1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Smartphones for International Technophobes

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Mainwaring, Jan 11, 2016.

  1. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    I gave up the quill pen and parchment some time back in favour of a PC but as far as I'm concerned a computer is not much more than a word processor and a way of checking my emails, so I apologise in advance for the following display of crass ignorance:

    I live in Spain and frequently travel to and within the UK, the Netherlands and the USA (This is what happens if your bring up your offspring in a travelling trunk and they then proceed to reproduce in far flung places). I carry a lightweight 'netbook' with me because I prefer a keyboard to the tablet option but, obviously, connecting to the internet is heavily dependent on location and the availability of an accessible network.

    My question is: Would a smartphone allow me to connect to the internet anywhere in the world, and specifically in the countries mentioned above? If the answer is (more or less) 'yes', would anyone be prepared to share their experience of such devices. I have had a quick look only and note that prices range from around £100 to £500 (no thanks!). Pay as you go. Bells and whistles, e.g. camera, irrelevant. The GPS feature would be useful as the last time I was on the M25 my Tom Tom informed me that I was somewhere in Utah.

    All comments gratefully received. Assume that I know nowt and you will be on the right lines.
  2. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    Good Morning,

    Are you familiar with what people mean when they talk of using 'data' on your mobile to access internet and GPS etc? Is this what you are talking about when you ask about accessing internet etc via mobile?

    If you let me know I will attempt to leave a (hopefully) more detailed and helpful response
  3. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Good morning SW and thanks for replying. Yes, I'm fairly clear about the concept of data (lack of which occasionally causes my internet TV to buffer). However what I'm really looking for is low level practical stuff, such as 'If I have a Motorola thingummyjig will I easily be able to make calls/ pick up my emails anywhere in Spain, the UK, Holland and the USA?'
  4. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    OK, here goes - caveat, there may well be someone else who replies and can add to/refute what I am about to say.

    If I am covering things which you already know of/understand then my apologies.

    Mobiles can pick up data either via the internet directly, or via a data package (don't ask me the technical difference/how they each work - I don't know). Your mobile will usually adapt to which one it uses based on the the availability/reception wherever you are. The mobile's default will be direct internet as this is usually cheaper, or in fact free even in public places. You can change these preferences directly on your mobiles settings if you wish, including turning off wi-fi or data, but this is usually the best way of doing it.

    Therefore in simple terms e.g. you are at home (which has internet) and your mobile picks this up as the cheapest default option. You walk out of the house, down the road and the mobile will revert to mobile data which, depending on the mobile package you have, will vary in cost. Many places such as shopping centres, airports, cafes now have free wi-fi so your phone would revert back to this automatically.

    Your initial query related to reception quality. Unfortunately the same applies to data which can also be difficult to pick up from a weak signal in some areas.

    Mobiles are built to pick up wi-fi and data regardless of the country you are in. For mobile data when you are away from home/free wi-fi you may need a separate mobile chip/package for each country you are visiting as, if you use your Spanish chip in the USA you may be charged higher rates/roaming charges.

    I think there may be some packages which allow cheaper or even same rates/costs as in the home country. Maybe somebody else here might be able to offer more detailed advice on this.

    You might want to have a chat with the mini-Mainwarings to get specific information regarding the countries in which they live/you will be visiting.

    Regarding which mobile make and model to buy, it can be easy to purchase one which is way above your needs. I suggest going into a mobile phone shop which you trust and tell them what you want (eg wi-fi, data, camera, GPS) and ask for suggestions. I have owned/used Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung, Apple. For your needs I would recommend either Nokia or Samsung.

    Hope this helps.
  5. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    For various options have a look at these articles:



    Note the dates on each as that will affect accuracy and relevance.

    With my phone I can get internet wherever it is available - homes, airports, shopping centres etc. Depending on how long I will be in a place I might get a pay as you go SIM card package thing. On a recent trip to The Hague for 4 days I didn't bother, on a two week trip to the UK I did.

    Haven't been to a place yet where it wasn't cheap and easy to get a SIM that just slots in.

    The only caveat to this is to make sure you buy an 'unlocked' phone that isn't tied to a network contract. That way you can merrily switch SIMs at will.
  6. ejclibrarian

    ejclibrarian Established commenter Community helper

    You can pick up prepaid SIM cards in most airports now. That's what I would do. Invest in a nice smartphone and then just buy a prepaid sim whoever it is you go. Honestly easiest way.
  7. TonyGT

    TonyGT Established commenter

    There's no such thing as 'direct internet', which is in some way different from 'data package'.

    I thought at first you might have meant Wi-Fi but then below you actually use the term Wi-Fi so I'm just not sure.

    Basically Mainwaring, any smart phone you buy will work in any country. You will have to buy a SIM card which is registered to a specific network (for example you can buy one from Vodafone UK which will forever be registered to Vodafone UK.) You can arrange to have a data package which which is a certain amount of megabytes a month to use the internet. Once you have used this you will be charged extra. Were you to only stay in the country in which you bought the SIM card then there would be no problem. The problems arise when you leave the country. If you go visit another country then your phone will do what's called 'roaming'. It will look for another overseas network since Vodafone UK is no longer available. This costs a lot of money and you will find that any internet usage costs you an arm and a leg on top of your regular bill. There are two ways around. You can either use WIFI wherever you go or buy another SIM card in the country you're visiting. The problem with using WIFI is that you're not always guaranteed to be near a free access point. Also, if you are near a free access point, it is likely to have some restrictions on it. For example, most airport free Wi-Fi blocks VOIP which are applications like Skype so you may find that you cannot use the internet in the way you wanted to. The best option, as mentioned above is to buy a SIM card in every country you visit and top it up with a little bit of credit which will give you some internet and calls. Be aware though that calling overseas on one of these packages will be costly and eat up your credit very soon.

    As for which phone, an iPhone is probably the best option if you have absolutely no idea what you're doing.
    rouxx likes this.
  8. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Many thanks to both of you. I really appreciate the time you have taken to educate this particular dinosaur.
  9. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Sorry. That should have been many thanks to ALL of you.
    ejclibrarian likes this.
  10. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    No need to buy an iphone in my opinion. I bought a cheap android smart phone for my 80 yr old father and he picked it up in no time at all. Get a younger Mainwaring to show you the basics and possibly consider if you have big fingers asking them to put a simpler homescreen on it. And if you have big fingers, buy a bigger screen phone.

    Otherwise @TonyGT I agree with what you said. Change the SIM card as you change country, so buy an unlocked phone - which should be easy enough to do in Spain.

    Camera - might be worth buying one with a decent camera - within a month or so my father was no longer using his camera for day to day pictures and did it all with the smartphone. Fortunately, even though the phone was cheap the camera on it was still pretty good.
  11. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    @tony - yes, probably clumsily worded. By 'direct internet' I meant via Wi-Fi and not mobile data.

    @rouxx - agree that iPhone, although fairly easy to use, no easier than other makes. iPhone probably overpriced for what you need
  12. lunarita

    lunarita Lead commenter

    Get yourself a SIM card from three.co.uk

    As with other companies, you use your phone credit to buy bundles of minutes, texts or data for the internet but Three also has this fantastic thing called Feel at Home, where, in certain countries, including Spain and USA (but not Netherlands) your bundle of whatever is valid just as if you were in the UK. No roaming charges.


Share This Page