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Ask Slashdot: Do 4G World Phones Exist? 259

Posted by timothy
from the multi-sim-multi-carrier dept.
First time accepted submitter Viv Savage (3679171) writes "I live in the U.S. but my daughter will be attending college overseas next year (Scotland specifically). I need to purchase a new phone for her and I'm curious what the Slashdot community would recommend. I understand that a GSM world phone supporting 850/900/1800/1900 MHz frequencies would give her the best voice support. There doesn't appear to be a solution for getting high-speed data (i.e., 4G) here and abroad with one phone. Have any worldly Slashdotters figured this out?"
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Ask Slashdot: Do 4G World Phones Exist?

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  • Doesn't the Nexus 4 qualify for this?

    • by iserlohn (49556)

      The Nexus 4 isn't 4G (unless you hack it and live in Canada).

      The Nexux 5 is, but there are 2 version to accommodate the different bands in North America and rest of the world.

      • My U.S. Nexus 5 worked fine in Europe on a local PAYG sim.

        • by iserlohn (49556)

          It's a world phone for normal GSM/WCDMA/HSPA, etc. But not for 4G/LTE.

          • Re:Nexus 4? (Score:4, Funny)

            by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @01:16PM (#47157269) Journal

            I didn't claim 4G/LTE. I claimed it worked fine. No worse than in the US which is supposed to offer 4G, but forgets to actually attach it to the internet by anything faster than a damp piece of string.

            • I didn't claim 4G/LTE. I claimed it worked fine. No worse than in the US which is supposed to offer 4G, but forgets to actually attach it to the internet by anything faster than a damp piece of string.

              Technical point:

              LTE isn't 4G. But since industry was heavily leaning toward LTE, the board recently bent the rules and allowed LTE to be called 4G, even though it doesn't actually offer 4G standard of service.

              • Re:Nexus 4? (Score:4, Interesting)

                by afidel (530433) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @02:54PM (#47158433)

                This line is such crap, the original bar for 4G was set so high that even the first round of LTE-Advanced wouldn't have qualified in many instances due to a lack of sufficient spectrum. In the real world LTE offers a low latency all IP transport which is sufficiently different from 3G technology to warrant a new label and the logical label was 4G.

                • by apraetor (248989)
                  I'll buy your argument, up until the last sentence. 4G was already a defined technology, which had been advertised to the public as having specific features. Verizon/ATT/TMobile/Sprint decided to redefine the term, but clearly didn't want to try too hard letting their subscribers know the "new 4G network" wasn't the same 4G we'd all been told to expect.
                  • Re:Nexus 4? (Score:4, Informative)

                    by afidel (530433) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @04:32PM (#47159365)

                    The only significant difference between LTE and LTE-Advanced is bandwidth, all the layer 2-7 pieces are essentially the same. Perhaps some day there will be an LTE-Advanced network that actually takes advantage of the proposed microcell technology to enable actual use of that higher bandwidth, but due to cost concerns I'm not holding my breath. In other words even an LTE-Advanced based network probably won't meet the stated goals of ITU-T for 4G so back in the real world we have more advanced networks that actually advance the state of the art and make real changes to the ways the network is used (ie voice can now traverse the same carrier as data) but without any meaningful label if you follow the strict ITU-T 4G definition.

                  • Mod parent up. The "4G" we have is a marketing term, and no, the bar wasn't set too high, rather, no one wants to really put in the infrastructure necessary to deliver what we once termed 4G. Right now, it's about 3.3G on a good day.

                • This line is such crap, the original bar for 4G was set so high that even the first round of LTE-Advanced wouldn't have qualified in many instances due to a lack of sufficient spectrum. In the real world LTE offers a low latency all IP transport which is sufficiently different from 3G technology to warrant a new label and the logical label was 4G.

                  It isn't "crap", it's the simple truth.

                  The U.S. providers who adopted LTE were eventually allowed to call it 4G in order to differentiate it from 3G. But that doesn't make it 4G. They are different things.

            • ...No worse than in the US which is supposed to offer 4G, but forgets to actually attach it to the internet by anything faster than a damp piece of string.

              Hey, TCP over TWINE is still under development! It turns out that each size tin can needs it's own driver...

            • by iserlohn (49556)

              Well, you missed the point of my post then (and the submitter's also)! There are loads of 3G world phones. It's the whole topic of 4G world phones that we're discussing.

    • Yes, but Nexus 5 would be better due to proper LTE support. The USA Google Play version has the right frequency support for the UK networks (at least mine worked on T-Mobile).

      Side: T-Mobile coverage in some areas is very poor there, not due to the phone. However, if you do use T-Mobile in the US on one of their $60+ plans when you visit Scotland you will get cheap voice, free texts and free data "at 2G speeds" free, which is handy and may save you buying a local SIM unless you need high-speed while you're t

      • Heh, I could be wrong on the LTE frequencies. Seems the ROW edition might fare much better there.

        Nexus 5 specs:

        2G/3G/4G LTE

        North America:
        GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
        CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10
        WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
        LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41

        Rest of World:
        GSM: 850/900/1800

  • Scotland? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @12:30PM (#47156579) Journal

    It's not only kilts and haggis up there.
    They have cell phone shops too. She should buy herself a cell phone in Scotland.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      On the gripping hand, 4G is so patchy in the UK, and high-speed 3G so prevalent, she probably won't really want a 4G handset anyway.

    • She should buy a plan in Scotland. She will save money buying a Nexus 5 in the states. A) less sales tax, B) subsidized price thanks to Google Play.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        If she's looking at spending £25 or more on a service plan, she can probably get a Nexus 5 for free (or next to free).

    • by sunderland56 (621843) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @02:58PM (#47158467)

      They have cell phone shops too. She should buy herself a cell phone in Scotland.

      On her first day in a strange country, she's supposed to negotiate a complicated, expensive purchase in a foreign language?

    • by Gonoff (88518)

      They haven't really referred to them as "cell phones for a long time - perhaps the 90's.

  • Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by xorsyst (1279232) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @12:35PM (#47156643) Journal

    What do you need 4G for, anyway? H+ Is pretty fast, and the university will have wifi everywhere I should think. A Galaxy S2 will be perfectly adequate.

    • by Albanach (527650)

      This. It seems like the US carriers pretty much hated 3G and invested more heavily in 4G when it became available.

      In the UK, 3G coverage is strong and widespread (assuming your daughter will be studying in one of the cities). If you're daughter is in fact planning to attend one of the more rural colleges, choice of carrier may be more of a concern.

      • It seems like the US carriers pretty much hated 3G and invested more heavily in 4G when it became available.

        No, they invested mostly in LTE. They aren't the same things.

        However, since industry strongly favored LTE, they are now allowed to call it 4G to differentiate it from 3G.

        Forthcoming updates to LTE will actually meet 4G standards. But unless I am mistaken, current LTE still falls short of actual 4G.

      • by alen (225700)

        LTE allows carriers to have more people per antenna and saves them money

        this is in a country where we buy our nine year old kids smartphones because they are "free"

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      That phone comes in different versions for 4G AT&T, EMEA, and Asian frequency bands, so it's definitely not US-and-Europe suitable.

      • From what I'm seeing you can order it in 2 versions. "Asia" and "AT&T" The AT&T version covers both Europe and the west.

        EMEA: 800/1800/2600 MHz
        Asia: 900/1800/2100/2600 MHz
        AT&T: 700/850/AWS/1900 MHz

        The reason they aren't the same phone is because the frequencies overlap. Or at least, that's my understanding.

    • my wife has this device and she loves it. does deserve a look at IMO.
    • HTC ONE MINI 4G - LTE:

      EMEA: 800/1800/2600 MHz
      Asia: 900/1800/2100/2600 MHz
      AT&T: 700/850/AWS/1900 MHz

      So AT&T is the only option.

      http://www.att.com/att/global/... [att.com]

      And Scotland has AT&T coverage in LTE.

      Well done, the first actual phone recommended in this thread that would do what the OP requested help with.
      Basically any AT&T phone on an international plan should work.

      • AT&T doesn't sell carrier-unlocked phones (at least that's what they told me at my local store). I recommend getting an unlocked AT&T-compatible phone (that's what I did when I got my Moto X from Amazon). That way you'll have the option of swapping in a Scottish prepaid SIM for cheap voice comms without eating your AT&T minutes. Just an idea.
  • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by mFriedy (1363405) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @12:39PM (#47156717)

    Yes, most new smartphones have this capability. Take the iPhone 5S for example. (https://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/)

    These are the supported LTE bands:
    1 (2100 MHz), 2 (1900 MHz), 3 (1800 MHz), 4 (AWS), 5 (850 MHz), 8 (900 MHz),13 (700c MHz), 17 (700b MHz), 19 (800 MHz), 20 (800 DD),25 (1900 MHz)

    700/AWS are the main 4G bands in the American ITU region
    800/1800MHz are the main deployed bands in Europe/African ITU region
    1800/2100MHz are the main deployed bands in the Asian/Pacific ITU region (note that APT 700MHz is different to the USA's mongrel of a 700MHz band)

    Other bands (e.g. 900MHz) are only used very rarely (in this case one operator in Sweden and one in Czech Republic) but also are supported.

    Your daughter's main problem will be:
    a) whether her UK network has deployed 4G where she is (though in the middle of Edinburgh or Glasgow she should be fine). You will find that due to better 3G networks, Europe is lagging behind the US in 4G coverage.
    b) the lack of 4G international roaming (not many operators let you roam onto 4G networks)
    c) the cost of 4G international roaming (if allowed) would be prohibitive

    • by rgbscan (321794)

      Agreed. As a USA based AT&T customer, I had a fine time in Edinburgh over this last New Years holiday with my 5s. I bought AT&T's international data plan and used Wi-Fi when possible, so it really ended up being pretty cheap too. No problem getting LTE in the city, and 3G in the countryside touring castles and whatnot.

    • Not only does the iPhone have the frequency bands the asker wants, but it is one of the easiest phones to purchase completely unlocked and off-contract in the USA (so long as you purchase direct from Apple). Most other contract-free phones here are still sold locked to the carrier, and generally require several months of paid service before the carrier will provide an unlock code.

      Other less expensive options for a world phone would be Google's Nexus 5 or Motorola's Moto G (if you don't absolutely need LTE)

  • To be honest... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iserlohn (49556) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @12:40PM (#47156725) Homepage

    If she is spending most of term time in Scotland, why not ask her to get a phone in the UK? It's a lot cheaper - most of the time top end phones are free on a 24-month contract. Assuming that she is going to Uni and not college - her course would be at least 3 years anyway. Unless, of course, it's just an exchange program.

    • " why not"
      Where did the submitter reject buying a phone in Scotland?

      • She would never pass the credit check would be the main reason.

        Our american IT director had a hell of a job getting a UK phone as no one would give him a contract, he went prepaid in the end.

        • by iserlohn (49556)

          It's a lot different if you are a student and they usually let you take out a contract if show them paperwork for your university degree course. When I was a Canadian student in the UK, that's how it worked.

      • by iserlohn (49556)

        Woah, easy there tiger... Submitter wanted to buy the daughter a phone. I was suggesting maybe it's better for her to get it herself when she is in the UK.

  • by Above (100351) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @12:41PM (#47156749)

    The latest iPad Air [apple.com] made some news in the tech circles when it came out for it's 4G capabilities. It was the first time Apple was able to use 100% identical hardware for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. In fact, baring some stupidity in provisioning departments, it's possible to buy one, get SIM's from the other three, and have a 4-provider iPad in the US.

    The specs:

    UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
    CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900 MHz)
    LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26)

    Based on my reading at the time, due to the power and antenna requirements there were no phones that had the same laundry list of 4G bands. Of course that was ~1 year ago now, and time moves pretty fast in the mobile world. The reason I post this though is the iPad Air makes a killer 4G hotspot, 24 hours of battery life with the screen off. Maybe a 3G world phone and an iPad Air for high speed data are a viable solution? The iPad also is sold unlocked from Apple, no extra charge. Phones will likely have carrier locking issues.

  • not 100% sure but if you buy it full price it will come with the SIM card unlocked and supports the most worldwide LTE frequencies.

  • Yes it sucks to lug two devices around. Alternatively, use a cheap 4G phone as the 4G hotspot.

    Alas, electronics have not yet advanced to the point where it is reasonable to have one phone with support for all combinations of bands and technologies.

  • for cheapness or both voice and data go for www.threee.co.uk
    not only does it have all you can eat voice, but all you can eat data too and you can tether(4gb total tethering) and all phone data unlimited or filtered. mind you a little user agent spoofing bypasses the cap..lol

    This is perfect for skype/oovoo scenarios where 4g would help.

    Your daughter would be best going to either Glasgow,Aberdeen,Edinburgh or Dundee universities as those will have the best coverage being the biggest places.. St Andrews
    • by Pax681 (1002592)
      ALSO.. for trips the the USA ..... this is handy http://www.three.co.uk/Discove... [three.co.uk]

      all data usage and calls to and from the UK FREE .. well as covered by your package.
      Saved me a fair few bucks on my travels between Edinburgh, here in Scotland and Denver and Houston at Easter.
    • by Albanach (527650)

      Your daughter would be best going to either Glasgow,Aberdeen,Edinburgh or Dundee universities as those will have the best coverage being the biggest places.

      Only on /. would we find people who recommend making a choice of college based on network coverage for your cell phone.

  • They are all images, so you will have to type the links.

    http://i.imgur.com/pxx6QB3.jpg [imgur.com]

  • This seems like the sort of problem solved by a Google Search.

    http://www.myworldphone.com/un... [myworldphone.com]

  • O2 and Vodaphone appear to use LTE band 20 (SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]) AT&T and Canadian carriers generally seem to use bands 4 and 17 (same source).

    The iPhone 5s does all of those and more. Model A1533 (GSM)*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)

    (Source: https://www.apple.com/iphone-5... [apple.com] )

    I may be missing something but just buying an unlocked iPhone 5S from apple seems to

  • I could be wrong, but isn't the Nexus 5 [google.com] both 4G and LTE?

    The wiki [wikipedia.org] page for it claims:

    GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    Model LG-D820 (North America)
    CDMA band class: 0/1/10
    WCDMA bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
    LTE bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41
    Model LG-D821 (Rest of World)
    WCDMA bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8
    LTE bands: 1/3/5/7/8/20

    So it looks like the LG-D821 would be her best option. She might not have LTE in North America but will still have GSM. I not an expert on this subject so definitely do some more research. Good luc
  • Anecdotal evidence. Take it for what it's worth:

    When I was in rural Ethiopia a few years ago with about 20 other Americans, everyone was passing around the 3 phones that actually worked. They were all iPhones and all AT&T. My Verizon phone worked great as an MP3 player but that's about it. My wifes sprint phone would crash constantly and couldn't even be used for that (it was a dumbphone) I was told that the only international carrier that would work there was AT&T.

    I HATE Apple with a passion, thoug

  • Scottish Advice (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Quick answers to your questions and points of consideration:

    1.) Apple iPhones meet your criteria.
    2.) Scotland has shit for phone infrastructure compared to the US; she'll get 3G except for downtown Edinburgh and Downtown Glasgow--at which point she'll get 4G if she's on a 4G plan.
    3.) Phone plans are cheaper here, and you get a variety: Vodephone has the best coverage, 3 has the best coverage considering price point. I would suspect you may not care about the latter though. Americans who send their kids to S

  • Even if your phone supports 4G, most Telcos do not allow roaming phones to use it because it is not covered by their roaming agreements.

    If you take a US Verizon LTE phone into Canada, you will not get 4G even though the networks are identical. The inverse is also true for Bell or Telus phones in the USA.

    One exception is Rogers in Canada and AT&T in the USA who have an LTE roaming agreement.

  • Affordable 3G (big enough data a package, or flat fee) is probably way more useful.

    4G just mean that you can in theory use one GB in 1-2 minutes.

    Another thing you might want consider is that you probably don't want to be reach able transparently, personal experience show that getting voice calls during the night (locally) just to say Hi is not only expensive but also gets boring really quick.

  • Specifics for 4G (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Paddwarth (2020482) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @05:13PM (#47159827)
    First - Good choice of University destination! The natives are friendly (most places).

    Regarding 4G coverage, as others have mentioned, Edinburgh and Glasgow are well served for 4G and will certainly be fine around the campus areas.
    Other uni towns:
    • St Andrews (my home town) will have mobile delivered by pigeon once a week...more accurately you'll get 3G but no 4G at all.
    • Dundee (my current home) has 4G coverage if you are on EE (T-mobile) but no other provider
    • Aberdeen seems to be EE only for 4G too.
    • Stirling (my alma mater) has patchy 4G if you are EE.

    I'd recommend EE for best coverage over here, I'm on Vodaphone and get great 4G in Edinburgh but fuck-all (some local patter for you there) in Dundee, Stirling, and St Andrews.

    Hope that's some use, best of luck to your daughter at uni - I'm sure she'll love it.

  • by stevelinton (4044) <sal@dcs.st-and.ac.uk> on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @06:50PM (#47160571) Homepage

    There's no 4G outside Edinburgh & Glasgow at the moment I believe, but there is good 3G covering pretty much all the Universities and their surroundings and good wifi in the university buildings. If she's coming to St Andrews (statistically likely) there is definitely no 4G.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @10:12PM (#47161547)
    The iPhone [gsmarena.com] because Apple has enough clout to force all carriers to sell the same model phone. (Only the CDMA model is different.) Consequently, that model works around the world. With most other phones, the carriers have the upper hand and get the manufacturer to make a version customized to their frequencies.

    The Nexus 5 [gsmarena.com] because Google did the same thing. There are two versions - a North American version which supports CDMA and LTE bands commonly used in the U.S., and a world version which doesn't support CDMA but adds LTE bands more common throughout the world.

    Those are the two I know of for sure. There may be some others too. e.g. The newer Samsung models support both GSM and CDMA for voice, but only a limited number of LTE bands. Find the GSM and LTE frequencies used by your U.S. carrier and in the UK/Scotland, then browse the gsmarena website to find phones which work in both.

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