Mobile Cloud When I packed my bags for America to escape the summer heat of Abu Dhabi, I was sure to include both my U.S. procured iPhone 4 and my unlocked iPhone 5. At the time, I didn’t know which one I’d be able to use quickly and cost effectively during my holiday. What I did know for sure is that the wrong choice could have turned into an expensive mistake. Once I arrived, I did a little research to determine the best option. Here’s a primer for all of you international travelers grappling with a similar decision.

Option One. Purchase an inexpensive prepaid cellular phone and simply use it in addition to my iPhone. This option would require that I charge, carry and use two separate phones; the prepaid for voice and either iPhone for wifi enabled web services. Prepaid cell phones range in price from $10 USD (TracPhone Samsung S125G Prepaid Cellphone Bundle) to $849 USD (Apple iPhone 5, 64GB, Net10, No Contract in White). This option was clunky and not the most ideal. My preference was to rely on one device.

Option Two. SIM only service which requires the purchase of a Nano SIM card and prepaid plan for my unlocked iPhone 5. SIM cards are relatively easy to find. Major U.S. electronics retailers to include Walmart and Best Buy, sell an assortment of SIM and prepaid cellular service cards. However, Nano SIM cards (the only SIM appropriate for use in an iPhone 5) are not quite as accessible. It seems that Nano SIMs are only available from reputable telecommunications companies like T-Mobile and AT&T. Their stock may be limited in store but if you plan ahead, you can order online and ship to a U.S. address. The table below outlines the top SIM and prepaid service providers.

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T-Mobile Network

$30.00/mo

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  • SIM Card $10.
  • Nano SIM available for Apple iPhone 5.
  • Supports unlocked iPhone 5 only.
  • iPhone currently operates at 2G speeds on T-Mobile Network.
  • Best Plan: 1500 talk & text with 30 MB data for $30/month.

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AT&T Network

$60.00/mo

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  • SIM Card $24.99.
  • Nano SIM available for Apple iPhone 5.
  • Supports AT&T and unlocked iPhones.
  • iPhone 5 currently operates at 4G speeds on AT&T Network.
  • Best Plan: Unlimited talk & text with 2 GB data for $60/month.

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I chose option two, SIM service only, because I preferred using my iPhone 5 and it was the most seamless transition for the summer. The process in the store was quick. I was in and out within 20 minutes. The AT&T representative installed the new SIM, set up my phone for service and safely repackaged my Du SIM card.

I’ve been using using the new service for three weeks now and I am extremely happy. AT&T has a large, trusted network that is iPhone friendly. I haven’t experienced dropped calls or spotty service. Also, my phone is moving at lightning speed. I just love it when I use data and see that little 4G icon at the top.

Here’s a few more tips to help you transition without a hitch…

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  • Update your device with contact information for the people you’re vacationing with.
  • Purchase your SIM from an authorized dealer and not a third party.
  • Visit the telco company of your choice for the latest and most accurate information on their services.
  • Use data sparingly. Always access web services via wifi when available.
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