Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Getting a Mobile Phone

When moving to New York one of the first things that most people want to get organised is a mobile phone.  There are many different service providers and plans to choose from and it can become quite overwhelming. 

In England we have the 'Carphone Warehouse' which offers all of the current phones and plans from the majority of service providers.  However, in New York it is slightly different, there isn't a 'one stop mobile shop' here.  Each provider has it's own store and in order to view their plans and phones you either have to go into each shop separately or look online.  Certain phones are only available with certain providers and most contracts are a minimum of two years.  Also, in most cases the phone itself isn't included in the package and you will have to pay for it in addition to your monthly charges.

As the majority of new comers to the U.S.A won't have a credit history you may have to pay an additional fee in order to set up a contract.  This can be any amount up to about $500. 

However, there are a couple of stores, 'Best Buy' and 'Radio Shack', that do stock a selection of some of the service providers and phones available.  They don't have everything, but they are a good place to start if you have no idea what you are looking for.  I went into 'Radio Shack' and they were extremely helpful.  They helped me choose a phone, a plan and set everything up for me so that when I left the store I had a working mobile. 

So, after a long search I decided that I didn't want to part with a fortune just to have a mobile phone, so I opted for a 'Virgin Mobile' pay as you deal.  I got a pretty good phone for $100, nothing fancy but I can get email, facebook, etc, and I pay $25 a month for unlimited text, internet and 300 minutes of calls.  For $60 a month you can get unlimited calls, texts and internet.  Also, as there is no contract there are no extra fees to pay.

Virgin offer pretty good international rates, it costs 20cents to send a text to the UK and 20cents per minute to make a call.  Beware that when you receive international calls and texts you will also be charged these rates.  You can get cheaper international rates (more information to follow), but it's handy to have if you need it.  For more information you can visit

Good luck when shopping for your New York mobile phone and please feel free to contact me if you need more information on the subject!


  1. 5 Must Have iPhone Apps When Traveling To The United States

    Converter is a free app that addresses the inconsistency in the measuring system in the U.S. Despite the fact the U.S. does not officially use the metric system, many measurements are marked in both metrics and the United States customary system. This practice is wide spread but inconsistent. Converter is particularly useful in restaurants and green grocers (produce stores) where the metric system is almost never used. Converter can convert length, weight, speed, volume and temperature. An added feature is the ability to calculate the tip amount. It is easy to use and no internet connection is needed.

    Plus Tax - Sales Tax Calculator will help shoppers in the U.S. determine the net price or final price of an item. In the U.S., to the surprise of many tourists, an addition amount (sales tax) is added at the cash register. To further complicate matters, tax rates vary widely by state and city and range from less than 1% to as high as 13.7%. Plus Tax generates the sales tax by your location and adds it to the stated price on the price tags. The tax system is so complicated that no app can perfectly address the issue. Plus Tax gives the average tax for the state where you are located so it is not completely accurate but it does offer the options to enter the exact percentage of taxation if you know it. Any store you shop in should have this information or you can find it online in advance. Internet connection is required to determine location but is not required if the sales tax rate is known. The price of this app is $.99.

    Don't Eat That will help tourists navigate the maze that is the food labeling system in the U.S. It has a searchable database of ingredients which informs users of the potential risk of food ingredients, such as ingredients that have been banned in any country, are harmful to kids and pregnant women, have drug interactions or may cause cancer. The U.S. does not require food producers to label GM products. Don't Eat That addresses this issue by having a category for ingredients that may potentially contain GM. Don't Eat That does not have scanning abilities but considering that electronic ingredient lists are not regulated and have problems with accuracy, this may be an unintended benefit. This also allows the app to be used with no need to connect to the internet. The price of this app is $1.99.

    Skype is quite familiar to most travelers and many may already have it on their phone. In some remote areas of the U.S mobile coverage can be quite poor. This is particularly true if one plans on visiting the national parks. So it may be more prudent financially to rely on Skype's pay as you go credit and hotspots for communication than purchasing a calling plan that may or may not work when needed. The great advantage here is that Skype can turn your iphone into your own personal phone booth allowing you to reach people when you want while keeping interruptions from others to a minimum. Scheduling calls in advance could eliminate the need for pay as you go. However the pay as you go credit is so reasonable that it could well be worth the peace of mind. Skype can be downloaded for free.

    Wi-Fi Finder is a worthy companion to the Skype download. Although the U.S. lags in mobile coverage area it has an extensive Wi-Fi network. In the United States 40% of Wi-Fi access points are unlocked (free) while in Europe only 25% are unlocked. If one does not wish to purchase a data plan it is much easier to get connected to the internet in the U.S. than in Europe. You will have to plan your access but this is fairly easy to do. Wi-Fi Finder is free and works with or without a Wi-Fi connection. When using Wi-Fi Finder off line it is best to have searched the area where you are traveling in advance while connected. This will store your search results under recent, which you can easily access when off line. Wi-Fi Finder can be downloaded for free.

    Written by Michael Mikolasek

  2. is it true that in the US you can't buy a separate mini sim for an iphone4?
    I'm moving to the US for a 6 month internship & I've got a spare phone that I can use & get a contract, but I'd ideally like to use my iphone - of course!

    I've been loving following your blog as I'll be a NG in NY very soon!
    thanks for all the tips!!

  3. Hi Elisabeth! I am so glad that you are enjoying my blog and finding the information useful. You are going to have such a great time during your internship over here!

    With regard to you question, I recently purchased a sim card from 'truphone' on a British Airways flight. I put the sim in an old Blackberry and it works fine. You get a local number, so a US number is your case, and you can add another local number if you want to.

    It's good because you can get your sim card and new phone number before you get to the US and people will be able to contact you straight away. Have a look on their website, they explain it much better than me! It's

    If there is anything else I can help you with please let me know!

  4. thanks very much! will look into truphone :)