Using your Motorola Droid internationally--let me answer questions for you!Support

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  1. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    I've taken my Droid overseas with me multiple times, and I'm currently (well, when I initially wrote this post in June 2010) in the middle of a two month trip up Europe. Let me start off by saying that it's one of the most indispensable travel tools I have (aside from my debit card, that is!)


    EDIT: June 2011: I've now taken my Droid to 11 countries (Costa Rica, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, and Germany) and my Thunderbolt to two countries (Singapore and Malaysia), and not had any issues with any of those countries and incurring data charges--everything that I have described below worked perfectly. Please read this ENTIRE thread (it's not that long, honest) to find answers to questions you may have.


    I keep reading misconceptions on how the Droid works (and other Verizon Android phones work) or doesn't work overseas, so I thought I'd post a thread clearing things up for people, especially since it's summer and people are traveling more. :)

    If you are in Europe, they use GSM, so you will not be able to use your phone as an actual phone.* If you are other places in the world, well, there are places that use CDMA, so if you don't put your phone in airplane mode, you may be able to use your phone as a phone, but you also CAN get hit with data charges.

    ***Here is a list of countries that use CDMA, and YOUR PHONE WILL WORK AS A PHONE: Countries Where Any Verizon Wireless Phone Will Work

    If you are using wifi, YOU WILL NOT GET CHARGED FOR DATA.
    Trust me. It's wifi. You may have to pay for wifi, depending on where you are, but you won't have to pay for data. Incidentally, I HIGHLY recommend an app called WifiScanner for sniffing out open wifi hotspots. ;)It is possible to turn on both wifi and GPS (more on GPS in a minute) when you're in airplane mode. When you're on the home screen, open Settings, then go to "Wireless and Networks". Check the boxes for both Airplane Mode and Wi-Fi. Voila--airplane mode is on, and so is wifi.

    If you want/need your cell phone to NOT be in airplane mode (more on why you'd want that in a minute) and you're in a country where CDMA works and you DON'T want to get hit with data roaming charges, you need to do the following:
    1.) Go to Settings-->Accounts and Sync.
    2.) Uncheck the boxes for "Background Data" and "Auto-Sync".

    This way your phone shouldn't automatically send or receive data... unless you want it to! If your phone isn't in airplane mode and you're in a country with CDMA (like Canada, Mexico, Japan, etc.) you can still incur data charges if you do something that involves sending and receiving data, such as using the browser or using an app that requires data sending/receiving, like Maps.

    *You CAN use Google Voice for texting when you're connected to wifi (since it sends through the internet) and you can use Skype for making phone calls when you're connected to wifi (there might be a way to receive them, but I haven't fiddled with that--I'm on vacation, and I don't want people calling me!) ;)

    2.) USING GPS.
    It took me a couple of trips overseas before I figured out the GPS issue. I'll try to keep the technical stuff to a minimum here, but basically most Android phones have what's called A-GPS, or assisted GPS. It's assisted by the cell phone's radio, which in the US, means that GPS connects faster because it's using the cell towers to help triangulate your location (because waiting for the phone to connect to the three satellites needed to triangulate your location can take a while, and would make any GPS-based function seem slow.)

    So anyway, in order to use GPS, you need to do the following:
    1.) Take your phone OUT of airplane mode. (If you're in one of countries on Verizon's list that I linked to above that uses CDMA, don't worry, this will only take a minute... BUT TURN OFF DATA SYNCING FIRST as described above under Data/Roaming.
    2.) Turn on your GPS (Settings-->Location&Security-->Use GPS Satellites.)
    3.) UNCHECK the box right above that says "Use Wireless Networks".
    4.) Go outside where you can get a clear line of sight (not under trees/roof overhangs/amidst a bunch of tall buildings) and wait for the phone to connect to GPS. Then put the phone back into airplane mode. GPS will stay on, and it *should* stay connected.

    I know this will prompt the inevitable question: "But if I can't connect to Google Maps, how do I know if GPS is working?" or some variation thereof.

    I have two free apps I use when I'm traveling internationally. Both are free.

    1.) GPS Status (I use the one by EclipSim, although there are multiple programs available that will do the same thing.) What this does is tell me I'm connected to GPS (I can watch the screen as the satellites connect), it works as a compass, and it gives me my exact GPS coordinates.

    2.) MapDroyd. This essentially is offline Google Maps--you choose the countries, and it downloads street-level maps for those countries. Unfortunately, it can't yet provide you with directions, and there's no way to search for certain streets, so it is pretty limited. But you can use it to show your location (just like in Google Maps) and just having city maps and knowing where I am in relation to other things and places has been immensely helpful.

    If you want, you CAN use Google Maps, but you HAVE to be connected to wifi in order to do so. Also, once you have maps open and a certain map selected (for example, the map of your location) you can disconnect and it will save that map for a while... but I wouldn't count on that, if I were you.

    What is kind of amusing, and kind of cool (to me anyway) is that even if you're not connected to wifi and you have GPS on and My Location selected in Maps, if you move off of the map that you loaded when you were connected to wifi, and you get the gray grid that Maps kicks out when it can't serve up a map, it will still show your location, and if you're moving, it'll show you moving... along a gray grid. Helpful, I know. :p There have been times where I've been somewhere and wanted to remember where I was, so I used GPS Status to email myself the coordinates of where I was, and then I added it to my Google Maps later on so I could find it again. (Of course email won't send while you're online, but at least it's in your outbox and you know where to look for it.)

    Anyway, sorry for the long post, but I think I've covered the basics of using your phone overseas. If anyone has any questions about using your Verizon Android phone overseas, feel free to post them here--I'm happy to help!

    Other travel programs I love:
    - TravelDroyd (made by the fine folks at MapDroyd): I can download maps for the countries I'm visiting, AND (unlike MapDroyd) they are SEARCHABLE. NICE.
    - WikiDroyd (you guessed it--same folks as above): Offline Wikipedia (all the articles, no pictures) so if I'm somewhere interesting and want to look something up about where I am, I can.
    - iTravel Free: offline WikiTravel (you choose which articles to download.)

    smshiver, gsenchack, tef89 and 6 others like this.
  2. cman8882

    cman8882 Member

    Thanks KarieMarie, I PM'ed you w/ some questions. I'm hoping the above works for the HTC Incredible.
  3. cman8882

    cman8882 Member

    I found out yesterday (through testing) that if someone calls you on skype and you are connected to Fring (with Skype syncing) on your phone via Wifi in airplane mode, then your phone will ring and you can receive the call (you won't hear it on vibrate, it has to be on ring).

    So....this will allow you to receive calls internationally for free if you're connected to WiFi overseas. This will only work if the person calling you is calling you through their skype account to your skype account, but it enables you to use a WiFi connection to receive calls.

    Now, the question is, will WiFi connections overseas really allow you to connect and use their WiFi like you can in the US. I'm not familiar with the technicalities of this. In theory it should work, but I don't know if compatibility becomes an issue.
  4. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    Wifi is wifi--I haven't had any problems using open wifi signals either in Europe or Latin America. In fact, a few of the cities I've visited have free public wifi, and it's worked great! :)
  5. cman8882

    cman8882 Member

    That's good to know. However, I'm not sure if Fring through Skype would work when connected to international WiFi.
  6. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    It works perfectly fine when calling out. I haven't tried having people call in--like I said, I'm on vacation. It's nice to hide from the phone once in a while, since I've found it impossible to hide from email. :)

    Wifi is wifi anywhere you go. There is absolutely NO DIFFERENCE between wifi inside the US and wifi outside the US. As long as it's an open, unprotected wifi signal (or if it's a protected signal, you have the password) it will work the same as whatever wifi you usually connect to at home.
  7. Jedimaster1

    Jedimaster1 Member


    Thanks for the info!!! It helps a ton as I will be in Europe in a couple of weeks from now. The maps app is wonderful. Can't wait to use it out there.

    Anyway, thanks
  8. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    Any time--glad to help!!! :)
  9. az_r2d1

    az_r2d1 Well-Known Member

    I can't seem to get it to work. Sometimes I get gps signals (I test using gps status mostly and once it works mapdroyd).
    Most of the times it sees NO sats at all even waiting for a while. Tried the above mentioned method too but no go.
  10. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    I'm happy to help you troubleshoot it if you want! :) What country are you in? Are you in airplane mode or no? In order for the GPS to initally connect, even if you're NOT in the US, it MUST be in regular mode (NOT airplane mode.) This turns on the cell's radio.

    And sometimes, no matter if you're doing everything right, it just is really really slow to connect. I think it took me almost 30 minutes to connect today... that's HIGHLY unusual, but for some reason it just does that sometimes.

    I promise it does work. Here's a picture I just took today of the phone's screen when the GPS app was open when we were on a high-speed train in Germany... 189 MPH, baby!!! :D

  11. az_r2d1

    az_r2d1 Well-Known Member

    I'm in Western Europe too. I did try exactly as you said.
    I will try again and leave it out longer. 30 mins of waiting makes it pretty much useless.
    My guess is that the gps can't get a quick lock on without the rough estimate of where the phone is from the lock on cell towers. (a-gps?)

    I know any gps needs a longer time to lock on when it's in a totally different location from the last time it had a lock.

    Thanks for the picture, I should have snapped one when I had it on in the airplane. 1050 km/h at 38000 feet .. :)
  12. JezterVA

    JezterVA Well-Known Member

    Love the picture. 189 mph. Too cool.
  13. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    It doesn't normally take 30 minutes. Like I said before, that's a rare exception, and it's seemed to only happen in Western Europe, for some reason. Like I said before, it is a-GPS. It doesn't *have* to have cell towers to lock on, but that speeds the process.

    I know that there were multiple times in the past two months that I was on my trip that having GPS on my Droid really came in handy. Hopefully this thread will help other people be able to use it too.
  14. camdecoster

    camdecoster New Member

    Have you successfully used your Droid in Italy?
  15. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    Well, not as a phone, since it's CDMA and Europe is GSM. But I took it with me when I went for 8 days at the end of last November, and that's when I discovered just how awesome it really is to travel with--camera, wifi, travel guides, maps... Good stuff. :)

    The thing you have to know about Italy is that there are virtually no unsecured wireless networks. Due to a government anti-terrorism law, it's required that all wifi broadcasters know the identity of the users of their networks. So you still find cafes and some other places that offer wifi (free and/or paid) but you have to be a customer and fill out a quick little form with your name and passport number on it (hotels just take the info straight from your registration.)

    Also, there are a fair number of wireless hotspots belonging to wireless-providing companies, like Boing Boing, TMobile, ummm... I think British Telecom... I can't remember exactly. You can buy access cards at some tabaccis (tobacco shops, which are generally like small magazine stands.)

    Or you can do what I did--install Wifi Scanner and walk around and periodically check it, hoping it finds something open. :) I had a bit of success with that. I wouldn't count on that solely, though.

    Was that kind of what you were looking for? :)
  16. camdecoster

    camdecoster New Member

    That's good to hear. Were you able to use the GPS? Also could you recommend an offline map program that allows you to add waypoints/POI's?
  17. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    I explained how the GPS works in my original post--take a look at that, since it's kind of tricky sometimes. :) As far as offline map programs, the only one I used was MapDroyd, and you can't add POIs to that. I used a program called GPS Tracker to store POIs, and it has a radar mode where you can enter that POI and it'll give you an arrow pointing in the correct direction as well as the distance to your target. That was helpful.
  18. jsun911

    jsun911 New Member

    I'm looking to use the GPS Navigation on my HTC Incedible...does this apply for that phone as well?
  19. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    I have no idea. The Incredible also uses A-GPS, so my guess would be yes. :)
  20. Samus

    Samus Member

    Love this thread. I may be traveling to Canada in a few weeks and I don't want to incur any roaming charges. Any tips? I've never done this before and I'm not the most tech savvy person.

    Would installing WifiScanner be necessary? I believe the phone can do this on its own as it is.

    If I go:
    Wireless & Network Settings > Mobile Network > and uncheck "Data Enabled" and "Data Roaming," would I still need to tweak the settings over on "Accounts & Sync?" I think maybe this way, I wouldn't have to worry about accidentally activating the browser or something. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
    Is there any other way to text without Voice?

    Thanks so much!
  21. karimarie

    karimarie Well-Known Member

    In both my boyfriend's and my experience overseas, Wifi Scanner picks up more signals than does the built-in Droid app, and it gives the signal strengths in a number format, which is nice because then you can figure out where to stand to get a stronger signal. :)

    I don't know for sure about the settings w/ accounts&sync--I figure better be safe than sorry.

    I don't know if there are other apps that allow for texting besides Google Voice. I've always just used GV ever since I first got it about a year ago. :)
  22. award2010

    award2010 New Member

    Great info-we will be in paris and london in a few days and just got droid Xs. THANKS!!!
  23. backfull

    backfull New Member

    Thank you - this looks really useful. I was envisioning myself with my Droid and colleagues in a wifi hotspot (in Tanzania, with a beer) speaking into Google Translator and getting Swahili text back. Since this would only be an internet connection, I don't see why it wouldn't work. Anyone have any experience along these lines?
  24. credemann

    credemann Well-Known Member


    Great Post! I have a question about receiving email in South America. If i put my droid in airplane mode and use WiFi can i receive/send email?
  25. Adara

    Adara Well-Known Member

    OK. Here I am in Ireland.

    I am in airplane mode.

    I am in a hotel, where there is wi-fi.

    With wi-fi, my email and gmail have been updating.

    Just for kicks, I hit Google Maps. It found me. Took all of 15 seconds.

    This threw me because I'm in airplane mode, but I apparently left the GPS on and it's still working.

    But I started freaking out about roaming charges and all that business. But then, how could I be using cell towers to "A" my "A-GPS" when I'm in a non-CDMA country?

    So my question is: how did this happen in airplane mode? Was it the Wi-Fi that assisted the GPS and managed to plot my hotel in Dublin? And, more importantly, if I turn the GPS back on (from the widget) am I in absolutely no danger of accidentally roaming (because I'm (a) in airplane mode, and (b) in a country where I couldn't connect to their cell towers if I wanted to)? Or is it possible that Verizon can hit me with some sort of roaming data charges for using the GPS?

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