Phones for holiday in America

Mr Grimsdale

Active Member
Hello folks,
I'm hoping you can help me with some advice please on what we can do for phones in the US.
Currently the four of us have iPhones of various ages on EE/Orange tariffs. I use mine as a sat nav with TomTom, which I like.
When we go to America for our extended road trip, I'm expecting that we can't use our phones because the foreign call, text and data roaming charges will be ridiculous, right?
But am I right in thinking that I can still use my iPhone as a sat nav because it doesn't cost anything to receive GPS?
Will it be cheaper just to go to a phone shop when we get there and buy four phones with enough credit to last us the duration of the holiday?
Thank in advance.
 

rousetafarian

Moderator
Hi,

If only you were all on '3' instead of EE/Orange. I take full advantage of totally free unlimited 3g/4g data, texts and calls back to the UK when in the States as part of my contract.

Saying that instead of swapping providers, you can stick with EE and use the GPS function for SATNAV as long as you download your route, plans beforehand from hotel wireless, Starbucks or wherever and then switch off your roaming, data etc to avoid any charges.

Just an idea!
 

BT Bob

Distinguished Member
I think rousetafarian has covered much of it.

One other thing you might want to think about, if you have a BT landline at home - get the BT SmartTalk app and link it to your landline number. It will allow you to make voice calls over wifi and they get billed according to your domestic tariff (so 0800 calls are free, geographic number will be charged as per your bundle, etc). I used it extensively in Hong Kong & Australia last year and it was excellent.
 

hyperfish

Distinguished Member
Depends on the phone. It it has a GPS chip then a data connection is not required, therefore no costs. Some of the iPhones (not sure which) don't have the chip and use cell triangulation which will cost.
Although I use android, I use my phone and tablet for navigation every year.
 

Mr Grimsdale

Active Member
Thanks for the replies. It's an iPhone 5 and I plan to use something like this . We do have BT, so I will install that app. And these days most hotels seem to have free WiFi in the rooms, though the kids will insist we get it anyway so they can do their iPads and stuff.
I would still like the four of us to have phones, so I guess we'll be buying $30 dollar phones when we get there.
Interesting about 3. EE reception here is terrible, so when the contract is up at Xmas, maybe we'll switch.
 

BT Bob

Distinguished Member
I would still like the four of us to have phones, so I guess we'll be buying $30 dollar phones when we get there.
Head for a Walmart or Target - you'll get a "disposable" phone (or 4) for around that money, probably including $10 worth of credit.
You can always leave one of your UK mobiles "online" in case anyone needs to get you from the UK in an emergency.
Don't forget to disable any Voicemail services as you'll be charged per minute for messages left, then again to listen to them.....
 

LV426

Administrator
Staff member
I was looking at an iPhone recently and I, too, use my existing phone (a Nokia) as a GPS and I wish to retain that option.

You need three things for a phone (or other device) to work as a navigation tool
- the gps location signal from satellites. That's free and requires no network at all
- detailed maps of the area you are in
- AND (importantly) turn-by-turn directions, including the recorded voices

The thing is - as far as I could work out (and I may well be wrong)
- whilst the native iPhone will clearly receive gps location data,
- and will cache maps (so does not need a live connection on-route),
- it will not do the actual directions off-line. It will tell you where you are, but not how to get where you are going.

To get the latter, it appears you have to install a third party app, and from what I can see, there is always an associated cost - whether it's the app itself, or the individual maps (because these all use their own proprietary maps), or both.

So, I'd also be interested: is there an app for iOS that is free or very inexpensive, including its maps - or am I wholly wrong and the native map app DOES in fact calculate a route and give directions?

In terms of staying on-line (whether for call, text or data) then I think the "three" "feel at home" deal is damned hard to beat at the moment and, before my next US trip, I suspect I may well be switching networks.
 

rousetafarian

Moderator
I was looking at an iPhone recently and I, too, use my existing phone (a Nokia) as a GPS and I wish to retain that option.

You need three things for a phone (or other device) to work as a navigation tool
- the gps location signal from satellites. That's free and requires no network at all
- detailed maps of the area you are in
- AND (importantly) turn-by-turn directions, including the recorded voices

The thing is - as far as I could work out (and I may well be wrong)
- whilst the native iPhone will clearly receive gps location data,
- and will cache maps (so does not need a live connection on-route),
- it will not do the actual directions off-line. It will tell you where you are, but not how to get where you are going.

To get the latter, it appears you have to install a third party app, and from what I can see, there is always an associated cost - whether it's the app itself, or the individual maps (because these all use their own proprietary maps), or both.

So, I'd also be interested: is there an app for iOS that is free or very inexpensive, including its maps - or am I wholly wrong and the native map app DOES in fact calculate a route and give directions?

In terms of staying on-line (whether for call, text or data) then I think the "three" "feel at home" deal is damned hard to beat at the moment and, before my next US trip, I suspect I may well be switching networks.
Morning, I haven't got time just now to validate my recommendation, but would 'Waze' meet your requirements?

I've used it in the UK and overseas, just ensure you have an unlimited data plan.
 
Last edited:

bumper31

Active Member
For my last USA holiday I followed advice on MSE to get a £15 3 PAYG SIM, this includes £15 credit and can be used as described above......Data, Calls and txt as you are in the UK.

Best laid plans though as EE didn't send me my unlock code in time......so my mate just used his......it was very handy

I will consider moving to 3 at the end of my contract.....

As an aside, I still use an old Nokia N8 for for offline maps and navigation
 

DPinBucks

Distinguished Member
Look at this thread:

Any navigation app that doesn't incur data roaming charges? | AVForums

See especially my posts #11 and #16.

I used the TomTom app, but apparently there are others which are cheaper. Basically, the app downloads all the maps beforehand (you'll need 1-2gb free), and doesn't download whilst in use.

GPS is free. Voice guidance is good. You'll need to turn off data roaming, but you can't use airplane mode on a iPhone because that shuts off GPS.

I understand that Google Maps now offers offline caching, but it has its limitations. I think it only works with Chrome.
 

Epicurus

Well-known Member
Hello folks,
I'm hoping you can help me with some advice please on what we can do for phones in the US.
Thank in advance.
If you think you might do more road trips in America why not buy a proper sat nav? I bought a Garmin with NA and EU maps on it 8 years ago and I take it every time I go over there and it's still going strong. Even worked in Maui. Then just use the free wifi they have all over the place in America to make Skype/viber calls and whatsapp messages or whatever it is people do these days.
 

rousetafarian

Moderator
Re '3' The best way to take advantage of this deal is buy a Three UK pay as you go sim. Top up £15 and buy the 300 min/3000 texts and unlimited data add on.

Then when you travel to any of those countries you can use the allowances there free of charge. If you're already a three mobile customer then you're already set.

SIM Only Deals - Pay As You Go Plans - Three
 

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