The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

29 April 2007

Roam on the range

After six years of just enough usage to justify having gotten the thing in the first place, I'm actually considering updating my Dawn of Time cell phone, mostly because there's a World Tour coming up, and there are some things I'd like to have that I don't have now.

Okay, one thing: my current candy bar is a single-band GSM phone, good only for the 1900-MHz band. That's good for T-Mobile, who runs an entire 1900-MHz network with decent coverage, made more so by roaming deals with other 1900-MHz providers. But there's rather a lot of countryside where no one has built out 1900 MHz, and where GSM exists there, it's on the 850-MHz band. T-Mobile will happily let you roam onto 850 MHz, but you have to have a phone that supports it, and I don't.

The kicker, of course, is if I request a new phone, I'll be tied to a new contract at a substantially higher rate. Which makes me wonder if, since all GSM phones are based on a SIM card, I can buy an unlocked dual-band phone from somewhere (eBay, Woot, wherever) and simply move my SIM. I've heard conflicting stories on this, so pointers to useful information would be gratefully appreciated.

Posted at 8:00 PM to General Disinterest


I haven't purchased any unlocked phones, but I have noticed there are a plethora of phones on eBay that are locked to the T-Mobile service. Any of those should do in a pinch.

I purchased a used flip-phone for the princely sum of $30.00 (an event precipitated by the untimely encounter of my old phone with... er, precipitation). Couldn't have been easier. I popped in the SIM card and I was off and calling!

Posted by: Joseph Goodwin at 9:21 PM on 29 April 2007

I have a little knowledge and some experience on this subject that I am compelled to pass on...

An unlocked GSM phone will work just fine with a compatible SIM. Just make sure that you only buy phones that T-Mobile, or whatever network you currently have a SIM for, also uses on their network (this prevents the nastiness that comes from using an "un-approved" phone). The unlocked phone will not have the same phone apps that "their" phones would have, but that is only an annoyance if you want to use the data features of your phone. Lastly, the unlocked phone will almost always show "extended network" or some such nonsense - get a nationwide plan and you won't have any issues.

Good luck.

Posted by: belhoste at 8:41 AM on 30 April 2007

I have used unlocked phones on my T-Mobile account with no problems. Or... go to Wal-Mart and get a Nokia 6030 T-Mobile To Go phone. All you have to do is put your old sim into the phone and the phone is a T-Mobile postpaid phone! (The phone is $30 from Wal-Mart or your local T-Mobile store.) The phone is your basic candybar phone, but it has good reception and it has both 850 and 1900! I have used a prepaid Nokia 6030 on my postpaid account and can verify that it works.

Just a low cost suggestion.

Once you have 850 roaming coverage, you'll really appreciate it, especially in rural Oklahoma. I rarely find a place where I don't have coverage.

Posted by: Scooby214 at 9:55 PM on 30 April 2007