We’ve been trying to work out a cheap, or at least a non-expensive way we can have mobile telephone service throughout the primary countries  in which we travel. With Mexico being our base up until now, we’ve used the service of Telcel (part of TelMex), which is basically a monopoly and why Carlos Slim is the richest man in the world. We pay about $90 dollars a monthfor our basic iPhone service. Where is really gets expensive is if we want to use the phone outside of Mexico. If we tap into using roaming, it is extremely expensive. Telcel offers international packages that you can buy prior to leaving Mexico, of 10, 20 of 50 minutes, but this also is very expensive. And worse, they don’t have an easy way for you to find out what your balance of time is. If you go over your limit, you are basically back to paying full roaming fees. So using Telcel for our service is certainly not optimum.

What some people do is have an unlocked phone so they can insert chips from different countries, for countries that have phone services that allow this. However, getting an unlocked phone in Mexico is not possible. If you do unlock the phone illegally, next time you want to update your phone’s operating system you’ll get locked out. And that isn’t a good thing. In the past Apple hasn’t sold or allowed unlocked phones, but that seems to be changing. On their online store site they are now offering unlocked phones.

What we’ve decided to do is buy an unlocked iPhone 5 in France and have selected the provider “Free” for our phone service in France. It’s cheap (under US$20 per month), offers unlimited Internet access and ISM, and we can call to the USA and Canada for free (unfortunately not Mexico). We’ve picked up a chip for Italy when we travel there. When in Mexico we’ll just by time as we need it, rather than having a contract. And Canada, well, haven’t quite figured out how that will work, but when we know more, we’ll update this post.

The iPhone is a pretty essential piece of equipment for us. It’s more than a phone. Using the HDR Pro App, we use it a lot as a camera. We organize our trips with Tripit.com. And we use Offline Maps or Apple’s mapping service with GPS, to know where we are and how to get to where we want to go. So we need good service.