We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Buying cell phones in UK

Which London hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Toronto
Level Contributor
15 posts
Save Topic
Buying cell phones in UK

First of all, I truly appreciate all the threads in this forum; very useful especially for me as I'll be leaving in 10 days for UK!

I saw quite a few threads about buying cell phones (as supposed to bringing your own cell phone there and try to get it unlocked, get a SIM card, etc.). I noticed on different UK mobile carriers' websites that they're selling pay-as-you-go phones at very low prices... just one thought came to my mind - are cell phones in UK unlocked? Can cell phones from UK work in Canada (I'm from Toronto). Here in Toronto, buying a decent cell phone (without any contracts) can be pretty pricey (not mentioning ancient relative to other countries in terms of technology), so is it worth it to purchase a cell phone from UK and bring it to here for use?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

Nebraska
Level Contributor
5,940 posts
1 review
Save Reply
1. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

Hi Andre!

I have a Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go phone that I purchased on my last trip to London in Febr.06. I used it in Febr 07 again.

Saving me the hassle of ascertaining whether or not my own USA cellphone would work in the UK, we purchased a pay-as-you-go phone for 20 GBP that came pre-loaded with 5 poiunds of airtime. It had call-waiting, a phonebook and international minutes. It cost us far less to call home with that phone than it would have to call home with our own cellphone.

We have used it on subsequent trips too. The phone also had call waiting, a phonebook, voice mail and cheap international minutes.

I thought it was great and I can't wait to use it again soon!

London
Level Contributor
9,697 posts
61 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

Whilst Brit's understand what you mean when you say "cell phone", we call them "mobile phone".

Your Canadian phone is capable of operating in Europe - if - and only if - it operates on the GSM standard and has tri-band or quad-band capabilities.

The frequencies used are different between Europe and N America, which is why you need tri or quad band capability.

If you don't know what the capabilities of your existing phone, you can google the tech details for your model very quickly.

If you do decide to buy a phone in the UK, you will need to check whether it is locked/unlocked when you buy it. In general, if it is a very good price, it will probably be locked. This is because the good price is subsidised by one of the network operators, so they want to try and recoup some of that money by locking that phone to their network.

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
1,008 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

Someone may confirm or deny but my experience is phones bought from a general reseller ( EG. carphonewarehouse) are not locked to a service whereas phones sourced from a tied/branded shop (Orange, Vodaphone etc) will more than likely be locked to that service.

You should always be able to confirm this at point of purchase.

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
1,008 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

Only other thing is bear in mind recharging. You'll need a UK travel plug to make it work back home.

Chester, United...
Level Contributor
2,700 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

Even if it's locked, there are loads of places that will unlock it for you for a fee of about £5. If you walk down Tottenham Court Road you'll see lots of shops advertising this. Just walk in, it' only takes a few seconds for them to do it.

Networks in the USA and Canada generally use GSM1900 but the UK uses 900 and 1800 bands. So you need to make sure that the phone you buy is a "tri-band" or a "quad-band". Lots of them are but watch out as some of the cheaper ones will only be "dual band" and won't work in the USA and Canada.

Have fun.

Kansas
Level Contributor
38 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

I, too, am planning on purchasing a Virgin PAYG mobile when I get to London - will it work in Paris or just in Britain?

Chester, United...
Level Contributor
2,700 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

A UK phone will work in Europe - but it will cost more to make calls and you'll be charged for receiving calls too.

Indiana
Level Contributor
653 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

the phones purchased in the UK (the cheaper ones as pay as you go, etc.) do not work in the US (and it they did, it would all be international calls at that point) We purchased a couple for our chaperones for the band trip so they could keep in touch - nice 'souvenir' for them now. (of course, if they go BACK to the UK, the phone would work)

UK
Level Contributor
49,561 posts
92 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

Its extremely unlikely that a cheap PAYG mobile will be tri or quad band, so it wont work in N America. Also, chances are it will be locked, though you can usually get them unlocked either for free via web info or for less than £10 at a market stall/one of the many shops you'll see selling this service.

Chester, United...
Level Contributor
2,700 posts
Save Reply
10. Re: Buying cell phones in UK

andrewkmlam – just ignore joeintheuk. The cheapest may only be dual-band but there are cheap tri-bands out there as well. For example, Virgin Mobile are currently doing the tri-band Siemens AX72 for £29.99 including 15 minutes of call time. All the phones that are described as tri-band or quad-band will work fine on US and Canadian networks.