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Bring or buy phones to the US?

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Bring or buy phones to the US?

Post by NorrinRadd » Sat, 04 Jun 2016 9:37 pm

From what I remember hearing or reading, smartphones in the US are or were locked and certain features disabled or governed by the carriers.

Is this still the case, and, would it be better and or cheaper to buy an unlocked phone in Singapore for use in US, assuming it has the right bands? Any risks of a phone bought here not working there, what should I look out for?

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Re: Bring or buy phones to the US?

Post by Strong Eagle » Sat, 04 Jun 2016 11:07 pm

US phones are locked down by the carrier until the contract terms are fulfilled. At that time you can request that the phone be unlocked so that it will take any carrier's SIM card. It used to be some carriers blocked features like wifi tethering because of data concerns but I don't see that any more.

Singapore phones are GSM. AT&T and T-Mobile are the only GSM carriers in the USA. Either will gladly sell you a SIM and a voice and data plan. If you intend to buy a phone in Singapore you need to carefully check the data bands on the phone and compare them to the carrier. For example, T-Mobile uses a different data band than AT&T (AT&T's being more nearly universal) but a T-Mobile phone usually supports dual data bands. 4G LTE is the norm for AT&T these days so check those bands on your Singapore phone.

I used my Singapore purchased Samsung Galaxy on AT&T for years until it finally crapped out... it worked just fine. Be aware though that the muppets here in the USA have no idea what to do with an international model number and will say, "we don't support that model" even though it works just fine.

Virtually all of the GSM unlocked phones on Amazon are of the international variety. But you can buy an unlocked phone direct from a carrier and it will be a USA model, filled with the phone company's crapware.

If you are not buying on contract, simply purchasing a phone, then you can do it in the USA or whereever the price is best. This enables you to also use CDMA carriers (Verizon, Sprint) although I prefer GSM because it is world wide. I think the prices will be better in the USA than in Singapore, and if you purchased unlocked, you can always take it back to Singapore.

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Re: Bring or buy phones to the US?

Post by malcontent » Tue, 16 Feb 2021 1:59 pm

We usually get an AT&T SIM for our Singapore phone during our trips back to the US. It’s usually around $60+ for one entire month of nearly unlimited use. This has always been easy and worked well.

However Pocket Wifi devices from here typically do not work, so if you must, buy a cheap one on Amazon (US), and hope you can find a person in the cellular phone shop that can make it work - - it can be a real pain.
Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it - Niels Bohr

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Re: Bring or buy phones to the US?

Post by Lisafuller » Tue, 16 Feb 2021 10:28 pm

I use iPhones, and in my experience it has always been cheaper to buy a fully unlocked iPhone in the US instead of purchasing the exact same one in Singapore. There’s usually a couple hundred dollar difference, I think $200 when I last bought my XS MAX.

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