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How useful are Android Phones outside of the US?


  1. gaiko

    gaiko New Member

    Hi, I live and work outside of the US about 10 months a year (most of my time abroad) so I need a phone that is good for travel. I have found posts about using different carriers etc abroad but not so much about using various android (google) services outside the US, things such as google voice and maps. Having a unified number or even a US number for forwarding would be very useful and google maps is great but seems to not be as useful outside of the US and I am sure there are some other services I am missing. So how useful is Android abroad compared to using in the US (Also considering the only other phone i am considering is the iPhone v4 so it may be the case that these services aren't useful outside the US but iphone services would be equally as usful(less) outside the US.

    Thanks in advance!

    -Gaiko

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  2. ambientdroid

    ambientdroid Well-Known Member

    I have an android phone in Japan that works great.

    But are you asking about using a phone that you purchase IN the U.S.? Because that's different.

    It will all depend on your carrier and where you're traveling.

    International Roaming rates for data are incredibly high. You can forget about using the standard maps and translation apps along with anything else that uses the internet without spending a fortune.

    UNLESS,

    Your carrier allows you to use different carriers' SIM card so you could pick one up overseas with an overseas number/account.
    For this to work there would need to be a carrier that uses the same type of SIM card (there are a couple of different types I think) and uses frequencies that work with your handset.

    Sorry I don't have any specific recommendations for you.
  3. B2L

    B2L Well-Known Member

    My suggestion would be to buy a Nexus S with T-mobile bands. First off you can buy it factory unlocked and it uses the same GSM bands that most carriers use worldwide. So you could always get a sim while in another country that will work with it. It's a great device and you will always get the latest updates from Google, so you can't go wrong with it.
  4. janpetras

    janpetras Well-Known Member

    If you have an unlocked phone your phone will work just as in the U.S except Google Voice.
    The rest of the world is not in the dark ages you know....
  5. gaiko

    gaiko New Member

    Hi Thanks for the responses but i guess I should elaborate a bit. I have worked abroad for about 10 years so I am fully aware of GSM/carriers/sims/etc I am curious more about the services such as google voice (which janpetras said won't work), google maps, etc. In addition to google voice and maps how well does android work for those times when there is no signal (janpetras, the rest of the world isn't necessarily in the dark ages but my work takes me to places like central Afghanistan, rural Kenya, and mountain villages in Georgia [the country] so these can be pretty far out remote places) like if i wanted to use my addresses or look at downloaded emails etc? (forgive me but i have heard that these things rely directly on things like online services but maybe there is cacheing?).

    Thanks to all!
  6. Usta

    Usta Well-Known Member

    Google Maps works fine everywhere, as long as you can get a data connectivity.
    I often use Copilot or Sygic if I'm in abroad, since these offline GPS navigation software work completely offline.

    I see more offers from some carriers here in Europe that offer a full Europe data plan. If you happen to use such, then you can also use Google Talk to handle voice calls while in abroad (this can also be used if connected to WiFi hotspots).
  7. Guamguy

    Guamguy Well-Known Member


    Geez man, you don't have to worry about anything. Everything in Google works fine where ever you are in the world, GMail and Google Maps especially.

    Android is everywhere around the world. In many places, you can find Android phones better than than what you find in the US. More often than not, you will also find unlocked Androids.

    I suggest you follow what someone already said. Get a Nexus S, as this is the only unlocked Android in the US. Outside of the US, every model practically has an unlocked version opposite to a carrier version.

    What's more important is researching where you can buy prepaid mobile voice, text and data SIMs. You might need two phones because many carriers around the world sell dedicated high usage limits or unlimited prepaid data intended for 3G dongles but can work on a smartphone. These SIMs turn the smartphone into a pure mobile internet device, no voice and text however, but you can Google Map, Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter, browse and anything mobile internet. The other phone best saved for voice and text.

    As you research, you need to find out the APN stations of the prepaid carrier SIM. This is not hard to research as they are often found using Google Search or printed in the card where you got the SIM.

    What you are missing:

    1. Google Voice is US only.

    2. A few places block Youtube.

    3. Some countries have paid Android Market, some don't. So download the paid apps you need. The free Android Market is everywhere though.

    That's about it.

    In many of the most rugged places in the world, mobile internet is the only internet. Like in Central Asia. Afghanistan is one of those places. Africa and parts of the Middle East especially. In Iraq, mobile internet is a necessity if you want any internet access at all. Asian coverage is actually surprisingly good. You get 3G internet in Mount Everest.
  8. Reverse

    Reverse Member

    Most of you are missing the point here:

    An Android phone purchased in the US, even from a company that uses SIM cards (like T-Mobile and AT&T) will usually work for voice abroad (with a US SIM or a local one), but data is a different story. T-Mobile's data bands are completely different from the rest of the world for instance.

    So make sure your phone has both the US data bands, and the correct bands for the rest of the world. I don't think there are too many phones that have both.
  9. bitsybobsy

    bitsybobsy Well-Known Member

    Still very much useful in the uk
  10. amlothi

    amlothi Well-Known Member

    Geez man, you must know everything about everything.


    Your answer is mostly true, but incomplete.

    Many Google services do not work well in China. I can't use picasa or youtube. There are days when Gmail won't sync for several hours. I would assume there might be problems in other places where the government blocks or firewalls their internet connections.

    This is completely untrue. You can buy many unlocked phones online and use them in the US. You can also ask your carrier to unlock the phone (sometimes they will) for international travel.

    Furthermore, there are 2 versions of the Nexus S for GSM networks: http://www.google.com/nexus/tech-specs.html

    The OP wants model 1 (Quad band) for greatest compatibility. I'm not sure how easy it is to find that in the US.



    To the OP: You won't be able to control internet connection in other countries. Some people have success with VPN to escape blockades, so you could try that.

    However, it has nothing to do with your phone. An iPhone, or any other smart phone, will have the same problems in that regard.


    The single most important thing for you, OP, is will your phone have signal and work with the data service in the countries you travel to. You need to buy a phone (Android or otherwise) that can work on their networks. This means - check the band, and have an unlocked phone.
  11. Guamguy

    Guamguy Well-Known Member

    That's actually wrong and I have tested this many times to prove that.

    Fact is, T-Mobile's smartphones carry two bands, the 1700 AWS and the 2100 band 1 for the rest of the world.

    The 1700 band actually uses 2100 for an uplink but that is not the same as the 2100 band 1. Hence the expression 1700/2100. But don't mistake the interpretation, T-Mobile phones are really 1700/2100 AND 2100.

    The bottom line is, T-Mobile smartphones have the 2100 band that works with Asia and Europe. Period. I've tried it. It works. Its the reason why my first Android, a MyTouch 3G, not the generic HTC Magic, works outright with Asian networks.

    Of course the phone has to be unlocked. Which it was courtesy of my dealer.

    The Nexus S with the T-Mobile band frequency will also work. So is the Nexus One with the T-Mobile band frequency.

    900, 1700, 2100

    The Nexus S and Nexus One for Canada and works with the AT&T network has this frequencies

    850, 1900, 2100

    Please note that some parts of Europe still use the 900 frequency. Thus using 900/2100 is the best choice for going to Europe and New Zealand. This makes the T-Mobile phones, especially the Nexus, to be a more optimal choice than their AT&T/Canada running counterparts.

    HTC phones on T-Mobile are configured:

    1700
    2100

    HTC phones on AT&T are configured:

    850
    1900

    This makes the T-Mobile phones preferred for going to Europe and Asia. (Note some parts of Asia uses 850). On the other hand, the AT&T band phone is preferable for Canada and Latin America traveling, though some parts of Latin America runs 900.

    HTC phones international Europe and Asia are configured:

    900
    2100

    HTC phones configured for Telstra, Canada, AT&T, Latin America

    850
    1900

    One has to realize that T-Mobile USA is owned by T-Mobile Europe and the 2100 band is a corporate requirement so T-Mo USA phones can data use that in Europe.

    All the Samsung GSM smartphones in both T-Mobile and AT&T are triband. The last is always a 2100.

    AT&T Captivate
    850, 1900, 2100

    T-Mobile Vibrant
    1700, 1900, 2100

    Now even if the phone doesn't have the 3G band for that regional carrier, it will still get EDGE from 2G GSM. When you get EDGE, you still get data, albeit slower. But functional enough to handle Google Maps, do email, do Facebook or Twitter.

    There are two places in the world, where there is no 2G GSM. One is Korea (3G UMTS 2100), and the other is Japan (3G UMTS 800 and 2100). If the phone doesn't have 2100, there is no 2G EDGE fallback. It simply isn't going to work. Not even voice, not even text.
  12. Guamguy

    Guamguy Well-Known Member

    While the Google services are blocked, it doesn't mean the entire internet is blocked. The Google services have to be configured right before entering China. Also check for a VPN provider.

    Please note GMail is being "hacked" for a reason because expats in China, foreign journalists and Chinese "dissidents" use the service.

    Also, Google Maps, despite the friction between Google and the Chinese gov, is the most used mapping service in China. Google has reapplied the Map's business license in China.

    Yes, many of those phones only are 3G 900 and 2100. Meaning you only get 2G GSM and EDGE on a US network. That means the phone isn't very useful in the US. You might like a phone that is both useful in the US and internationally.

    Another thing. HTC phones are dual band 3G in particular. You get an unlocked HTC phone that works in Canada with 850 3G. Guess what, the second band is 1900. When you bring those phones to Asia and Europe, you're back in 2G GSM. Canadian spec phones being sold in online retailers, particular HTC, should be regaded on the same status as AT&T smartphones.

    In other words, your 3G options are a set, either 900 and 2100, or 850 and 1900.

    Now please note, Motorola is a bit more tricky. Some phones, like the Cliq 2, appear to have 2100 support as well. You have to dig their spec sheets to make sure.

    If its Samsung, particularly from the Galaxy S line, they have a 2100 band. So their band pallets tend to be 1. 900, 1900 and 2100, and 2. 850, 1900 and 2100. Internationally you get #1. The Canadian and Latin American phones are #2.

    To have a contract phone unlocked, you have to pay the ETF in general, and that will get you what you want at a cost. Usually people in business can afford that anyway. This case, the global CDMA phones from Verizon can also do the trick.


    The Nexus S for GSM comes with three models with the following 3G bands:

    i9020T - 900, 1700, and 2100
    i9020A - 850, 1900 and 2100
    i9023 - 2100 or 900 and 2100

    Can't find a good spec sheet for the i9023. This is the SLCD version found in India, Pakistan and Middle East countries. I believe this phone to have Arabic language support too.

    In any case, the i9020T is what you find in Best Buy and works with T-Mobile 3G. The i9020A is what Negri sells and works on the AT&T network. This is also better known as having the white model. Both have 2100 Band 1.

    The bottom line is that all three models will work with 2100, period.

    Oh yeah, I actually tested this too.

    I recommended the Nexus S because it is the easiest choice for a phone that has the 2100 band, yet works with a US carrier, and is unlocked out of the box. It is generally available in Best Buy, or online with Negri if you want the AT&T 3G compatible version.

    Now if you really want to pay some big bucks, there is also the Samsung Galaxy SII. This has quad 3G band: 850, 900, 1900, and 2100. So it practically works 3G everywhere except for poor T-Mobile USA and Wind. Unlocked phones should be available online too. Just don't faint at the prices. Personally I would willingly pay a premium of over $200 for an unlocked SGSII over an unlocked Nexus S, honestly speaking. The SGSII is just amazing.

    "Retweeted" for emphasis.

    Here is a link:

    UMTS frequency bands - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Also, when the carrier is researched, one needs to find prepaid SIM and their APN aka Access Point Names.
    ambientdroid likes this.
  13. amlothi

    amlothi Well-Known Member

    The point is that Google services won't work everywhere the same. That was the OP's original question.

    It has nothing to do with Gmail being hacked. I have found that the google authentication process sometimes cannot be reached which prevents me logging into Google for anything. Google search sometimes doesn't work (even when searching for ordinary things) simply because one of the websites in the results triggers something in the Great Firewall.

    Maps does work pretty well here. It's probably the most reliable of Google's services.


    I'm not sure if Afghanistan, Kenya, or Georgia (the countries the OP mentioned) have any kind of closed internet policies. Anyway, the type of phone won't change their policies. So, if the OP is trying to decide whether to buy an Android because he wants to use Gmail in Afghanistan, the questions are 1) whether Gmail is reliable in Afghanistan (i.e. is it worth it to buy a smart phone), and 2) which phone will work on their network.


    Regarding the OPs Google Voice question, just to be clear:

    People will not be able to call your GV number and reach your phone in Afghanistan if you are using a local Afghanistan SIM card and have a local number there. You'd have to be using a US number (paying high roaming charges). Google Voice will only forward calls to US/Canada numbers. However, I do use the Google Voice app (with a data connection) to receive my voicemails and send text messages - even though I'm using a foreign SIM.
  14. Guamguy

    Guamguy Well-Known Member

    The countries being mentioned don't. YouTube is barred in a few Islamic countries though, like Turkey and probably Pakistan due to videos deemed religiously offensive. But running YouTube isn't the reason why you want to run Android though.

    The main question is how well does Android work outside of the US. It does very well indeed.

    Let me add one more thing too. An Android can still operate independently of the verification process. Even if the phone cannot login on GMail, assuming its already activated previously, it will still work on the Internet as a regular mobile internet device. In China, nothing stopping you from using Baidu, RenRen, Kaixin001, QQZone, Sina, Sina Weibo, and so on, regardless of your Google authentication. Cannot search Google? Use Baidu. Cannot use GMail? Use another email service. All these Chinese apps are already on the Android Market.

    The fact there is quite a whole bunch of nice China originated apps like Camera360, Maxthon browser, Mire browser, Go Devs and their apps, shows a very active Android community there.
  15. ambientdroid

    ambientdroid Well-Known Member

    Guamguy, I am impressed.
  16. amlothi

    amlothi Well-Known Member

    The OP isn't interested in using Chinese services. He is asking about Google services, as he said here:


    So I'm not sure exactly what your point is here, unless you just want to be argumentative.
  17. mikedt

    mikedt 你好 Guide

    I find most of the Google services work just fine on my UK Samsung Android phone in China. Certainly Gmail, Calendar, Search, Maps, Goggles, Latitude, Gtalk, all work OK. The only exceptions are Youtube and paid Market. The only Chinese specific app I use is QQ, for communicating with my many Chinese friends.

    Getting Gmail on a PC can be a problem sometimes, if one is NOT using a proxy or VPN.
  18. Guamguy

    Guamguy Well-Known Member

    OP is asking whether Android is useful outside of the US. That's the main question. With the frame of his question, he wrongly assumes that Android is dependent much on Google services. It is not.

    Android services > Google services by a big factor. Android services is very much everyone who adds services to Android via apps. Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

    It won't matter if you're using iPhone or Android if you're using Google services. If they are blocked, they are going to be blocked for both phones. The iPhone uses Google Maps APIs, and iPhone apps, much like Android apps, also uses Google Maps API. If the Chinese is blocking Google services, chances are they are also blocking other US services as well. If they block Youtube, they would block Facebook, Twitter and so on. Chances are Flickr and other photo sites are blocked as well for the same reason. The same things that matter to the US Android user, also matters to the US iPhone user. Geez, I can get this site blocked in China by uttering "Dalai Lama is great" or something.

    It doesn't mean the platforms stop performing. Regional indigenous ecosystems have grown around the platforms.

    The user simply has to be more creative.
  19. mikedt

    mikedt 你好 Guide

    Sorry but it didn't get AF blocked in China. Here I'll repeat it a few more times just to make sure.

    Dalai Lama is great
    Dalai Lama is great
    Dalai Lama is great

    Mind you last month the words 'Inner Mongolia' or '内蒙古' was blocked on Chinese websites and forums because of this.
    BBC News - China Mongols protest in Xilinhot over shepherd's death
    I know all the people dressed in yellow in that BBC picture as well, they're my students.
    classroom.jpg
  20. cigar7

    cigar7 Member

    If you want a great android based phone, as a world phone which works in many countries, consider the samsung galaxy s2. It is quad band GSM and it can be purchased in the USA factory unlocked.
  21. takeshi

    takeshi Well-Known Member

    Google Maps relies heavily on data as it doesn't store maps locally. If you're frequently out of coverage or traveling internationally you're generally better off served with a GPS nav app that stores maps locally on the device. Navigon and CoPilot are common suggestions but you need to verify that any GPS nav app has maps for the regions you'll be in.

    If you've downloaded email then you can access the downloaded email. Just be aware that some email apps don't actually download email.

    If you want to verify what works and what doesn't work without coverage/data then turn airplane mode on and test.

    Sure but unless you can always preplan and precache I wouldn't count on it. Personally, precaching is a hassle I'm not willing to put up with though YMMV, of course.

    Maybe you should tell that to West Texas then. No Verizon data where I was and I couldn't route with Google Maps Nav. Used TomTom on my wife's IP4 instead.

    Had the same problem along I65 in Kentucky about a year ago as there was no VZW data coverage. Be careful with broad, sweeping generalizations.

    There's more than just one point to consider. Bands certainly matter but they're not the point.

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