Using Skype on cell phones

This item appears on page 50 of the May 2010 issue.

orldI read Ed Graper’s letter “World Cell Phone” (March ’10, pg. 48) and have a few comments.

I currently use an iPhone with AT&T service and my wife, Linda, has a Blackberry (model 9630) with Verizon as her US carrier. Both our cell phones are GSM enabled. Verizon does have at least one model (the 9630) of a Blackberry “world phone” which has a SIM card that can now use the four GSM frequencies commonly used wordwide plus Japan’s. Otherwise, Mr. Graper’s advice is spot on.

When traveling, we each take our own cell phone, and I usually throw in a cheap GSM phone in case I wish to buy a local SIM card. I also have a cell phone I bought from Mobal Communications (UK-based, with an office in New York, NY; 888/888-9162) some years ago with a SIM card that has several hours of unexpired calling time. It’s handy to have.

By the way, another interesting way around some of the high costs associated with overseas cell phone usage is using free WiFi Internet access. I can make phone calls over the Internet using my laptop/netbook and the Skype software and service (“Unlimited World” subscription is $12.95 per month).

Skype calls to other Skype users’ computers are free. Skype calls to phones cost about two cents per minute, although some rates are higher and calls to mobile phones tend to be quite high. (For example, a Skype call to a land line in Germany is 2.1¢ per minute while calls to a mobile phone are 24.6¢.)

During the past few years, we’ve used Skype to contact family in the US, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Australia and France. (The vast majority of the time when using Skype, we use the video function of my computer’s built-in “web cam” so we can see and be seen by the person on the other end.)

Today, domestic long-distance fees are so cheap with our cell phone providers that we use cell phones for all US calls, but we tend to use Skype for overseas.

I recall being aboard the Insignia on a Mediterranean cruise in 2005 and standing on the pool deck with a laptop (with microphone), using the ship’s WiFi and Skype to connect with the satellite uplink in order to talk to a hotel in Germany to change reservations.

Heading from Budapest to Amsterdam aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Spirit, Oct. 25-Nov. 8, 2009, we used it a lot but learned quickly not to do so while the ship was moving, as it lost the satellite connection each time our ship went under a bridge.


Marietta, GA