Details: Phone Use Abroad

A solid 3/4 of moving halfway across the world involves reading everything about the place, stumbling across travel tips, creating packing lists and learning how people live out of a suitcase. The first step I took down that research-heavy road was when I bought a new phone with my life in Vietnam in mind.

Friends swear by unlocked iPhones, but I knew I didn’t want to foot that bill with my planned budget for at least the next year or so. Also, flexibility is limited because contracts last forever.

Then, I found this post on Mr. Money Mustache’s blog and decided Republic Wireless might be the way to go.

I bought a Moto X, and for the past couple months, I’ve paid $25 per month for unlimited 3G. It’s been worth every penny, and been less than half of what I would pay for a similar plan under most other providers. And there’s no contract.

My beautiful, new phone all ready for use.

My beautiful new phone.

You hook up the phone to WiFi and whenever it’s in range of, say, your college campus WiFi or the networks at your friends’ houses, the data, calls and texts travel on that network instead of 3G. That keeps costs for Republic down.

Where there isn’t 3G coverage, the wireless capability is imperative, but the plans are cheaper without non-wireless function bundled in.

Overall, the transition from iPhone to Moto X has been smooth and hassle-free, and any questions I had were already answered by savvy users on Republic’s forums.

One of the more contentious subjects involves use of the phone outside of the US, which is currently not supported (I can’t even text Puerto Rican numbers), but other users have attested to its strength on WiFi abroad.

The cheapest plan is $5/month, which allows use only on WiFi, and that’s what I’ll switch to in Vietnam. I’ll have access to a phone with an American number that can call home, text friends like normal and function as a miniature computer whenever I have a wireless connection.

That’ll be at home or in a cafe for me. And while this may not work as well during travel outside of the city, I’ll also have a Vietnam phone for contacting friends and work in-country.

The only significant downside was that Republic requires you to buy one of their phones, since they need the wireless capabilities. I was looking for a new phone anyway, and the Moto X fit my criteria: Small, touchscreen, smart and quality photo capabilities.

The other potential rough patch came with syncing to my MacBook. I anticipated many more issues, but it’s been smooth sailing for the most part. I converted my iTunes library to Google Play and all my photos are stored on Google Drive. I’ve got backups on my physical computer.

I’m far from a techie, so I can’t speak to the subtle differences between Apple and Android, but the phone allows for greater flexibility software-wise and I don’t see myself going back to Apple anytime soon.

My phone is locked and loaded, and as soon as I board the plane leaving the US, due to the ability to change plans in the software of the actual phone, I’ll be able to switch to the cheaper $5 plan and begin spending less than I ever thought possible to keep myself connected to home.

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