People act like a smartphone can change their world. I had a less-lofty hope – I just wanted a smartphone that would be handy for traveling.
All I had in mind – a smartphone that could connect to 4G for GPS and a little bit of social network fun (mostly to give a real-time glimpse at some of my destinations).
That’s how I wound up with a Samsung Galaxy S Blaze. The T-Mobile sales person hooked me up with an upgrade to this phone, which is part of a class of smartphone known as “world phones.” Well, neither T-Mobile nor the S Blaze did much to help me travel abroad – so “world phone” is a misnomer.
Keep in mind, I bought this phone and took the subsequent trip to Scandinavia before I knew about TravelSIM.com.au, a clever company based in Australia. It offers pre-paid SIM cards online and in stores.
The T-Mobile store staff told me what I needed to do: Call T-Mobile, get my phone unlocked, buy a SIM card once I reached my destination (in this case, Scandinavia).
You can imagine how easy this would’ve been with TravelSIM – I could’ve carefully reviewed my options at home rather than making an ill-advised decision on the fly in an airport cell phone store.
T-Mobile’s customer service failed me at Step 2: I called three times to get my unlock code, which they were supposed to text and e-mail to me. I still haven’t gotten my unlock code.
My wife had better luck with her unlock code. So onto Step 3: Get a SIM card. We did this at the airport in Oslo, Norway. A few things worked against us: The sales person at the mobile phone store didn’t have much inclination to explain our SIM card options (he was not Scandinavian, and thus lacked the inherent friendliness of most of the people in the region). Talking to him was frustrating enough that we didn’t ask many questions. But we at least had a phone for any emergency that might arise.
I was able to connect to WiFi networks, but that wasn’t much help in the more remote areas.
So a word to my T-Mobile friends: Either have a “world phone” or not, none of this half-assed in-between nonsense. I really couldn’t used some GPS help in more than a few places. It’s ridiculous that you can call something a “world phone” if you fail to get me an unlock code, and then give me no concrete idea of what to look for in a SIM card. Better yet, sell a SIM card for different regions for travelers.
My final word: This is something I’ll remember as my contract expiration grows nearer. And I’ll see what other companies do better than T-Mobile for getting 4G service to its customers, no matter where they travel.
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