM locked and that all those SIM cards will work on your phone).

I have done this myself when I was hopping between South Africa and the Netherlands -- I would put in the other country's SIM card as soon as the plane landed.

Of course, the number of the card that is not in a phone will become unreachable, so you may wish to put a voice message on it to the effect of "Hello, I'm no longer at this number but I am available for work. Please contact me on [number] or send me an e-mail at [address]."

Many phone companies offer the ability to listen to your voice messages while calling from a different number (but you have to set up and test this feature before you get on the airplane). This means that if you're well-organised, you can listen to voice messages once a day, so that you can follow up on lost jobs (it may not get you the job but it may help remind the client that you are still an active translator).

All of this requires that you set things up before you leave. You can't set this up when you're already "over there".


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Skype is data-based Oct 3, 2013

Tony M wrote:
So I'd have thought the cheapest solution might be to buy yourself some Skype-out credit, then buy the cheapest possible 'naked' SIM card allowing internet access in each country you visit to slot into your smartphone that you carry around with you.


Even if you buy the cheapest "naked" SIM card, you'd still have to pay for data bundles on it, because Skype uses data. Let me give you an example of the costs:

I recently bought pre-paid cards for my kids, and the cheapest pre-paid data package was EUR 1.00 per megabyte (you pay a lot less per megabyte if you have a 2-year contract, but that is not what the OP wants). Skype tells us on their web site how many megabytes a typical call consumes, namely between 1 MB and 3 MB per minute. This means that a Skype call would cost us at least EUR 1.00 per minute, and possibly up to EUR 3.00 per minute.

In contrast, getting called via the normal cellular network while roaming would cost us EUR 0.08 per minute (if I'm still in the EU), EUR 0.23 per minute (if I'm still somewhere else in Europe), or EUR 1.50 per minute (if I'm anywhere else in the world). Making calls while roaming (as opposed to receiving calls) is more expensive, of course, but its can be as little as EUR 0.30 per minute depending where I'm calling from and where I'm calling to, and the most expensive option is EUR 2.50 per minute, which is less than the EUR 3.00 for a local Skype call.

Conclusion: using Skype along with a local SIM card instead of using my home country's SIM card along with roaming will likely not lead to any savings.

[Just to be sure there is no confusion if anyone else reads this thread: the above example relates to getting and making cellular calls "on roaming" but getting and making Skype calls "locally", i.e. not on roaming.]

The first prize is, of course, if your home country's cellular service offers automatic call forwarding to any international number, so that you can use a local SIM card and still getting calls at your home country's cellphone number if people don't know your local number.


[Edited at 2013-10-03 06:58 GMT]


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:59
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm similar Oct 3, 2013

and I just get pay-as-you-go local sim cards in each country. My partner has just bought a telephone with a duo sim card, which means you can have say, a German phone number and a Spanish phone number in the same phone, although this is only really of worth if you have one base and have to keep one number wherever you go, which I don't find matters to me as much as a translator because most clients will contact me by e-mail only.

We don't really make calls on our mobiles unless they are necessary but I've been using a service called www.voipcheap.co.uk for years now on my computer.

What I like about it is that you don't have to commit to a certain amount a month. You can just put credit in of €10 or more whenever you want and you get to call all land lines for free and really reduced prices for calling mobiles so the credit can last for months. The quality isn't amazing (many people say they hear their voices echoing back to them) but it's free and you can move around with your computer and still always have some semblance of a "land line" without having to sign up for one in every country.

As Samuel says, you have to get data to be able to get e-mail on your mobile. You don't want to have to go worrying everywhere about getting wi-fi as that would be counter-productive.

I do highly recommend having a phone with data though as it does free you up a lot and makes you more mobile. It'll be well worth it. Just work out how much data roaming will be paid with just one job you don't miss out on.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:59
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Stay near Wi-Fi Oct 3, 2013

The cheapest solution of course is using local hot-spots.
Prices of prepaid cards vary a lot even within the EU, but next year things will change, when no-one may charge for roaming more than for domestic traffic.
In the UK prepaid cards are cheap, in France expensive. In Spain I could not get English contracts, so I didn't understood what I was signing.
On my old Symbian phone I had an app that allowed me to open Excel and Word files. I don't know how is the situation for newer systems. Office 355 is an option.


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:59
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
International roaming bundles Oct 3, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

If it is a regular client whose files you are familiar with, you can confirm jobs even if you can't preview the files. However, you can't really preview all file type on a smart phone or a tablet, and so the real value of having a smart phone is not in confirming jobs but in confirming that you are not unavailable any time soon. For many clients, mere response is sufficient, even if you can't confirm the job yet.


That's true, although I've been hard-pressed to find a file type that my BlackBerry client can't preview, but it happens occasionally. A neat addition to your apps is something Office2Go, which provides word counts and even rudimentary editing ability for MS Office attachments.

I have lived (more than 3 months) in 6 different countries within the past 2 years. This is problematic because of roaming fees. Short term contracts, or pre-paid phones end up being very expensive while long-term contract are almost impossible to get out of, and I don't want to pay for 2 years if I'm not going to be able to use the contract after 4 months.


It may be worthwhile to get a contract plan and then add an international email or data roaming bundle to it. These are not really so expensive anymore. When out of the country I pay +20 USD/month for unlimited worldwide e-mail roaming on my Blackberry and get my e-mails anywhere in the world there is a cell phone signal (which is why I'll be very sad to see RIM go under!)


Of course, the number of the card that is not in a phone will become unreachable, so you may wish to put a voice message on it to the effect of "Hello, I'm no longer at this number but I am available for work. Please contact me on [number] or send me an e-mail at [address]."

There are some dual-SIM phones now. Also, used phones are so cheap that you can just keep the other SIM in its own phone, unless you don't actually want to receive any calls on it.


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Simon Chiassai  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:59
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for all of your replies Oct 3, 2013

Thanks for your help, it more or less confirms what I fear, that is there is no best option, only less worse solutions.

Samuel Murray wrote:

It is important that you understand the limits of this approach. You will probably not be able to "accept" the jobs while you're away from the computer, but you will be able to reply to the client within minutes of him sending the mail, and if you can appease him by telling him when you will be able to look at the files, he might hold the job for you.

If it is a regular client whose files you are familiar with, you can confirm jobs even if you can't preview the files.


That would already be a big step forward.

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
Prices of prepaid cards vary a lot even within the EU, but next year things will change, when no-one may charge for roaming more than for domestic traffic.


Amen to that.


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svenfrade  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:59
French to German
+ ...
No contracts Oct 3, 2013

After having claimed that I would never ever buy a smartphone I did end up buying one in June after all and found it extremely worthwhile. Just recently I accepted a job while going for a walk.

Since you're in Germany at the moment, Simon, you may want to look into using Aldi Talk which I do. My flatrate costs me 7.99 € per month which can be renewed as needed without any contractual obligation.

When I was travelling this summer I actually did what Heinrich suggested: I used local hot-spots since I was not able to find a reasonable solution for international roaming.

If you stay for an extended period of time I would indeed suggest getting a smartphone which allows you to use two SIM cards and buy a local card wherever you are.

I think you can get dual SIM card phones at a fairly reasonable price as well if you don't necessarily want to buy the very latest model.

[Edited at 2013-10-03 07:35 GMT]


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:59
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Another cheap option.. Oct 3, 2013

[quote]Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:


We don't really make calls on our mobiles unless they are necessary but I've been using a service called www.voipcheap.co.uk for years now on my computer.

voipstunt is another great option which works in a similar way.


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:59
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Skype number + forwarding Oct 3, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

Even if you buy the cheapest "naked" SIM card, you'd still have to pay for data bundles on it, because Skype uses data.


Skype also offers call forwarding which is not data-based.
Ex.:
1. Purchase Skype number local to country A.
2. Forward all calls from local country A cell phone number to country A Skype number.
3. In Skype, forward incoming Skype calls to local country B cell phone number.
In this way, if someone from country A calls your country A phone, you receive the call on your country B phone for a total cost/minutes of 1 country A local call (depending on how your provider handles call forwarding) plus Skype minutes/credit for the forwarded call from Skype to your country B phone (assuming your provider doesn't charge you for incoming calls).
The Skype number costs 60 USD (or 30 if you have a subscription at the time of purchase) per year (though you can just buy the subscription, then the Skype no, and then cancel the subscription starting the next month).

Naturally, this only helps with voice calls, but unfortunately doesn't resolve OP's problem of receiving data/internet.


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Oleksandr Ivanov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 14:59
Member (2008)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
I had a similar issue.... Oct 4, 2013

cecilea7 wrote:

and have not found anything worthwhile. I'd be interested to know if there is anything out there.


....And then came across a nice app for Android smartphones: www.roamerapp.com, a Latvian product. It offers sort of delayed call forwarding (the call it "parking"). Before leaving Country 1 you park your number with this application, then buy a local SIM card in Country 2 with a nice data plan, and have your calls forwarded via IP from your Country 1 number. You do need some data traffic, but other than that you are covered.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Rudolf Oct 4, 2013

Rudolf Vedo CT wrote:
I've been hard-pressed to find a file type that my BlackBerry client can't preview, but it happens occasionally.


In my case, that would be TTX, TXML, XLZ and XLF, which comprise 90% of my translation work.


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