January 30, 2012 - Phil Hodgen

What I do with mobile phones while traveling

My phone situation while traveling is comical, but I’m getting smarter. Learn from my experience. Or please tell me how I can be smarter. I have eliminated the killer cell phone bills I used to get while traveling. Here is what I am doing, and how I will improve the system.

My pockets contain

I carry the following:

  • iPhone from ATT (data turned off while traveling; never use it for voice; who wants another $1,400 bill?). It is only here because some people have the number and because it has the centralized calendar for the firm.
  • BlackBerry with a Dubai number (all my data needs solved for AED 99, even while roaming in Saudi Arabia).
  • Candybar Nokia that Bobby gave me in Jakarta (thanks Bobby) that holds a Saudi SIM card for local use while in Riyadh.
  • Plus a free-floating T-Mobile USA SIM that I need to stick into a phone periodically to check for voice mails.

Four numbers, three phones.

I am actually a normal person here in the Middle East and Asia. Pretty much everyone I have seen has two phones on them (iPhone plus something else is normal, and that “something else” is a Blackberry as often as not). Sit down at a table, plonk down your mobiles. At home, however, the multiple phone thing drives my wife bonkers. 🙂

At home I also have the super secret Batphone on Verizon which sadly doesn’t travel outside the USA.

Problems I have solved

I have solved the problem of inSANE voice and data roaming rates on my ATT and T-Mobile USA phones by buying prepaid SIM cards everywhere I go. Cheap.

I think I spent AED 200 (a little more than $60) with Etisalat in Dubai and got more minutes and text messages and data service than I need. I spent probably SAR 150 on prepaid SIM plus recharge cards on Mobily here in Riyadh (maybe $45).

Except for inbound calls and checking voice mails, I’m not going to see the $1,000+ cell phone bills I have experienced in the past. It is worth carrying around a few extra phones to save that kind of money.

Problems I will solve soon

The “too many phones” problem will be solved later today. I’m going to get a dual SIM clunky phone. That eliminates one phone in my pocket.

The expensive mobile data problem ($20/MB? GDIAF T-Mobile and ATT) remains. Buying a month of data service on a prepaid SIM card is trivially easy (just send an SMS and you’re in business) and it’s cheap. I’m going to buy an unlocked iPhone from Apple which I can then use at home and abroad. All of the business apps on my iPhone will then work well, via the local data plan instead of the loco U.S. carrier data roaming.

Any other suggestions?

If anyone out there has suggestions on how to better manage international mobile phone costs, please let me know.