Tschuss provided this useful information 3 years, 9 months ago:

Using Cell Phones and Tablets in Germany

Until recently, Americans relocating to Germany had very few affordable options for using a cell phone to make calls locally within Germany and back to the U.S. or for mobile data. Using a U.S. carrier such as Verizon or AT&T is not a viable option due to the high rates. Getting a local solution through one of the German carriers, while definitely better than roaming with a US carrier, is confusing, particularly in today's world when there are so many phones, plans and tablets available on the market. Ortel Mobile, a German company, focuses on the cellular and cellular data requirements of foreigners traveling and living in Germany. Through their relationship with Cellular Abroad, their US distributor, they are able to get the right products and services into the hands of travelers prior to their trip to Germany so they can use their phones and tablets right away. Since the array of different phones, tablets, laptops are as vast as one's personal needs, here is a bit of information that will hopefully shed some light on mobile phones and mobile connectivity while you are in Germany.

Smartphones

Most people in the U.S. have smartphones. Using a smartphone like the iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy is a great way not only to stay in touch, but with apps such as Google Translate, Google Maps, Skype, Viber, Whatsapp and Facebook, it is the perfect companion for the newcomer to Germany to see where you are, find out where you need to go and even communicate with the locals in their language. Many of you will already have a phone that works in Germany. The issue is that if you use Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint or AT&T, your phone bill will be hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per month. What you want to do is to swap out your current phone's SIM card (the SIM is the “brain” of the phone and is what gives it the service) and replace it with an Ortel SIM card. Most phones come “locked” to the carrier's network. Carriers lock their phones because they want you to use their service. Most of the time, you can get your cell phone unlocked by calling the carrier and requesting the unlock code. Sometimes they make you wait for several days so don't wait until the day before you are about to leave to ask them to unlock your phone.

Once your phone is unlocked, your phone can accept another SIM card. SIM cards now come in three sizes - standard, micro and nano. The iPhone 4 and 4s takes a micro SIM and the iPhone 5 a nano SIM. For the Samsung Galaxy or other smartphones, it is best you check online or the manual to see what size SIM it takes. If you get an Ortel SIM card, the standard SIM card has 8 Euros (about $10) of credit on it. The service is pay as you go and you do not have a contract to sign nor time commitments like most plans in the U.S. Considering that calls to the U.S. are less than a nickel and calls within Germany are about $0.12 per minute, that is a considerable amount of initial time. However, what you want to do is to get a data bundle and/or a talk time bundle, depending on what use need. If you need to mostly use data and call back to the U.S., then just a data bundle may be enough. You can use Skype to call back to the U.S. (even call cell phones), but it costs $0.025 per minute plus you will be using your data allocation. There are several data plans. A 10 Euro plan will get you 750mb of data, a 15 Euro plan a 3GB allotment of data and 20 Euros will get you a hefty 5GB of data. Each plan give you 30 days of data after which it will automatically renew and deduct the credit on your SIM, provided there is sufficient credit. Speaking of credit, you can purchase call credit anywhere where they sell vouchers for E-Plus. Even though the name of the company is Ortel, it is really just a sub brand of E-Plus, one of the largest carriers in Germany.

iPad and other Tablets

Many people have a tablet with which they use with WiFi. If you apartment already has WiFi, then you are set. If not, then hopefully your tablet has 3G capabilities which will allow you to use an Ortel SIM card with a data plan. The best data plan is the 5GB plan for 20 Euros per month. This is a great deal and even less than you would expect to pay for 5GB of data back home in the US. Unfortunately, not everyone's tablet has a slot for a SIM card. In this case, a great solution is to get a MiFi, also known as a mobile hotspot (more about that in the section below). If you want to use a tablet, you can use any of the plans. However, keep in mind that only that only Ortel's 5GB plan allows Skype. In addition, in order to activate the plan and to add a recharge voucher credit to your account, instead of the usual SMS method generally referred to in the instructions, you will need to call Ortel's hotline and make the request since you cannot text from your tablet unless you install an app. Yes, like almost everything else, there is an app for that as well.

How about Using my Laptop?

Most computers do not have 3G capabilities but luckily, most do have WiFi capabilities. As we all know, all we need is a WiFi hotspot and we can log on, whether it be at home, Starbucks, the library, etc. Germany is one of the most wired countries in Germany and there are WiFi networks available in many places. Having said that, nothing beats the convenience of having internet access wherever you want, whether it be at home or even sitting on a bench at the park. In addition, free WiFi doesn't mean secure WiFi, and on the contrary, if you plan on accessing websites such as your online bank, it is not a good idea to expose your details in a public setting (which is where APOVPN comes in).



3 years, 9 months ago

I have had the opportunity to do business with Cellular Abroad in the past.

I recently obtained a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 while in Germany. The phone was to be given to my younger son as a Christmas gift. Just by pure luck, before giving the phone to my son, I stumbled onto an article talking about Samsung's new "region lock." Apparently, this is a new type of lock that Samsung is using on their newer model phones to avoid gray/black market sales. I am not going to get into what the region lock is, but you can find out by clicking the above link. Anyway, because of the region lock, I was in a bit of a jam because my son would need to use a SIM from the region where I got the phone, but all we have is the U.S. T-Mobile SIM in his existing phone. If he were to put his SIM into the new phone he just got for Christmas, it would lock, rendering the phone useless. Talk about being disappointed on Christmas morning!

I started doing some research on what to do about the region lock, when I came across Cellular Abroad. I got in touch with Cellular Abroad, and spoke with Sebastian. Sebastian was kind enough to send me a SIM from Italy which would allow me to permanently unlock it. Sebastian at Cellular Abroad was really helpful, and he was kind enough to send me the Italian SIM as a favor. All he asked was that I send the SIM back to him after I was finished with it.

That kind of customer service in this day and age is rare. I am a complete stranger to Cellular Abroad, yet Sebastian took the risk and mailed me a SIM, complete with 5€ credit on it, to allow me to make/receive calls from the new phone. Again, if you want to know why this is important, read about the region lock, above.

I would definitely recommend Cellular Abroad to anyone needing to travel.

3 years, 9 months ago

Just another way to piss off the public. I don't understand why buying an unlocked device would have any restrictions. If you buy it outright then you should be able to do with it what you please.

3 years, 9 months ago

Quote by Bergman:
Just another way to piss off the public. I don't understand why buying an unlocked device would have any restrictions. If you buy it outright then you should be able to do with it what you please.


For most people, this is the case, and the phone can be used without restriction. Most people don't buy a phone, and then travel 5,000 miles before using it. There are, however, people who steal phones and then sell them on the black market, eBay, Amazon, etc. Usually, when these phones are sold, they are sold outside of the region in which they were supposed to be activated.

The region lock helps to stop this from happening. Of course, all it takes is ten minutes of research to find out that the phone can be "rooted" and the region lock can then be bypassed. The reason I did not want to do this is because the region bypass only works as long as no updates are taken. For example, when Kit Kat is made available to the phone, my son would not be able to use the update because the region lock would re-start itself and the phone would lock, and remain locked until someone figures a way around it.

It is just much easier to unlock the phone to begin with. The only downside with my obtaining this phone in Germany, is that I never intended to use it there. The place where I got the phone was not aware of the region lock, as it is very new.

3 years, 9 months ago



I was just contacted by the fine folks at Cellular Abroad. They are offering a 10% discount to EverythingKMC members. You will need the following discount code:
TROOPS (case sensitive)

Give Cellular Abroad a look.

3 years, 9 months ago

I am writing on behalf of Cellular Abroad. While we are a for profit organization, we started Cellular Abroad 12 years ago based on our own needs for figuring out how to stay connected abroad. While technologies have changed and are business has blossomed to serving over 200,000 travelers in the process, one thing hasn't changed and that is our dedication to helping travelers find the best solutions for their individual needs. It just so happens that we distribute some, not all but many, of the "best solutions." Regardless of whether we benefit from it or not, we will still do our best to help you understand what you need to know in order to stay connected in Germany by phone, PC or tablet.

2 years, 10 months ago

I arrived to K Town about two weeks ago. After some research and comparison, I found that the Lebara Top Up was the cheapest way to go, especially if you have an Unlocked phone. We have Iphones, and simply went on ATT.com and requested to unlock our phones, as our contracts were expired. They unlocked in about 10 minutes and then I purchased the SIM cards for $10 ea, and then for minutes and data it was 15Euro for 3GB of data per 30 days. This was by far the cheapest compared to TKS and TMobile. Also its .09cents a minute in Germany and .05c to the USA. Texts are .15c per message. All incoming calls are free. It works for us, because we also have a Magic Jack and use Facebook messenger for voice calls. I just couldn't see paying 59-69 Euros a month AND a 2 year contract for the same amount of Data. This way, its month to month and I can terminate whenever I want to.

2 years, 10 months ago

Mistertmac -

Did you check Aldi Talk? If not, you may wish to look into it.

2 years, 10 months ago

Quote by JOFTAA:
Mistertmac -

Did you check Aldi Talk? If not, you may wish to look into it.


I just looked briefly, and with my crude translation, I'm seeing 5 gb for 14.99 Euro.. which it pretty damn good. I just need the plan specifics translated (talk minutes and calls to the US). What I looked at was the Internet Flat Rate XL, which may just be data, which would be a better option for my wifes Ipad..

2 years, 10 months ago

Aldi talk does not work that well outside of the city limits. When I had it, it did not work on any of the bases in the KMc.

2 years, 10 months ago

Quote by Bergman:
Aldi talk does not work that well outside of the city limits. When I had it I'd did not work on any of the bases in the KMc.


When I had it, which was from 2010-2012, I had no problem with it. No more than any other carrier, anyway. A lot of problems have to do with phone equipment. My entire family has the same carrier, but we all have different phones. My son and I have Samsung, my other son, LG, and my wife has HTC.

The LG gets 2 bars at home, and the Samsung and HTC get 4 bars. I am starting to notice, more and more, that signal issues are not always because of the carrier.

2 years, 10 months ago

Quote by JOFTAA:
When I had it, which was from 2010-2012, I had no problem with it. No more than any other carrier, anyway. A lot of problems have to do with phone equipment. My entire family has the same carrier, but we all have different phones. My son and I have Samsung, my other son, LG, and my wife has HTC.

The LG gets 2 bars at home, and the Samsung and HTC get 4 bars. I am starting to notice, more and more, that signal issues are not always because of the carrier.


I did not specify but I was referring to data not voice.

2 years, 6 months ago

I got tired of reloading Vodafone prepaid SIM and got onto monthly plan through TKS.... oh man... the service is worse than the prepaid! Often times I cannot connect to internet! I haven't had any issues with calls or texts, but just when I need data, bammmmm it doesn't exits...

Out of T comm, T Mobile, O2, which had the best connectivity? I would appreciate any inputs or recommendations.. thanks

2 years, 6 months ago

I used Aldi-Talk. No problem. I think they use E-Plus.

2 years, 6 months ago

Quote by JOFTAA:
I used Aldi-Talk. No problem. I think they use E-Plus.


If it's data you need stay away from anything that uses the E-plus network or water it's called now. Got with an LTE provider....T-mobile has the best coverage followed by O2.

2 years, 6 months ago

E-Plus/BASE was acquired by O2 last year and their mobile networks finally merged as of mid-April, so users of E-Plus/Aldi Talk might find that they now have better coverage.

Telekom (T-Mobile) has very good LTE coverage in this area.

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