Choosing A Phone/smartphone & Safety/theft


Jun 18, 2013
I'll be arriving in Buenos Aires in a few weeks and will be staying for a few months, trying to figure out what to do re: cell phone. I don't have a GSM phone at home so I'll have to buy an unlocked one either before I leave the US or down there... I gather the cost and options are better just buying something on Amazon beforehand?

And then I'm leaning towards getting a low-end smartphone, nothing big or flashy but something that can run apps and access e-mail/internet (don't know if being low-end vs high-end is much protection but at least if it's small would that make it less appealing?) But then I was wondering whether it would make more sense to get some cheap flip phone if it would be less of a target for theft and I could feel more comfortable using it on the street, on public transit, to snap pictures, etc, and maybe get a small tablet for the other uses that I only use in safe places.

So I guess my question is, is it just a bad idea/will it make me a target to show any phone visibly in public, even a cheap crappy flip phone? How much safer do you think it would be to have and publicly use a non-smartphone compared to a low-end old smartphone compared to the higher end stuff that everyone says "Don't flash your iPhone or you're asking to be robbed"?

(Also, is there any real benefit to having a phone that can run maps? I have a really terrible sense of direction and rely on Google Maps all the time at home, but if staring at maps on my phone would make me a huge target anyway-- and/or there's no good mapping apps to use that will work well in Buenos Aires- then nevermind.)
It is great that you are thinking ahead about this. I have an iPhone 4 and a few cheap cell phones as back up, just make sure that they are unlocked. I know that there has been a lot of advice over the years about security of high end smart phones but it is a little exaggerated. Half the city is spending the day with there faces in there smart phones, mostly Blackberries and Samsung models.

It is more about being aware of where you are using your phone. So my advice is to bring both and a smart phone with gps is a great idea. I still get lost in certain parts of Microcenter (Diagonal Norte :() The Waze app has proven to be more helpful to me than Google Maps. But you are going to want to also purchase a 10 peso Guia-T. The Guia-T serves as a map as well a a guide to the extensive bus routes throughout the city. It is cheap and small so you can mark it up as well as use it anywhere without fear that someone will try to steal it.
I am hooked on Waze. Also be aware that the phone service here is quite slow...I have the iphone 4S and it takes forever to load during peak hours.

Most folks here have a BB so an iphone always gets some attention. A word of caution/help;A friend who works with street children told me that his kids told him they would not botheer someone who holds the phone on the LEFT had (if you are right handed).
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I've had an iphone here (various models) for the last almost 4 years. I've lived in nice areas and I've lived in not so nice areas and I've never had it stolen (knock on wood). Just exercise common sense when using it. The truth is you see a lot of iphones / galaxies etc on buses and subways these days, so its not the huge target some reports make it out to be.

If you're really nervous, get a blackberry, they are very common.
Sorry not to respond quicker, thanks so much for the input and advice!

So given your reassurance (and the research I've been doing on phone quality) I am toying with the idea of splurging a little and going for a Nexus 4-- do you think that would make much difference versus blending in and going with a Blackberry, or something else less flashy? (Does size matter/do the bigger 4"+ phones stick out?) Or is it really just much more about when and where you use the phone than what kind?

(Also, I'm pretty non-tech-savvy... does anyone happen to know how much it matters how "good" my phone is in Buenos Aires/what I should care about? If data's really slow, does that mean it doesn't matter how fast my phone is, or does that mean that if I have a crappy phone it'll be extra-unusably slow? How fast/slow does wi-fi service tend to be and is it tolerable to use "the cloud" to upload photos, etc, or do I need to make sure I have all the internal storage I'll need? And am I actually going to be using it much for taking pictures, or is it silly to worry much about the quality of the camera because taking pictures will frequently fall outside the "use common sense" boundary of when to use the phone?)

Thanks so much!