best GSM phone to buy in the US for use in BA?

hepdoll

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Some of you have mentioned it is a good idea to get an unlocked GSM phone here in the states to bring with me when I move, instead of buying one in BA. I just want a basic phone that will call and text, and won't break on me after one month, but I don't want to pay for a data plan for email/internet/etc. (Too expensive.) I'll be doing pay-as-you-go, probably with Movistar since that sounds like the most reliable provider right now.

I'm tech savvy but not a phone expert, so can you help me with any of these questions that I'm getting stuck on?

1) If I get one here in the US, what specs does the phone need to have in order for it to work in BA & the rest of South America? (I think it has to be Tri or Quad band? And it has to take a SIM card, right? Are some phones not able to be unlocked, and some are?)

2) What are the benefits of bringing an unlocked phone versus just buying a cheap regular (locked) phone from Movistar when I get there?

3) Which brand/model of phone would you recommend I buy in the US, if I end up doing it? Ideally I'll buy one that is pre-owned, to save money, so it doesn't need to be cutting-edge...

Thank you in advance for your tips. I can't tell you how helpful it is to have your advice as I get ready to come there! :)
 

jimdepalermo

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hepdoll said:
1) If I get one here in the US, what specs does the phone need to have in order for it to work in BA & the rest of South America? (I think it has to be Tri or Quad band? And it has to take a SIM card, right? Are some phones not able to be unlocked, and some are?)
Any GSM phone with a 1900 mhz band will work here. Since that band is widely used in North America, you shouldn't have compatibility problems with any phone you acquire in the US. All GSM phones have interchangeable SIM cards. According to GSMWorld http://www.gsmworld.com/roaming/gsminfo/cou_ar.shtml, all the Argentine carriers use 1900, and Movistar and Claro have some coverage in the 850 mhz band. You can check other countries' coverage on the same site. In general, more bands is better, but some are used only in Asia, for example.

When you buy a phone from a carrier, either here or in the US, it usually comes with a contract to use that carrier's service for a year or two, and it is "locked" to that carrier so you can't move to the competition. Theoretically, the company should unlock the phone for you after the contract expires, but I've always encountered a million excuses why they won't do it.

Technically, all phones can be unlocked by someone who knows the manufacturer's and carrier's codes. Any competent independent phone dealer, either here or in the US can unlock it. If you buy a phone from an independent dealer, you can tell him you'll buy it only on the condition that he unlock it. Otherwise, dealers in New York City charge USD 30-50 to unlock phones for walk-in customers. (Here, I paid a dealer 100 pesos to unlock a phone a couple years ago.)

hepdoll said:
1)2) What are the benefits of bringing an unlocked phone versus just buying a cheap regular (locked) phone from Movistar when I get there?
Your most likely issue buying a phone here is that the company will require a DNI to open an account for you. If you are not planning to take residency here and don't have a DNI, you'll need to get someone with legal residence to buy it for you. Or bring an unlocked phone with you and just buy a SIM "prepago," which you refill with cards from any kiosko, or via ATMs, or online systems.

Other advantages of bringing a phone may be price. Or possibly more advanced technology, although it sounds like you're not looking for anything special. Check www.movistar.com.ar for current prices for contract phones.
 

hepdoll

Registered
Thanks for the tips so far! Keep them coming. :) Especially suggestions for specific phone models that you've been happy with.

And, I'll just add that if I buy a regular locked phone in Buenos Aires, it will be a pay-as-you-go phone for jimdepalermo's reasons and because I don't want a 2-yr contract. (I'm sorry if I wasn't clear before!)
 

JHB1216

Registered
hepdoll said:
Thanks for the tips so far! Keep them coming. :) Especially suggestions for specific phone models that you've been happy with.

And, I'll just add that if I buy a regular locked phone in Buenos Aires, it will be a pay-as-you-go phone for jimdepalermo's reasons and because I don't want a 2-yr contract. (I'm sorry if I wasn't clear before!)
You can have a cell phone service very cheaply here without a contract. If you bring a phone that is unlocked it will cost you as little as 10 dollars to have a pay as you go plan. It is a two step process once you have the unlocked phone.

1) buy a chip for 6-10 pesos for one of the carriers (movistar, claro, personal) and put the chip in your phone.

2) buy minutes at a kiosco in the form of a card or virtual (they will do it with a machine). Usually a 20 peso card will suffice for awhile depending on your use.

That is all you need. I prefer to buy my phones in the states unlocked and used because they are cheaper. The motorola models are very reliable but not so nice that someone will single you out to steal your phone. It is nice to have 2 or 3 in case you have family or friends visit or you lose your phone.

Unlocking a phone here can be a hassle if you dont speak the language and some places want you to leave the phone overnight. My wife paid 40 pesos to unlock her Motorola Razr and I was quoted the same price yesterday for my spare phone.
 

CoachGayle

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I ditto the suggestion to have a second phone to lend family and friends. I found it took over 24 hours to get one set up for my daughter's visit. . . afterwards I just kept it here for the next visitor. . . very handy.
 

hepdoll

Registered
Thanks again for all the tips, everyone. Unfortunately I was too slow off the mark and did not have time to get a phone before I left - too long for shipping from Ebay, etc. Big bummer.

But I´m here in BA now! And looking for a cheap pay as you go phone has been harder than I expected. I´d seen on this board that those phones can cost around 100 pesos, but the ones I´ve seen here so far are around 200. (the cheapest, with Claro, is 160.) I´ve only looked in a few different shops on Santa Fe near Colonel Diaz, on the street right near the Alto Palermo mall. Is there somewhere else I can go in the city where the phones will be cheaper?
 
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