Wednesday, December 4, 2013

US sim card

I've been trying to figure out what cell company/mobile plan to use while in the US. I don't need a lot of minutes or messages, and only a moderate amount of data. I was thinking about trying to get a data-only plan, because I expect to be using mostly Skype to call back to Israel, but I will be dependant on having 3G reception to use it even just for making local calls, and I guess many backcountry locations will only have 2G reception available for voice calls. Not to mention I'll have to fool the cell company into thinking I have a tablet, and not a phone, which may or may not be according to the contract I'll be signing.

So - I want a simple plan with a minimal amount of minutes, and some 3G data. I asked on the PCT Class of 2014 fb page about cell coverage, and I understand that Verizon is by far the best cell company (reception-wise) along the trail. Sadly, my Nexus 4 phone is not compatible with their transmission bands, so no use for me there. It's T-Mobile or AT&T now.

Several weeks ago I managed to miss out on a sale on T-Mobile of a free sim-card (shipping included), and was already bummed that I'll have to pay $10 for one. Their web site is not easy to navigate, with all the different plans and options available. While trying to find anything useful there, about a week ago, I was approached by one of their site's support specialists in a chat window. Now, I don't know if I was talking to an actual person, or just some human-passable bot, but she did help me find what I was looking for - http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/sim-card. And I was very happy to discover that again - a phone sim card is now $0 including shipment. It wasn't easy for me to order a couple of sims (2 is the max on this sale) - At first I tried using my own international credit card, and shipping to a relative in the US. The transaction failed. I then tried using a US credit card, and shipping to that same address. Failure again. As a last resort, I tried using the credit card number of the relative in the US, so now I had the card's billing address identical to the shipping address for the sim cards. No luck again. I was giving up, before I tried one last time - This time I made two changes. I connected through a proxy, so that T-Mobile site thought I am surfing from inside the US, and I also put my regular email address, instead of using +tmobile in it (Using something@gmail.com instead of something+tmobile@gmail.com - read about it here). Well, I guess it worked, because the transaction finally completed, and now I wait for the sim cards to arrive to their destination, and be sent over here finally.

I still don't know if I will be able to activate them 6 months from now. The "specialist"/bot told me I won't, but since I got the cards for free, I decided I'll chance it. If it doesn't work, I will just buy a card upon landing in San Diego.

Regarding the plan itself, at the moment I am eying the $30 a month plan that has 2GB of data, and some calls/sms (I don't remember how much, but it doesn't matter). Another option is a daily plan of $3/day, which only charges per days I'm actually using it. So if the phone will be disconnected from service for most of the month, and only connected for less than 10 days (or parts of days), it might be a bit cheaper. But it sounds like the monthly plan is more cost effective after all.