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Buy a cell phone in U.S. or Singapore?

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sociologist
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Buy a cell phone in U.S. or Singapore?

Postby sociologist » Tue, 31 Jul 2007 7:21 am

I am moving to Singapore in early September (for a year) and am wondering whether it is cheaper to buy an unlocked tri-band GSM cell phone here in the U.S. and bring it with me (and then get a SIM card when I arrive), or whether I should just buy the phone in Singapore. I'm hoping to get a relatively inexpensive phone that has some email capability -- perhaps one of the cheaper Blackberries. Any suggestions on which strategy makes more sense?

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Postby dvsgene » Mon, 13 Aug 2007 2:13 pm

Hi, in my opinion, you are probably better off getting a cell phone here in Singapore as an NEW unlocked phone in the states is quite expensive unless you get a USED one off Ebay. Many of the cell providers here offer discounted phones for 1 year or 2 year commitment like the US. But since you mentioned you will be moving here for a year, you'll be moving out when your 1 year contract expires anyway; so for less than S$100 or about US$65, you can get a pretty basic phone with a one year commitment. Additionally, I believe phones in Singapore come unlocked so they can be brought back to the US for use. Another benefit with Singapore phones is that it can receive and send SMS messages in Chinese. (Although, I do not know if you can read or write in chinese pinyin characters. ) But having that feature at least allows you to receive the message in chinese vs garbled symbols with a US based phone and have someone translate it for you. Hope this helps and good luck with the move.

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Postby MblSH » Wed, 15 Aug 2007 10:33 pm

I don't know if that applies to phones, but for most of the other electronics the warranty is always local, so if you want you phone to be still covered by warranty when you'll be back in States, buy it there.

As for prices, go to Starhub or M1 websites and check out the prices for the stuff you want online, so you could see the price difference.

Imho electronics in States often have the lowest prices in the world

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Postby dvsgene » Wed, 15 Aug 2007 10:52 pm

I agree about the warranty coverage being only local. However, I think in the case of mobile phones the warranty is only one year as well so coverage on the mobile phone will probably expire at the same time as the end of a one year contract on the plan. I believe with carrier subsidies US phones can be cheap; However the mobile phones from carriers in the US are cheap because they require you to sign up for a 1 year or 2 year contract to justify the subsidy.

So, lets say I plan to come to Singapore, sign up for a free Motorola Razor with AT&T or Verizon. In exchange for getting a free sleekphone, I am committed to a one year contract of US$29.95 monthly plan charges. If I cancel the contract before the commitment, I need to pay $200 penalty plus other possible charges. But say decided to get the Razor phone for $0 and keep the plan for 1 year by paying $29.95 each month for 1 year; This equals almost equals $360. So you get the phone unlocked to use in Singapore before leaving the US and put a M1 or Starhub sim card in this phone when you arrive in Singapore. Meanwhile, you'll still pay the $29.95 each month in the US for making no calls at all for one year. Isn't it more worthwhile when that you can get a Motorola Razor from M1 for about S$100 (US$66) already unlocked? and then at the end of the year bring the phone back to the US to use it there or sell it on Ebay? I would opt for the latter. Just my opinion and analysis for what it's worth.

As far as electronics being cheaper in the US, I am not so sure. I have found some things cheaper here after converting to US dollars and other cases more expensive. But the best deals in the US are usually found in conjunction with a mail in rebate. So in the end like anything else, you need to know the price of the item you want to buy in both countries taking into account the conversion rate and rebates offered.

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Postby MblSH » Thu, 16 Aug 2007 12:50 pm

Is it so hard to get yourself a phone without a plan in US nowadays? Wow :)

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Postby dvsgene » Thu, 16 Aug 2007 1:01 pm

Sure you can get a phone in the states without a plan but basically you have two options:

1) Buy off Ebay an older BASIC phone for US $50-$150 which may not even be unlocked or hard to unlock because the carrier won't help you to unlock it because you don't have a plan with them. Possibly, pay someone $25 to unlock it or try your luck with those online instructions to unlock the phone.
2) Get an unlocked phone through carrier or Ebay and pay US $200 for basic phone and or up to US$1000 for more recent phones.

There is a third option that I see in Singapore: used phone shops all over the place. In the states, most used phones find it's way onto Ebay or they find their way to an exporter who exports it to third world countries for big bucks.

I guess the cheapest option is to have a friend in the states who has an old unlocked phone because he upgraded his phone and can give to you to bring to Singapore.

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Postby sociologist » Wed, 22 Aug 2007 3:13 am

Thanks for all the suggestions. I decided to buy an unlocked phone here in the U.S., even though it's kind of expensive. I'll be traveling back and forth over the year so I wanted to make sure I would have the U.S. warranty, and of course wanted to get a phone that can be used with a US carrier when I come back. It's actually quite easy to buy an unlocked phone here -- lots of places offer them.

Any suggestions on what Singapore carrier to sign up with if I want to be able to check my email, instant message, and make international calls?

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Postby MblSH » Wed, 22 Aug 2007 12:47 pm

I'm using Starhub (starhub.com); right now it has free idd calls to several countries including US, so it'll be just a local call to you (assuming that you call US:))

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Postby dvsgene » Wed, 22 Aug 2007 3:53 pm

Your welcome for the suggestions, sociologist. In case you weren't aware, you don't have to buy a phone in the US to be sure it works with a US carrier. Any unlocked phone will function with a SIM card on a compatible system. Compatible system meaning any phone that has in its specification stating that it is for a GSM Tri band will work with Sprint/AT&T, Cingular, T-mobile and any other GSM system around the world. Similarly, a CDMA phone unlocked will work with Verizon or any other CDMA system around the world. This is why a phone is able to ROAM around the world. However, the difference between a locked and unlocked on your wallet means the difference between paying a carriers overpriced roaming charges or more reasonable local charges (depending on plan) with a local Sim Card. The lock or unlocked part only refers to locking in the original sim card to prevent using any other carriers sim card. So if you buy an unlocked GSM phone from Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore or any other country for that matter, it WILL work on a compatible system. That is actually why carriers lock their phones so that you can't use it on a compatible system until you contact customer service to tell them you don't want to pay their overpriced roaming charges to which of course they will try to convince you how competitive their rates are. NOT! Hope that clarified things.


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