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Cellphones Communications Handhelds United States

Ask Slashdot: SIM-Card Solutions In North America? 146

An anonymous reader writes I'll be returning to North America for July for the first time in a few years, and I'm curious how the phone carrier market compares with the rest of the world. My last time in the U.S., I had to pick up a disposable phone with all kinds of unnecessary environmental waste (charger, packaging, etc.), and *still* had to register it with another domestic (!) phone number and credit card. I don't think I could get a SIM card there without a contract. Anywhere else I travel, picking up a new SIM card with pre-loaded credit is trivially easy. In my last trip to the UK, I just put GBP 10 into a vending machine at the airport and picked up a loaded SIM card for my phone which aldready has my contacts and settings. No ID, no name, no hassle. What are the best options for me in North America (U.S. *and* Canada)?
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Ask Slashdot: SIM-Card Solutions In North America?

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  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @12:39PM (#47340957) Homepage Journal

    T-Mobile has a pay-as-you go SIM. I think AT&T does, too.

    T-Mobile's is cheaper, but they have coverage issues (may not be a problem, depending on where you go).

    See also this story [slashdot.org].

  • by scream at the sky ( 989144 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @12:53PM (#47341039) Homepage

    Prepaid service in Canada sucks ass.

    Services like Wind and Mobilicity are dirt cheap, offering unlimited voice and data, but stop working as soon as you leave your major urban areas. They also use AWS frequencies, so unless you have a phone that works on 1700 HSPA you're SOL. If you are going to Canada first, look at Wind because they also have an offer where you can get unlimited US Roaming on your account for $15, this would save the need to pick up a second SIM while in the US.

    The big 3 (Rogers, Telus, Bell) frankly don't give a crap about prepaid service, and charge so much for it that it makes more sense to go onto a contract plan and cancel service the same day you leave the country (no more 30 day notice required thanks to the CRTC and the WCOC. Rogers gives the best compatibility with hardware (GSM 850,1900, a fist full of HSPA and LTE Frequencies as well) where Telus and Bell only support HSPA (850, 1900) or LTE on a handful of frequencies.

    If you are just going to be in major urban areas Chat-R Wireless (which is just a Rogers Wireless sub brand) has the best rates, but as soon as you are outside of a major urban area your pay through the nose in domestic roaming charges, and the biggest data plan they offer is 200MB for a month (if this matters to you). I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think Chat-R offers a nano sim, so if you have an iPhone 5/5S/5C or an HTC One M* you're SOL as well,

    Expect the SIM to cost you between $10 and $20, as well as your first month service upfront.

    Disclosure: Industry pro, I've worked in the Canuck retail telecom industry since '99. I've worked for every provider in the country in one aspect or another, and they all suck, I'm cynical and jaded about it, so take advice with a grain of salt, the size of a Buick.

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @01:21PM (#47341139)

    Prepaid service in Canada sucks ass.

    Depends on your needs. In Canada I tend to go with Koodo mobile; pay $15 for the month as a base charge, then buy however much data or voice I'll need. I conserve my data usage so 1 gig of 4G data can cost me for 4-5 months. And both data and voice with them are "Canada wide", so no roaming or long distance charges, plus they never expire. I had my phone with them for a full year, and on average it's cost me about $25 / month, total.

    In the US, on the other hand, I tend to shell out the $60 per month so I can have unlimited data and calling. Unfortunately you're right about Canada not really having any decent offerings for "unlimited use".

    I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think Chat-R offers a nano sim, so if you have an iPhone 5/5S/5C or an HTC One M* you're SOL as well,

    You can walk into any cellphone repair shop and have them punch your existing sim to a nano.

  • Question is stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @01:22PM (#47341147) Homepage

    Instead of asking Slashdot such a silly question you could also just google getting a gsm sim card in the us [google.com].

    Lo and behold!

    #1) "The best Prepaid SIM Cards" [pcmag.com]
    #2) "SIM Cards - Best Buy" [bestbuy.com]

    It's been trivial to do this for about a decade and 5 seconds of googling got me the answer. This is one of the stupidest ask slashdots ever, and they are almost all incredibly stupid. I'm not looking and I'm going to guess tImothy put this story up.
    checks the top of the page
    Yup. Fuck timothy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2014 @01:52PM (#47341265)

    > BestBuy sells H2O wireless SIMs that do not come with phones. The card says use with any unlocked GSM phone.

    I use H2O Wireless. It even works with GSM phones that are carrier locked to AT&T. I know it because that's what I'm using, never even had to register with ATT, just bought the phone at wal-mart and bough the H2O sim at bestbuy. It is a really good deal for very low volume callers, I spend $10 for 100 minutes that last 3 months.

    Another alternative is Lyca - which anyone from Europe will already be familiar with. Their american operations are bare-bones but super cheap and their minutes don't expire as long as you top-up with a couple of bucks every couple of months. You can buy a Lyca sim at Target.


  • by Briareos ( 21163 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @02:21PM (#47341365)

    Oh, and don't forget this in your research - there are at least three popular SIM card sizes roaming (no pun intended) in the wild these days, and they are mutually incompatible. So don't expect to take the full-sized SIM out of your feature phone and transfer it to the micro SIM slot of a Galaxy S4 or the nano SIM slot of an iPhone 5s ... although of course you can buy adapters that will make smaller SIMs fit into larger slots.

    Except of course that SIM cards are mostly plastic, with a smart-card-y bit where the contacts are, so it's perfectly possible to cut a regular SIM card down to whatever size you need as long as you use a template and a pair of scissors or one of the cheap SIM cutters you can get on Amazon or ask the guys in the next phone shop to do it for you...

    I used a mini SIM in my Motorola Milestone until I got a Samsung S3 when it came out and I needed a micro SIM card - converting my SIM was a rather short and simple home crafting project.

  • by Michalson ( 638911 ) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @02:47PM (#47341487)

    If you are only going to use it in Canada either 7-Eleven's "Speakout" or Petro Canada Gas Station's "Petro Canada Mobility" provide a cheap way of getting onto Roger's Canada wide network without any of the restrictions they slap on their in-house brands Chatr and Fido. There used to be a nice cheap way to get data but since they starting offering Android phones you'll get the same insane fee (10$ for 100mb) as the other Canadian carriers but without any unlimited option. SIM cards are $5-$15 dollars depending on current promotions and you can purchase a SIM card, airtime or phone over the counter in 30 seconds (just make sure you say clearly which provider you want airtime for, these are gas station/convience store clerks, not telecom pros). Speakout tends to be slightly cheaper/better package deals but 7-Eleven locations in Canada are few and far between.

    I'll agree that Wind does offer a good deal if you want to go outside of Canada, not just in the US but their roaming rates are far more competitive then other Canadian carriers.

    But you might want to look into what roaming rates you can get from a carrier in your own country first, they might be better.

  • Idiot... (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2014 @03:54PM (#47341729)

    Instead of making a post on /. to garner the support of the anti-America circle jerk, how about you use Google and answer your question in less than 15 seconds?

    Fucking morons...

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@nOSpam.worf.net> on Sunday June 29, 2014 @03:37AM (#47343635)

    If you're going to Canada first then the US, you're in luck because there's a really easy SIM to get for Canadians heading South.

    It's called Roam Mobility [roammobility.com] and they're a US MVNO that sells their SIMs in Canada (if you're on the west coast, head into a London Drugs [londondrugs.com] store, go to the cell department and ask to buy a Roam Mobility SIM.

    If not, they do sell the SIMs online. It's a fairly nice option for Canadians heading to the US for days, weeks or a month. And it's pretty much no-questions-asked - you just buy the SIM and activate it online for however long you need.

    In Canada, well, prepaid generally is a bigger bother - while you can buy SIMs by heading to a store, they aren't too happy about selling them (less money for them). As an earlier poster said, you probably want to use Wind or Mobilicity if you can (if you do Wind, pay for the US package and you can roam in the US as well, which isn't too bad a deal)., but you will need a phone that can do AWS (e.g., the iPhone 5/5s can, last I checked, as well as the other regular bands). They can sell you one, but beware that unlocked ones like Nexus phones are WILDLY overpriced (I've seen a Nexus 4 be almost $600 - yes, you could walk into an Apple Store and get the iPhone 5. The Nexus 4 sold for around $250 or so off Google Play). But that's only if your current phone doesn't do AWS (I mention the iPhone 5 because it does, as well as regular bands from other carriers. I do know that there often are special AWS models of popular Android flagships like the SGS3 (a friend tried to activate one and couldn't because it didn't do AWS), and I think the Nexus 4 couldn't either unless you got the special one.)

    Oh, and no carrier, despite having the "no contract price" on the phone will ever sell you a handset for that price unless you actually were in a contract and wanted an out-of-sync upgrade. Other than Wind or Mobilicity, who are prepaid services, that is. (As I'm no longer in a contract, well, it means my phone options in Canada are limited to Apple if I wanted in-store service, or Google if I wanted to put up with Google Play (bleh - I got burned badly with the Nexus 7 when I could buy it retail for cheaper, and have it sooner than when Google finally fulfilled my order! I mean, I could walk into a store and buy one, or order it online for free shipping and have it in my hand a couple of weeks sooner (stupid UPS)).

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