Cellphone for travel, for a Cellphone Hater

I’m a cellphone holdout - I don’t like them, and I don’t really want one!

However, I’m shortly going on an international wander for an unspecified period and with the vaguest of itineraries, so I figure I should get one for emergencies. I know what I want, more or less, it’s finding one that fits that’s the problem.

What I’m looking for is a GSM 900/1800/1900 tri-band cellphone, unlocked or easily unlockable. It should have a dual-voltage charger, be tough enough to roam wild and free in a cluttered rucksack, and not turn itself on while doing so. A sturdy flip cover, or some other feature that protects the keypad, would be an advantage.

I’m indifferent as to whether it has a camera, blue teeth, can send or receive pictures, or interface with a computer. I’m outright hostile to it functioning as a radio, TV, MP3 player, spotlight, web browser or fashion accessory, unless these features somehow fail to increment the price.

So far I’m having real trouble tracking down such a beastie - the closest so far is the Siemens A70, and it’s hard to get hold of. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome!

Just get the free phone they advertize with the service. If it has an mp3 player or a camera don’t use it.

Remember all the phones basically work. You are not shopping for a phone, you are shopping for a service. Look into the service plan details.

Motorola V551. It’s quad-band, so it’s guaranteed to work in every GSM country…which I believe is basically the whole world, maybe not Japan. It’s a flip phone with a quite sturdy construction (a guy I work with abuses his like a red-headed step-child and it’s falling apart but still making calls) and is pretty no-frills.

The problem with getting a “free phone” as gaz said is that you have to sign a contract in order to get it, which obligates you to pay a monthly fee for a year or more.

How long are you staying in these countries? You may be much better off just buying a phone outright and buying local SIM cars wherever you go.

I’m not really shopping for a service - I’m planning to go with a roaming SIM specifically for international travel. Not all phones work everywhere. The support for the various GSM bands in various countries is shown in the table on this page.

I’m not looking for a “free phone” at all, I’m looking to buy a phone outright, and put in a specialised roaming SIM card such as Riiing or United Mobile, then dump the thing in the bottom of a backpack and forget about it except to charge it occasionally. It’s finding a handset which is best suited to this sort of treatment that’s giving me problems. E.g. Nokia make something they call the Rugged phone, but the name is marketing nonsense aimed at people who like to think they’re athletic. I don’t need a phone that has a built-in fitness coach and is heart-monitor compatible!

Phrontist, that Motorola would do nicely but I’m having trouble sourcing it in the UK. Some of the other Motorola flip-phones would do as well. I have considered getting new SIM cards in various countries - it’ll depend on how much I use it, if at all. One advantage of the roaming cards is that the number won’t change.

How do you make phone calls if you don’t have a service contract? Tell an operator you credit card number each time you make a call?

Your requirements are really not that special. All cell phones will withstand the sort of treatment you describe. They’re a lot tougher than you apparently think, and nearly all of them have recessed power buttons and keypad locks that prevent them from turning on unless you want them to.

I’ve owned several cell phones, from various manufacturers and of various designs, and treated them all like utter crap. I’ve dropped them on concrete from ten feet in the air, dropped books on them, crammed them into overstuffed backpacks, and once (when I was extremely pissed off) slammed an open flip phone against a steel panel as hard as I could, screen first. And all of them have remained in perfect working order until I traded them in.

That Nokia “Rugged” phone is marketed towards athletic types because they’re the only people who need it: people who are worried about falling off their bike and slamming the phone against a rock multiple times in a day, or dropping it in quicksand, or something like that.

Unless you’re the type who likes to buy products needlessly overengineered for their situation, just buy whatever phone you like on the shelf and get on with your life.

The service contract is with the SIM card provider, and you have to periodically credit your SIM card as you use your credit up. There’s no formal service plan as far as I’m aware, and I don’t sign anything. If you’re travelling around, then using Riiing is considerably cheaper then using the roaming rates of the various UK providers.

That’s good to know, anyway.

It’s needless overengineering I’m trying to avoid! From my POV, all the bells and whistles on the phones on the shelf are a waste of time. I just want a cheap three-band phone that won’t crap out on me.

Get an old nokia 6310 off ebay or somewhere. They are old but as tough as nails, have decent battery life, and easy to use. Also most of the world is hip-deep in old nokia accessories (particularly chargers, headsets etc) if you want to pick up any.
Don’t worry about it being locked or not. Unless it’s a really unusual phone, $5-10 will get it unlocked in any of a zillion little shops, market stalls or internet sites.

Uhh… this may be asking a dumb question, but is there some problem with buying whatever phone is on offer at the place where you buy the roaming SIM? The first website you linked to also sells handsets.

The triband capability you’re seeking is very common. You can go virtually anywhere and get one. I understand you’re hostile to camera phones, MP3 players, etc, but you’re going to have an easier time just getting whatever triband is on sale and disregarding functions you don’t like, rather than searching for a particular phone and paying whatever price.

(IHMO alert!) I think you’re kind of going about this whole thing backwards: it is a bit needlessly complicating to decide on a model of phone and then go searching for it, when shops (such as one of those you linked to) will have phones available that will work with their roaming service.

(BTW, I have travelled with a GSM phone while I was based out of London, and it is a great idea. Charges racked up fast, but it was worth every penny.) Best of luck with your trip, and I envy you!

New phones tend to be either expensive or tied to a contract. You can usually get a fairly decent phone that was cutting-edge tech a year ago for less than a basic new phone.