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Have world Android smartphone, will travel!!

Updated on May 19, 2015

Since my last article - "Have World phone, will travel!" - on how to travel the world with your mobile phone - more specifically your GSM phone, I've got a major update. And about time too, right!!

As we all know technology never stands still - for better or worse. The popularity of smart phones and the un-ending push of new products from all the phone and tablet manufacturers at least on the Android OS side of the coin have basically meant that over half of all mobile phone users are using a smartphone - well in the US at least.

So this time around - "Have world smartphone, will travel!" Most of the information and suggestions from my previous article is still valid.

Since that article though, I have had the opportunity to use a range of Android OS devices from v2.3 Gingerbread to the latest v4.4.4 KitKat on over 30 smart phones and 10 different tablets from different manufacturers. Excuse the Geek speak …

Globally Android has taken the lead as the smartphone for the masses with over 60% of smartphones being Android powered. In the US the story is a little different with iPhone still holding over 50% of the smartphone marketshare. To each OS, there are pluses and minuses so it's now not just about the OS.

Phone manufacturers are coming out with better hardware and more features, in order to deliver ever better smartphones they all take the generic version of the Android OS and add their own flavor - as one well known ex-CEO pointed out.

Not beating around the bush, here are some pros and cons of how things are between the customized and generic Android OS devices:

Android OS smartphone from Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Sony Mobile, Pantech, LG…etc. etc.


- You get the latest and greatest smartphone right now.

- Manufacturer or carrier may have customized the smartphone with unique features you want/need e.g. 3D camera, 8MP camera, or NFC etc.

- In most cases now the Android OS version is the latest and the delays of the past of several months before getting the latest version is basically over.

- With the latest Android OS via the carrier or Google extremely quickly, you are able to access the latest HW features and updates almost instantly. Almost like what iOS did a couple of years back ;-)


- Hardly no "Cons" really now - mid-2014!! Just that as the Android universe of devices is so great make sure the features you want to use with your smartphone is supported by yo new Android phone. e.g. BT LE support is not all the same - even in this time. On iOS it was standardized at the time of the iPhone 4S launch and kept standard since.

Still my favorite Android devices are ones directly from Google. On their Google Play site you look under Devices and you will see available unlocked devices with the latest generic Android OS.


- Latest version of the generic Android OS.

- Updates to the Android OS are pushed to this device by Google in a matter of days after the update announcement e.g. I got KitKat pushed to the phone 1 week after Google announced the update.

- BIG selection of OEMs now offer some very tasty devices on this site!!


- Not really any - unless you want to use some OEM proprietary gadget that works with their particular version of the latest device.

Everything I previously said about power consumption still holds, especially now. Smartphones are usually power hogs as they have the large display and that's where the power is mostly used up. Power saving modes on newer smartphones are good so start using that straight away.

For folks with a AT&T/T-Mobile i.e. GSM smartphone: (UPDATE: T-Mobile is now totally unlocked and have no subscriptions so the "Un-Carrier" has some advantages BUT calculated/do you sums between carriers/operators before diving in!!)

1. Check with your carrier if they can "unlock" your smartphone before you leave the country so you can use a local GSM SIM card when you get to your destination.

2. REMINDER: Check what GSM frequencies are available at the country of your destination and that your smartphone supports that "band."

3. If your GSM smartphone does not support that band - consider getting one that does from unlocked as per my previous article. My recommendation would be the Google Nexus (any model) GSM Unlocked - a real Swiss Army knife of a GSM smartphone.

For folks with a CDMA smartphone i.e. Verizon or Sprint subscribers and those now implementing the HIGH SPEED 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) read on…

4G LTE smartphones are all global phones, in a way similar to the GSM infrastructure with a couple of caveats - like the GSM story I explained earlier. 4G LTE provide ultra-fast download and upload speeds and in the US Verizon is lighting the path to cover the whole country! Yes, AT&T is also selling their 4G Network - but not all 4G are created equal > use Google/Wiki to find out the difference between AT&T/T-Mobile 4G and Verizon's 4G LTE and while you're there check out the global frequencies used. Long story short, 4G LTE is being rolled out across the globe and here are the caveats:

1. The phones will be SIM based, like GSM BUT different due to different technologies used!

2. Most US carriers will be launching new 4G LTE phones that will either be "Global-abled" immediately or with a firmware update,

3. VERY IMPT - AS WITH GSM - check the frequencies that the 4G LTE infrastructure will be on where you intend to go. You need to match the frequencies that your device is using to that being offered in your destination country. Verizon is running on the 700Mhz spectrum whereas most of the European operators are implementing their 4G LTE on the 800MHz/1800Mhz spectrum. Meh...

So check out the latest smartphones out there! I see the smartphone as a new screen to all the information I need and want access to and that actually compliments my tablet and laptop. It's a little unfair to say it's a smartphone - at least for me I do very little "phone" calling with it as most of my calls are via Skype, GTalk, Google Voice and on whatever device I have at hand.

Ok, so there you are. Easy right!! I'm guessing you may have info overload if you stuck to the end of the article ;-)

One more thing, some of the smartphone comes with fixed memory storage, i.e. you don't have a microSD slot to expand your memory capacity. If the smartphone has a microSD slot you're set. If you are choosing a smartphone that does not have the microSD slot DO NOT go with the smallest memory option! You will run out of memory space very quickly as you use this new smartphone with all the added features. Second advantage of having more memory is that when, and yes it's a when, you sell this smartphone it will sell for more and sell faster than the smartphone with the minimum memory storage.

And more more last thing! If you do use your smartphone 24/7 consider a battery backup charger that is small enough to carry around with you as well as larger enough e.g. 4000mAh capacity that can charge your phone 2 x at least before you are completely out of power. I currently use a Verizon Droid Maxx which has a 3500mAh built in battery and as of yesterday runs Anroid OS 4.4.4 KitKat. Not the tops in camera or screen resolution or screen size but great for my "work" use and the battery is phenomenal and last 1.5 days easy!! So battery and battery backup is another consideration.

I would love to hear from anyone who have comments, questions or want to share their experience. I'm planning an article to tell what I have found to work best when I travel for me and it involves using a combination of different options mentioned in my write-ups. Hey, got to keep something left for another article.


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