Buy and Use a World Phone (And Enter to Win One)

It is now so easy to have a phone with you that works in almost every country on earth.  The excellent prepaid with data wiki is a good resource for finding the right SIM card for the country you’re visiting (special thanks to Jonk at Wanderlusty who is the prepaid SIM and international roaming guru.) The benefits to using a prepaid phone are that you have a local number, and you pay much less than you would if you used international roaming as part of your current provider’s plan.  Literally the difference between 2 cents a minute and 79 cents per minute–a prepaid local SIM is the #1 way to save money on your phone calls while overseas.

Simply bring an unlocked phone with you, and when you land buy a prepaid SIM card. Pop the SIM in your phone and you’re ready to go.  I’ll share some more tips to stay connected tomorrow, but for now I want to outline the phone I prefer to use while I’m overseas.

My daily phone is an unlocked Android phone which works on both CDMA and GSM networks–which covers almost all of the world.  I do bring this with my when I travel. However I also travel with an unlocked GSM phone so light, so good on battery power, no smart phone can come close to the usefulness of it. Allow me to introduce what I believe is the ultimate World Phone (cue 2001: A Space Odyssey title theme):

A157v open
With all the glitz and glamour of a 2001 flip phone the Samsung A157V features, one color screen, 18 rubberized keys, and no camera.

That’s right, when I’m away from home I rock a Samsung A157V, a phone so feature-less almost no one here in the US still uses one.  I’ll outline why I use this phone when I travel, and I’ll also talk about how to get one for cheap.  Today I’ll be giving away a fully unlocked world phone ready Samsung A157V phone to one lucky reader. 

This is by no means the only quad band world phone out there.  Any cheap pre-paid phone which supports all four GSM frequencies (850, 900, 1800, 1900) and can be unlocked cheap/easy is a good candidate for your GSM World Phone.

Ugly, and Proud of It

This phone is so ugly it gets beat up by the cooler phones out there. But the fact that it is so ugly, and so utilitarian is both its best quality, and its worst quality at the same time.

Just look at the outside face of the phone:

A157v Closed
A Face only a mother could love

If a Star Trek communicator and Norelco Razor had a child, this would be it.  No it won’t win you any awards–and it won’t give you turn by turn directions–but it is dirt cheap, and today it can be yours for the low, low price of FREE.  Before I get to the giveaway I’d like to outline why I take this phone with me on trips:

Why I Prefer Dumbphones to Smartphones

I’ve traveled with both smartphones and dumbphones, and I really do prefer dumbphones for a few reasons:

1. Battery Life. Charge this Samsung A157V before you leave for your trip and you can probably come home without charging it again.  When you’re out all day and taking trains and buses a phone that needs to be charged daily isn’t really going to work the best for you.  This phone will last on standby for 10+ days. 

2. Coverage. Smartphones have generally had worse coverage for me than dumbphones.  Sure when you have full bars on each it doesn’t matter–but there are places where having 1 bar vs. 0 bars makes a big difference. This phone will work places a smartphone won’t.

3. Almost disposable.  This phone (should you win it today) is free.  If you didn’t win it you can buy it for about $15. It goes on sale at Best Buy from time to time, I’ve seen it as low as $7.99. When I have a bad vibe about walking around with a $500 smartphone I leave the smartphone home and take this instead.  Unfortunately when you buy this phone it is locked to the AT&T network only. (See unlocking info)

4. No camera. Some places will not allow you in with a camera, and this phone does not have one.  No camera is usually a negative, but I really do think it is a feature here, especially since the camera on a phone like this would be awful anyway.

Unlocking this phone: After you buy the phone, If you’re a current or former AT&T Customer you can then go to this page and ask for an unlock code for the phone. Once you’ve unlocked it you have a world phone you spent about $15 on.   There are unlocking guides out there for this phone which say it can be unlocked with a universal code, this is not true. Using this method  to unlock the A157 removes the IMEI number, replacing it with all zeroes, and blacklisting it from some countries/carriers.

Note:You are allowed 5 device unlocks per year with AT&T. Since October they’ve really cracked down on backdoor unlocking services. Because of this you can make $100 or more off of an unlock code for the right smartphone. You’ll be using one of these 5 free unlock codes, so keep that in mind.

Blog Giveaway: Unlocked Samsung A157V Quad Band World Phone

Now that you’ve sat through all that I’ll get to the good stuff: I’m giving away a Samsung A157V quad-band GSM phone today.  I bought and professionally and legally (thanks AT&T) unlocked the phone for use on any network which supports the following GSM network frequencies:

850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900 MHz

Look up the countries you’ll be visiting on this list, as you can see almost every country in the world supports one or more of these 4 bands (Japan and Korea are the two biggest exceptions).

With this phone you can: Text, call, and check email/mobile sites (WAP Browser).

To win this phone: Leave a comment with a tip for using a phone overseas, or a story about how having a phone that worked overseas helped you. In the event that you have neither a good story, or a tip just leave a comment saying anything about this phone (love it or hate it).

While this phone works around the world I’m going to have to limit the winner to the United States because of shipping.  Enter no more than once per day, and I’ll announce the winner on Saturday. Good luck to all.

Everything below this line is automatically inserted into this post and is not necessarily endorsed by Milenomics:

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.


  1. I’ll be honest: I don’t use my phone abroad (but I’m a leisure traveler with the option to remain out of reach). I use Skype or email to communicate when needed, whether calling home to check in or making travel arrangements and reservations. Disconnecting is a part of travel that I really enjoy and I know that’s not for everybody.

  2. I’m all for dumbphones too; I used one exclusively until an accident involving a puddle killed mine last year. I bought an iPhone 4S, but still have a dumbphone as backup.

    For international travel, a dumbphone is a much better way to go. “Apple picking” is rampant worldwide; I keep my 4S buried deep in an inside coat pocket. I use my Kindle Fire DX for internet connections in cafes; no one has ever shown any interest in grabbing that from me. I rarely make phone calls when traveling abroad; email has been my communications workhorse.

  3. I don’t have a great story about usefulness, because I’ve never used an unlocked phone overseas. But I do know one would have been mighty useful when I was in Romania with no money, my PIN not working on my card, and no banks open. Would’ve been nice to be able to call someone. Plus, I have always been a flip phone fan. I never had a bar phone, always a flip.

  4. I had my IPhone 5 on vacation in Peru last summer, charging over night in the Sacred Valley (next day onto Machu Picchu). At 1am local time a message ping came over. My son sent a picture of his girl friend with a ring on it. Not sure what I was seeing I finally called using the phone & asked are they engaged. After saying that they were I woke up my wife with the good news! Now we later find out the wedding will be in Guatemala. So having an unlocked phone will be handy as the wedding is in 2 months.

  5. I kept my old RAZR phone and had it unlocked for travel. The only country where I’ve had trouble buying a prepaid SIM is in India. Apparently people use disposable phones for ransom/kidnapping type activities. Luckily we have family with extra cards who let us borrow.

  6. My ony tip comes from experience using a iPhone 4S in Italy and Denmark for a total of about 3 minutes of maps which AT&T billed for 300 and change in data roaming. I clearly need a different plan

  7. We really lucked out finding the OneSimCard for trips to Asia and Australia. Now we even carry them in our US cars as backup phones for emergencies. Thanks for offering this contest. I love the old ugly phones!!

  8. I have a phone that looks just like that only it has a camera. I wonder if it can be unlocked and used like this one. A few years ago we bought a phone in Ireland and did use it to keep in contact with our friends in the UK. Headed to SE Asia next month. Don’t think the Irish phone would save us any money. Could use the dumb phone to help us out in BKK especially with all the turmoil now.

  9. My friend loaned me a phone like this once when I was in traveling in Asia. Picking up a SIM was pretty easy and topping up the SIM card was easy too. Having the phone made all the difference during the trip. Made booking hotels, train tickets, etc much more convenient. Gave us peace of mind too!

  10. i want ittt 🙂 travelling with wifey who shops a lot u can wonder around and just call each other where to meet. u get your ‘me’ time and she empties your wallet. win win !

  11. I am traveling tomorrow and wish I had this phone. I really need to be able to call cabs in Singapore. Too bad it will be too late

  12. Having a phone when traveling is critical for us as we work remotely and folks often need to get in touch with us. This phone looks terrific!

  13. A phone my Grammy would be proud to wear 🙂

    I love mifis when I travel. That pretty much kills the need for dinosaur phones like this. You only turn your smartphone’s wifi/cellular on when you need to use the net, thus your battery can last for days.

  14. Best tip I have is if you are a Vz subscriber, call them before going to Mexico or Canada for a week and they can temporarily change your plan. It ended up costing me $4 for a couple hundred minutes in both Playa Del Carmen and Montreal. You can tell them when to switch it back so it only takes one call.

  15. I would love to win this phone and if I don’t, I’ll have to buy one!

    It is even uglier than the old Samsung I kept specifically for traveling. Sadly it has finally gone on the fritz, six or seven years after I first got it. I was hoping to find another old one at a garage sale or perhaps by asking my Facebook friends if anyone had an old quad-band phone in a drawer.

    I didn’t realize you could still buy such a stripped down model. Thanks for the info and the contest!

  16. I generally use Skype, but it’s not portable. Thanks for the info in this article…is there a cheap way to become a qualifying AT &T customer?

  17. Great timing on this article. I leave for Australia and New Zealand in a month and just started doing research on what phone to bring, where to get it, etc. As a non-techie I need all the help I can get!

  18. This phone seems very similar to my Virgin mobile USA phone, although mine does have a camera. With limited use, the battery literally lasts weeks! 🙂

    I don’t think I can unlock my phone, though, so I would like to win this one!

  19. Everytime I travel, I always use googlemaps to help me navigate around the city. Having a phone with data access and gps locator is important to be able to get around.

  20. Cheap is good; ugly is good

    I usually buy a throw away phone n Europe, as it is cheaper than the highway robbery rates charged by the big guys for overseas plans and roaming!

  21. Having cheap and available data, along with cheap calling, when using AirBnB overseas is key. In Eastern Europe, hotels are not a good value and you can often get a better room and experience on AirBnB application, even booking last minute. However, that takes a smart phone or booking online first. It sounds like this phone might work for the latter.

  22. The other option is to just buy the 15 dollar local cellphone. I still want the free one! Also MOTO G is 169 for an unlocked smartphone… pretty tempting…

  23. I NEED a phone just like that. Going to Europe in Sept and didn’t know what I was going to do for a phone. Win or not that’s what I’ll be using.

  24. I’m new to overseas travel, so I didn’t have a way to talk to the love of my life for two weeks. on a trip to Europe I’d like to avoid that problem for the future.

  25. My tip to avoid extreme US cell phone charges abroad with a smartphone – always switch to airplane mode before leaving the US airport. You can then turn on WiFi and use Google Voice with any number of apps (GrooveIP and Talkatone come to mind) to make free calls. The only problem I found in Europe, at least, was that free WiFi was not nearly as prevalent as in the States. Would love to win the phone to avoid that issue. Thanks for offering.

  26. I always carry my iphone too, in airplane mode just like Joe-SC1. But it is either left at the hotel/flat or tucked deep into my purse/backpack, for occasional use should I find myself in a place with free wifi. The dumb phone allows me to make the occasional call to a friend or relative and really facilitated my husband’s ability to set up research interviews with locals, some of which he even conducted by phone.

    With an ipad, an iphone and a dumb phone, I can leave home my laptop even when I am traveling abroad for a month. I just wish they could all use the same charger!

    Please consider this my official entry for Wednesday!

  27. I left a comment on the making-free-calls-overseas-and-tips page. I always carry my phone (on wifi). You can usually find wifi at some point during the day. With Google Voice and Groove Ip lite you take and make calls for free on wifi

  28. I have never had a phone to use I could use internationally – my personal phone is incompatible and my carrier’s plans are also expensive. Since I haven’t been traveling abroad in the past few years, it hasn’t been an issue. But I will be now going overseas in April and need to be in touch with my mom who was widowed last summer, who turns 94 on Sunday, and who lives alone with no close relatives in her area. Have been thinking about getting a phone I can use overseas but winning this would greatly simplify that process.

  29. I agree with leaving phone in airplane mode. In addition, I have been told by Verizon that if I receive a will be charged as minutes used. We always turn off voicemail before we leave the States. I have used Viber to communicate back home. The other party has to have it installed as well. You can test it out before you leave.
    Thanks for the post and for the contest!

  30. May be too late for the free phone; just know that in India, you are required to provide a lot of identification even to buy a prepaid SIM.

  31. I left a comment on Wanderlusty when I read his post on SIMs in Israel, but will mention it here too as my entry for Thursday.

    In Israel, the Orange company lets you keep the phone number connected to the SIM card for a year or more, assuming there is a balance on the account. We have used the same two numbers since 2007 for our occasional trips there. We always leave a few shekels (Israeli currency) on the account.

    Then, on arriving back, we just reload the phone with more minutes by buying a new SIM reload card. The guys (yes, they are almost always men) at the cell phone stores will be happy to load the phone after you buy the card, and make sure it “talks” to you in English. They’ll verify the load went through properly too.

    We also lend our SIM cards to family/friends who will be in Israel. They know the drill and it is a win/win – they don’t need to buy a SIM starter kit which is more expensive than a simple reload, they know the number ahead of time, and their use of the number extends its life for us. While I never really kept track, I do think that we have had more an a year go by between uses, and the numbers seem just fine.

    So, when you buy a SIM card in a foreign country, ask how long it can go fallow without any calls. You may find you can save it for the next visit or loan it to someone heading to that country soon.

    And for goodness sake, keep track of the SIM card you may have removed from your phone to put the other one in!

  32. A second tip, in response to Cheryl and voicemail – you can set up Google Voice to handle all of your incoming voicemail duties – both your Verizon number and GV number. I think I used a “dial *…” code to enable GV voicemail, but you can also set it up on In the case when your phone is in airplane mode, the cellular dialer is disabled, so anyone calling your Verizon number gets long rings until it goes to voicemail. So with GV handling all voicemail duties, and connecting only via wifi, I don’t think any cellular minutes are used. (Even if they are, they should be US based minutes to the Google servers, not international minutes.) I’ve only used the GrooveIP Lite and Google Voice (handling all voicemail) overseas once last year, but I don’t recall any international minutes on the monthly bill.

  33. Don’t have any tips to offer, but I’m learning a few things here. Since I have Sprint for my cell service, and since I do not have, nor do I want, an iPhone, using my current phone overseas is not an option. I just got a tablet for wifi and I could set up Skype, but I would love an unlocked basic phone just to check up on my mom and make those occasional calls for reservations. This phone would be a great help for me!

  34. My unlocked iPhone was great for keeping in-touch with family on a deployment a few years ago…skype was iffy at best (horrid connectivity), but I could receive forwarded calls on my cell for only about $.13/min with a local sim & a forwarding service, a bargain as far as I was concerned!

  35. I’ve been renting a phone whenever we go to Japan. It can get pricy, but it’s been worth it to be able to coordinate with friends and locals. I remember once when we had a miscommunication about where to meet and ended up on opposite sides of a very large and very crowded train station. We never would have found each other if we hadn’t had the phone!

    By the way, I personally love flip phones and hate the ‘bar’-style phones of today. As phones, they’re uncomfortable to use and ugly. The only reason I have one is because they don’t really make full-featured flip smartphones. But for an actual phone, give me a sleek “Star Trek communicator” style phone any day!

  36. Friday’s comment – still hoping for a phone to connect with Mom when we are overseas in April, but meanwhile we celebrate her 94th on Sunday!

  37. Friday’s entry & at least one more phone tip: I’ve heard and read that you can use your Magicjack or Ooma device overseas as well. So if you have your laptop with you with free wifi (cafe or hotel perhaps), your Magicjack and single line handheld phone should work. Same with the Ooma and a wired internet connection in your hotel. Obviously not for on-the-go mobile, but could be useful for “home-base” operations. If you have those devices anyway, you shouldn’t be charged anything additional for calling US numbers. Local calls, though, probably incur long distance charges.

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