I’ve never quite understood why it’s so darn expensive to bring your smartphone overseas. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are different carriers and networks involved, and there could be some hidden taxes in mix. Or maybe carriers are just jerks, assuming they can get away with soaking cash-rich international travelers with insanely expensive fees.
One major carrier is shaking up the international roaming status quo: T-Mobile. Today, the company has announced that starting October 31, Simple Choice individual and business customers will be able to enjoy unlimited texts and data while roaming internationally to one of the over 100 countries in the plant at no added charge. Voice calls, meanwhile, will be charged a flat rate of 20 cents.
T-Mobile’s new pricing is absolutely unreal once you take a look at what its competitors charge – one international trip could literally lead to a $1,000 phone bill. Let’s consider a hypothetical trip to visit the Parthenon in Greece. Want to send your friends and family a look-where-I-am text, or maybe just check in to Facebook? Check out what it'll cost you. (I recommend sitting down for this next part. It's not pretty.)
If you’re traveling overseas, Verizon offers a special add-on $5/month plan for "discounted" international calls, bringing your cost down from $1.99 per minute to $1.49 per. Data will cost you $25 per 100 MB (but only for the first month, it’s $20 per MB after that). Texts will cost an eye popping $0.50 to send, and $0.05 to receive. LOLing with a gyro in your hand has never been so expensive.
Sprint’s international roaming pricing is brutal: Calls will normally run you $1.99 per minute, though you can lower that to $0.99 per minute with an SWW Voice add-on plan. Data is $19 per MB – yes, you read that right – unless you purchase its $40 for 40MB international roaming option. Texts are as expensive as they are with Verizon -- $0.50 to send, $0.05 to receive.
AT&T charges international travelers a bundle as well. The company bills anywhere between $1.20 and $2.00 per minute for voice calls when roaming internationally; data costs $30 for 120MB. You’ll also pay $0.50 to send text, and as much as $0.20 each to receive them. At that point, why would you even want to bring your phone on the plane?
Normally, I recommend that my friends and family traveling overseas pick up a new SIM card when they arrive – it’s a little extra work, but given the international cell charges detailed above, it’s always been worth it. Now, it’s just as reasonable to suggest frequent fliers consider a T-Mobile phone instead – remember, the network is still contract-free.
T-Mobile is also offering a new Stateside International Talk & Text plan for those who do a lot of international calling from the United States. For an extra $10 monthly charge, you can get free unlimited calling to landlines in 70 countries, and cell-to-cell rates that cap at $0.20 per minute.
If you’re currently a T-Mobile Simple Choice customer, there’s nothing to do and no number to call – your international coverage kicks in automatically starting October 31. Check out T-Mobile for more information including what countries are included in the plan.