International Roaming: AT&T / Verizon vs. Project Fi vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint vs. SIMS vs. Hotspots


Pondering international roaming options…

My family has been with AT&T wireless for years.  Service has been good, and we locked in an old mobile share plan (a type of family plan) that makes the service relatively cheap for unlimited talk & text, and more than enough high-speed data for the 5 of us on this plan (30 GB per month, plus rollover of unused data from previous month).

The problem is that we’ve been traveling internationally more and more.  AT&T used to charge just $30 for 30 days of their international Passport service, which offers unlimited texts, inexpensive calls, and a small amount of data.  We would sign up for this before traveling and turn off our data roaming except when in a pinch.  Now, though, the cheapest Passport option is $60 for 30 days.  When 3 or 4 of us travel together, it adds up fast.

The International Day Pass Option: $10 Per Day

Meanwhile, AT&T has another option: International Day Pass for $10 per device per 24 hours (Verizon has a similar option).  This option includes unlimited talk and text, and uses data from your regular plan.

For travel to Japan, Germany, and the UK this past summer, we used the International Day Pass.  I turned on my phone’s hotspot, and my family turned off data roaming and connected to my phone for internet.  This approach worked well most of the time, but when we were apart, family members either had to go without internet or activate their own $10 day.  Somehow my son activated his quite often.


  • Keep your own number for talking & texting
  • Plenty of high speed data available (just like at home)
  • Can share data with travel companions


  • Phone battery drained more quickly than usual when used as a hotspot
  • $10 per day adds up, especially when travel companions decide to use their own day passes 🙂
  • It’s difficult to keep track of when the 24 hours starts and ends so it’s easy to accidentally trigger another $10 at an inopportune time (such as when boarding the plane to fly home).

Swap your SIM

A tried and true approach to saving money when traveling internationally is to buy a prepaid SIM at your destination.  Often these are cheap and include plenty of data.  I’ve done this before, but I find it inconvenient.  I don’t want the headache of trying to find a cheap SIM after a long flight.  Plus I’d rather not mess with popping tiny SIM cards in and out of my phone.  And, of course, I want to keep my usual phone number for texts and calls.


  • Cheap
  • Pay only for what you need


  • New phone number for talking & texting
  • Must ensure that your phone is unlocked first
  • Requires some work: finding a good SIM deal, and swapping SIMs (the latter isn’t hard though)

International SIMs offer a middle ground: You can buy one before you travel and use the same SIM in many places around the world.  While I haven’t looked into this option in-depth, I believe that you’ll pay a lot more than a SIM bought locally.  You can find a round-up of international SIM options here.

International Hotspot Device

A while ago, SkyRoam sent me a free SkyRoam Solis device, presumably with the hope that I’d write a positive review.  The idea is that this device is a portable hotspot that works almost anywhere in the world.  The usual cost for service is $9 per 24 hours.

From left to right: iPhone 6 Plus, SkyRoam Solis, a US quarter, and an iPhone 5c

I used the device a bit in Italy last year and again in Quebec City last weekend.  Overall, it worked very well.  In Quebec, I tried making a call over Skype while connected to SkyRoam and the call quality was great.  The downside?  I hate, hate, hate how big the thing is.  While it can be crammed into your pocket, it’s not at all comfortable.

The usual price for the device, $9 per day, doesn’t make much sense to me since it’s only $1 cheaper than using my own phone.  That said, SkyRoam has a new Go Data plan that costs only $9 per month.  With this plan you get 1 GB of data per month and can buy more data as needed.  That’s pretty appealing.

If SkyRoam was about 1/4th it’s current size (but still with good battery life), I’d go with the Go Data plan and I’d be done.  But it’s not.

Google’s Project Fi

Google’s phone service, called Project Fi, offers compelling prices for those who often travel internationally.  You pay just $20 per month for basic phone service, plus $10 per Gig of data.  That pricing works in all 170+ supported countries.  And if you use a lot of data, it’s still not bad since data pricing is capped at $60 for a one person plan.

This sounds great except for one big gotcha: Project Fi officially supports a very limited set of phones.  Everyone in my family currently has iPhones, and I’m not eager to switch.


T-Mobile offers free international low-speed data.  I thought about switching to T-Mobile for this feature, but then talked to a friend who lives in my neighborhood.  He uses T-Mobile and reports that local coverage is awful.  That simply won’t work for me.  Whenever we have trouble with our Comcast internet, I use my phone’s LTE data as a backup.  I wouldn’t want to lose that option.


Like T-Mobile, Sprint’s low-speed international data is included for free with many of their plans.  Unfortunately, their US-based coverage is usually rated worst of the big 4 (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint).

Sprint 1 Year Free

Sprint is currently offering 1 year of free service for those with eligible phones who port over.  You must sign up through the link:  This service includes includes Sprint Global Roaming, with “data up to 2G speeds and text messaging in any of our 185+ international destinations at no charge, plus calling for just $0.20 a minute.”

A long list of phones are eligible for this deal, including these iPhones:

  • Apple iPhone 5c (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 5s (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 6
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
  • Apple iPhone 6s
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  • Apple iPhone 7 (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 8 (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 8 Plus (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone SE
  • Apple iPhone X (Verizon only)

My plan is to try this out for a year without giving up my current phone or service.  I setup a prepaid T-Mobile plan for $3 so that I can port that new number over to Sprint.  And I dug out an old iPhone 6 (which I meant to sell, but never got around to it) to use for the conversion.  I’m now waiting for AT&T to unlock the old iPhone.  My thinking is that I can carry around the iPhone 6 as a hotspot when traveling internationally.  Plus, I can test Sprint service locally for free.

Bottom Line

If I can get the free year of Sprint service working, then I can try it out for a year risk-free.  I’ll use Sprint on a backup phone so that I don’t have to give up anything in the meantime.  If I have trouble with Sprint’s data when traveling, or if I need faster data, I can always enable my AT&T International Day Pass.

If I ever escape the Apple ecosystem, I’d be interested in trying out Project Fi.  Unfortunately, they don’t yet officially support Samsung phones.  If I was going to leave Apple, I’d want to go to Samsung so that I can use Samsung Pay with my Altitude Reserve card (3X rewards on mobile payments).

For those who travel often but want to stick with their current devices and phone plans (like me), the best option is arguably SkyRoam’s Go Data plan for $9 per month (plus $9 per additional Gigabyte), with no contract required.  I just wish their device wasn’t so darn big!

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[…] International Roaming: AT&T / Verizon vs. Project Fi vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint vs. SIMS vs. Hotspo…. […]

Brayden Graham

How whould you rate it now google fi now supports iphones.

[…] International Roaming: AT&T / Verizon vs. Project Fi vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint vs. SIMS vs. Hotspo…. […]

[…] In a previous post, I covered many options available to international travelers, along with my thoughts about how well each option fits my own circumstances.  If you have questions about why I didn’t buy an international hotspot device or why I don’t just pick up a sim each time I travel, please see this post:  International Roaming: AT&T / Verizon vs. Project Fi vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint vs. SIMS vs. Hotspo…. […]

Arlington Traveler

I just wanted to provide some additional data points. I have Sprint. I went to Panama for 4 days and 3 nights and had high speed for two days and used the free roaming the other two. The 4G speeds ($5 a day or $25 a night) rock and were super fast. The 2G is now usable as compared to several years ago because it is throttled 4G. Recently completed a three week trip which included time on a layover in Taiwan and Hong Kong and again free Sprint international roaming was throttled 4G and fine for basic tasks. Spent longer periods of time in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In Indonesia I purchased 4G pass for one week ($25) and it carried over to a layover in Kuala Lumpur and my first day in Sri Lanka, and the 4G rocks and if you pay for a week it works anywhere Sprint has 4G roaming. I used both the free and bought 4G one day in Sri Lanka and again I can say the free is slow but usable, but the 4G data rocks.

[…] month I described my hunt for a good international data roaming solution: International Roaming: AT&T / Verizon vs. Project Fi vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint vs. SIMS vs. Hotspo….  I’ve been using AT&T for years and service has been very good, but their international […]


Wow this is all good to know! I’ve been using sprint for years because it was the only carrier that worked inside my house (vs Att, Verizon). Anyway I use the international free roam in Japan (Tokyo Osaka) and Hong Kong and I think it’s just fine. I noticed it doesn’t work at all in Macau for me. Now Paris last year coverage was slooow and useless. I wish I would have known about the $5 day pass cuz I woulda got it! To humor/coddle my friend last year I walked to 8 or 12 Mono Prix using only a paper map and my high school french. She had her Japanese carrier iPhone on airplane mode to avoid charges. She wanted a Mono Prix that carried groceries…not all do…we could find a Mono Prix…but only clothes etc…find and walk to the next one…no groceries…. It took all day! I walked 12 miles! She ended up buying a big chunk of butter and three reusable Mono Prix shopping bags…wth. It was a disaster. I think it actually ruined the trip. I’m still mad about it. No more trips with her. It all coulda been solved with a $5 a day pass!

Mark Drury

I wanted this service to work, but it’s a huge disaster. Service initiated in March 2018 and in June an update to the software disabled the VPN. That’s never been fixed. Now, while traveling in Italy, one of our two phones can’t connect to a network at all, only wifi, except, I can’t wifi call on either of them. Very, very, very, incapable customer service with this outfit. If they plan to remain viable they better get much better management on board.


which international service was a disaster? Google Project Fi? Sprint, Tmobile? can’t tell which one you mean.


I I bought the Skyroam Solis recently for a 5-day trip to London. Didn’t get a signal once. Not once. No matter where I was, indoors or out, anywhere in Central London. It’s basically a very expensive paperweight.

[…] We’re enjoying our service with T-Mobile but I was interested in Greg’s post on Frequent Miler about the different options available when you need to use international roaming on your phone. […]


One caveat for TMobile for those who do a lot of international travel. I recently spent a lot of time in Europe for about 3 months in a row. I got a message from TMobile warning me that if I went over 50% international usage for another month, I would be in violation of terms. Not sure what the penalty would have been. I’m still very happy with TMobile international service, and coverage at home.


I have a postpaid $17/month T-Mobile tablet plan. I suspend it when I’m not abroad. When I am abroad I keep it active and it’s 57 cents a day for unlimited 2G. Sometimes faster if there’s a promo. I sometimes splurge for high speed. It’s wayyyy cheaper than AT&T $10 a day. On my last week long trip I spent under $4.


I bought one of the Skyroam gadgets – or, what my wife refers to as “the orange hockey puck from hell.” Miserable experience, without question the absolute worst tech gear I have ever had the misfortune to own. Horrible junk, stay away.


Not sure if someone mentioned this, but sprint offers $5/day $25/week LTE roaming options in most countries, and I’ve gotten very fast speeds in asia.


T-mobile offers a free signal booster for home use. It gives 5 bars and even in rural areas. Their international data plan is hard to beat since it is included in their monthly rate.


I have TMobile iPhone 7+, and I love it. I love my Apple Watch too
so it’s hard to let go of Apple ecosystem for me. I did love
being able to use SMS, have voice coverage in a pinch
while travelling in Europe for a month. But data while
free was often terribly slow. I’m looking at YOU Vodafone Italy!

I already have a Project Fi Moto G6 I was fiddling with.
I got it to investigate switching to Android wholesale.
Driving factor, international data! It’s ridiculous even with
T-Mobile what you have to go through to get a “high speed”
data pass that isn’t that fast, nor with that much data.
Other Telecoms are worse though.

Then realized I could order Fi data-only SIMs and give
my son a CHEAP Moto G5 plus, so he has a device to use
with WhatsApp etc. Do I want a 10y.o. to have an expensive
phone with a number and SMS fees? No I do not.

NOW thinking about ordering an iPhone XS, it’s a game changer.

T-Mobile’s good coverage and voice/text international.
Then I put Fi data SIM in the slot to make up for
T-Mobile’s TERRIBLE data speeds international.


The data only SIM in my opinion is a relatively unknown and under-leveraged aspect of Google Fi. Since you can essentially “pause” Google Fi Service when not using it and pay $0, you just need to:

1) Sign up for Google Fi and get a regular SIM card
2) Activate the plan (I thought you had to activate it in an “official” supported Google Fi device but a reader above said they activated it in an iPhone)
3) Buy a new or used MiFi HotSpot (I used a T-Mobile one since Google Fi uses T-Mobile networks often in the US so figured it would work: I bought this model on sale and have used it successfully overseas.
4) Request a data-only SIM from Google Fi for your primary Google Fi account.
5) Put the data-only SIM in the T-Mobile hotspot (note: other hotspot devices may work, especially if you want one with a much bigger battery).
6) Keep the Google Fi service paused.
7) Before you leave the US, resume your Google Fi Service (you can do this via their website, no need to call…if you have an android you can do it on the Google Fi app).
8) Overseas use the hotspot tethering for 4G LTE data in all supported countries.
9) Once back home, pause the Google Fi service until next trip.

Although you can do this data-only option, it may be worthwhile to buy a used Android Phone to use for calls/texts. The calls are so affordable all things considered that I no longer “dread” or try to “avoid” calling local destinations for directions, reservations, etc.

I’m really hoping the new iPhones with eSIM support will work with the Google Fi SIM and domestic US providers so no need to do any extra devices or “switching” of SIMs.



” T-Mobile network is risk-free with our 30-day, money-back Lifetime Coverage Guarantee™ ”

Rather than try T-mobile pre-paid with an older or non-T-mobile firmware. If you have a Costco membership – no activation fees, or restocking fee or Sim charge. ( SP on credit) Buy the phone on a Visa with purchase protection and try it for 30 days.

Unless your really in the boondocks and rural – you may end up switching.

I have friends on T-mobile with older phones – but I get higher Dl speeds (150+ on a Note 9 and they are pulling 55-60 in same location with Older note 5 and iPhone 8.)

Costco is now they only place I will Upgrade or buy a phone.

T-mobile also is running a 30 day free trial for Boston, Atlanta and Austin (google)


We’ve had Sprint for a while and have found that speeds vary heavily by county. Downtown Amsterdam? Very slow. Queenstown New Zealand? Great speeds.


Last year I quit AT&T and went to Project Fi with a Pixel phone and now Pixel 2 (of course).
Best decision ever:
– My cell phone bill is in the $60 range monthly, and if i splurge in downloading the whole internet, its capped at approx $90… ($20 Voice + $60 Data + $5 phone insurance + various taxes, done)
– Coverage in the US always better than my wife’s AT&T, as not limited to one network (Sprint + T-Mobile+ US Cellular) and overseas I also got great coverage in Europe, Africa, Dubai and Asia (T-Mobile + Three Group I believe, but connects to Vodafone as well)
– When we travel internationally, I create a Hotspot and everyone in my party can freely roam on my unlimited plan basically. We know its capped at $60 so that is the worst it can get., $90…
– LTE up to 15GB Monthly, then slows down to 256k. I’ve never reached 7GB!

Project Fi = Freedom and no worries whatsoever in 170 countries worldwide… no need to call the carrier, change plans, worry how much i’m browsing
Oh and lets not forget the Pixel 2 Camera is also the best in cellphone camera out there..
Need Samsung Pay? Got a Bluetooth Gear S3 Frontier for when shopping is needed.
I honestly don’t recommend other alternatives.
Good luck!


Verizon tells you when the 24 hours is ending. No shenanigans.

And it restarts on data transmission, which is very nice.

For any trip of 4-5 days or fewer, it’s simply a no brainer.


I used Sprint in Iceland this year. Worked pretty well for GPS.


Google Fi service is actually pretty good abroad, but if you are in the US and outside of a major city the coverage is awful. Also, I hate hate hate my Moto X4. It is pretty much unusable it is so slow. Obviously I could buy a Pixel or a better phone but that’s just my experience



Thanks for the summary of service comparison – great to give an overview on the pro and con of each service.

You mentioned you have set up a T-Mobil $3 a month prepaid plan. How do one set up this thing? The T-Mobile site does not seem to show this service available?

Thanks a lot for the pointer on this $3 a month prepaid plan. Sounds very handy for a second plan.


Thanks Greg for the link.
When you “bring your own device”, it means you need to port a number, say, from Google Voice for example?


BYOD – is not always Ideal unless you can Flash the phone to T-mobile Firmware to enable all the HW for T-mobile.


Greg, might be worth checking T-Mobile’s coverage map and what type of phone your neighbor users. TMo’s been expanding coverage dramatically, but it’s sometimes on bands only supported by certain phones. Their new 600MHz coverage (LTE Band 71) is only supported by a small set of phones at this point – the new iPhones are the only iPhones that can get on it, for example. And if he’s got an especially old phone, he might be missing out on other bands of coverage as well.

As for Project Fi, important to know that their main underlying network is also TMo, so if TMo is a no-go, Project Fi might also be a problem. But, they have backup service on Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Three, so check those maps too.


I’ll second that – T-mo has come light years since they were Voicestream here on the west coast in the 90’s.

But older phones – esp iPhones have not had the bands or coverage – and int’l bands and phones is a whole another story.

Phones make a huge difference and I will say that AT&T and Verizon’s lower Freq bands do penetrate buildings better, but that advantage is rapidly changing with all the new spectrum that T-mo bought and has been rolling out. I returned to T-mo after about 10 years June 2017 and have been nothing but pleased

T-Mo has a $5 – 24 hr Global pass (.5Gb high speed unlimited calling and Smartphone Mobile Hotspot for 24/hr in over 210 countries) .

I wish they partnered to offer something like this in other countries:

T-Mobile’s Tourist Plan provides 21 days of service while you’re visiting the US.

I get incredible coverage and average DL speeds 50mpbs+ – we have six lines and my teens regularly use 30-40Gb a month with facetime and streaming (and we still bump against or exceed Comcrapst 1TB data cap every month).

If you work from your house most of the time and that is where your most dependent on fast coverage –

“4G LTE Signal Booster Duo will extend and improve T-Mobile’s network in your home, offering coverage of around 3,000 square feet. To get one, you’ll need to be a postpaid customer with at least one bar of 3G/4G or 4G LTE signal. After a $25 deposit, T-Mo will loan a 4G LTE Signal Booster Duo at no extra charge.”

Honestly T-mobile blows me away and impress me more and more every-time I turn around.

But for $15 a month they recently discontinued a $25 with unlimited hotspot data – one blogger used that exclusively and ditched High-speed Internet.
I pay $10/mo for a grandfathered T-Mobile ONE Plus plan that gives me 10GB hotspot and whats below so for $15 you get: (if you add it to all your phones its only $10 per line.

20GB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot in the US
Unlimited 3G mobile hotspot after 20GB (up to 600 kbps)
Unlimited HD streaming while in the US (requires activation)
Unlimited data at 2x speeds in 210+ destinations abroad (up to 256 kbps)
Unlimited Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi – on Gogo®-enabled flights to, from, or within the U.S.
Voicemail to Text – Read voicemails on the go
Name ID – Identify calls from unknown numbers

But an extra $3 a/mo for the 4K unlimited Netflix plan -as part of the T-mobile One plan

I will say that I switched to T-Mobile ONE Military this past spring after they introduced it and I qualified with my prior service. T-mobile is incredibly generous on six lines and three new flagships on EIP and a few other add-ons services is around $200 a month (or 1,000 UR with CIC) – gave me $250 trade-in for an old Galaxy S5 collecting dust with Note 9 Pre-order – already posted to account.

I may add Family Mode plan to control data and phone usage after a certain time or grounding (its like freezing a card but can block lte and data for phones on your account), Sync and Drive for teenage driving speed/driving/etc, mulling Nest vs Ring with LTE backup through Costco for $10 /mo)

So it may be worth a 2nd look Greg.


I switched from AT&T to Cricket, and then H2O. They use AT&T network, but you pay much less. I pay $27 for 2GB plan with unlimited text and talk, hotspot works too, you just need to have unbranded phone for that. You can have a family plan $50 for 2 lines or $100 for 4 lines. Abroad, I just buy local SIM, it’s much cheaper than anything else.

Peter Adams

Just a couple notes on Sprint..

– They do offer the equivalent of International Day Pass in many countries, but the cost is only $5.
– The latest iteration of ‘1 Year Free’ specifically excludes personal hotspot (or tethering) capability, your iPhone just won’t allow it. I had the ‘1 Year Free’ deal last year, and it included hotspot, but when I re-upped for another year, the new iteration has tethering blocked. I tried to get Sprint to add it as a paid extra, but no-one at the call center could figure out how to do it. If personal hotspot is a dealbreaker, I’d avoid the ‘1 year free’ deal, unless you have the patience to ‘hang up, call back’ until maybe you get a Sprint employee that can add it for you.


I saw Verizon in the headline but never in the copy? They are the most common carrier? Who can share Verizon news?


Thanks for the write up. I was just pondering on this topic myself lately.

I switched from Verizon last year (after being with them for 14+ years) to T-Mobile. The difference domestically (price and coverage) was way smaller than I was led to believe. It was great having international connectivity at the base plan level and not have to worry about additional charges, and while not at 4G speeds, most tasks could be handled reasonably quickly.

Then I’ve come to remorse our desire for constant connectivity. We spend less time talking to one another and observing the places that we visit. We lounged on the beach of Koh Samui only to browse Facebook, much of it reading coverage on the Trump administration separating families at the border. The much-yearned escape was no longer an escape, and I missed the good old days when if we were bored at the hotel we’d be watching local TV in a language that we didn’t understand.


Nothing beats having high speed data from a pre-paid local SIM card. Just do a little research before hand to figure out where to get one. I’ve never spent more than a hour or so buying and setting up a local sim card. If you are going to be somewhere more than a couple of days, it’s the way to go.


I second that. Local carrier shops are generally numerous, at least in European cities. Some of the major carriers have cheap tourist packages as well.


I use Pokefi hotspot. You can only get them in Hong Kong or online. The hotspot is about the size of an old Motorola Razor phone when folded. The hotspot costs about us$150 and you get 5gb for $15. The data lasts for 2 years and can be recharged pretty easily. Seems to work great so far. Battery is good for a day. Speed depends on the country you are in, and it doesn’t work everywhere (Dubai is the only place it doesn’t in my travels). Worth checking out.

John F. Caffrey

Great start! Now finish it! Compare the hot spot on your IPhone to the SkyRoam device. Do they work equally well? If they are virtually the same then why would anyone choose SkyRoam? Clearly, they don’t and that is the reason for products like SkyRoam. Please answer the question that was asked “How do you use a hot spot on a cruise ship? Do you have to pay the outrageous charges of the cruise ship or can you pirate the system?”


(1) I wouldn’t use Project FI; I’m not cool with having Google suck up everything I do, everywhere I go, everyone I talk to, and everything I say to them. (Even my Android phone is de-googlized to the best of my ability.)
(2) Re international travel SIMs, I’ve traveled with Truphone’s prepaid SIM. It has a lot of advantages such as basically local rates in US, UK, Australia, and others, but the data can get expensive in roaming countries (usually about 25 cents/MB in Europe) unless you exercise strict control. Also, bizarrely, MMS is not available on their network(s).

Ryan del Mundo

I just got the 1-year Sprint free plan. There is no hotspot allowed anymore so don’t expect to tether abroad (or at home) anymore.

I used Sprint last year in Europe it was slow but very usable.

I just discovered this Three-UK “Feel-at-home” roaming Sim card a few months ago, best thing I’ve bought year. Gives 12GB of data valid for one year for $40 so $3/gb. Works everywhere in Europe, USA, Canada, and a total of 71 countries. Just pop it in and go. I’ve been using it in Puerto Rico especially because I can select between ATT/T-MObile to get the best signal (3G/LTE can be very spotty here).


This is a very timely article. We travel a lot internationally, but we’re really ramping it up starting in October with 7 weeks in Spain. (Which is long enough to justify a local SIM card, but I like to know all my options.) We’re also AT&T users. The question I have is did you try to use the WiFi calling feature (or any kind of calling?) with SkyRoam. Thanks for all of your good information–Frequent Miler is one of my favorites!


Thanks, Greg. In your experience, did Sky Roam work pretty well even as you moved around? Or did it work better when you were stationary?

Bo. L

I have a question about SkyRoam. Can it be used in the public sea, say, if I am going on a cruise, does this device also working on the public ocean?


What about having your own sim you can pop in at your destination like Freedom Pop? Use Google voice over Wi-Fi for free calls.


I travel a lot international. T-Mobile is the best! Free international data. It’s not slow like people think. It depends if the country and the carrier. You can switch carriers, it will be automatically by default. You just have to ask for the best carrier in the country that you are visiting and Choose that one. It worked great from Dubai to Jersusalem, to Thailand or Japan or any country in Europe. The worst service was in Dominicana Republic.


Keep in mind that Sprints international free tier is 64k. 64k is really not at all useful. You could add higher speeds but can’t apeak for that. I did try to use Sprint internationally and found it to be completely useless. Tmobile is twice that speed and potentially four times if buying the higher tier. But trying to get T-Mobile’s day pass which is half the price of Verizon and AT&T is beyond painful.

I have to give it to the big guys. The automatic $10 per day on Verizon works brilliantly.

Arlington Traveler

I am a Sprint subscriber. The free 2G data roaming that Sprint/T-Mobile offer is completely useless. Barely able to use it for Uber. I was trying to load a terminal map for Miami before boarding my plane and it took over 25 minutes. However, what Sprint does do is sell 24 hour 4G passes for $5 a day/$25 a week which are great.

One other point, is that for the majority of folks who lease/finance through their carriers you can’t use a third party SIM. Sprint used to do a 30 day international SIM unlock, but changed their policy in August/September of last year. So if you do plan to lease/finance your phone Sprint is by far the best choice because T-Mobile doesn’t offer 4G data passes like Sprint (you can upgrade your plan, but you get double very slow speed).


Sprints international 2G is useless. However, I’ve found that in larger international cities, I automatically get LTE data speeds for some reason (Amsterdam, Vancouver, Barcelona). Never had to pay extra for it, so was a pleasant surprise when it showed up.


I can add a few data points:

1) Google Fi *does* indeed work with iPhones. Both my parents use Google Fi on their iPhone 7 when they travel abroad. However, two caveats: First, you need to activate the Google Fi SIM on a supported phone *before* putting it into the iPhone. We had to update some settings in the iPhone to get the SIM card to work. There are a few internet results that show what you need to do. Second, you don’t get WiFi calling or mobile network switching like you would with a supported platform but neither of those really impact real world use…you just might have to spend a bit more $ if you make a lot of calls (If you’re abroad and calling a lot, I’d recommend using WhatsApp or another app to do VoIP calling when connected to WiFi anyway).

2) Google Fi lets you suspend service for up to 90 days. This is a little annoying in that every 90 days you have to go into the Google Fi app (only available on Android) or their online website and “pause” service for your lines. But it means you only get charged for the service when you’re actually abroad.

3) Google Fi offers a data-only SIM option but it must be paired with a normal Google Fi account. This is great if you want a global Mobile HotSpot. This data-only SIM is free and just gets lumped into your usage with a Google Fi account. Meaning, you still have to pay for a Google Fi account but you can buy a T-Mobile hotspot device and add in the data-only SIM. Then just carry around this T-Mobile hotspot device. Again, since you can suspend or turn off Google Fi service when not needed, this lets you have a full-time mobile hotspot when abroad that costs you $0 when you’re here in the states. I’ve done this quite a bit for cheap and fast data overseas for family members who can pair to my hotspot.

4) I was excited to hear the new iPhones support eSIM technology. I was hoping that ideally we could add the Google Fi SIM to an iPhone and still keep the US-based SIM card in the physical phone slot (or vica-a-versa). This would be ideal in that no SIM card switching would be necessary and we could still get text and voice calls on our primary number but use the Google Fi account to make calls abroad, respond to texts, and use fast 4G data (as well as hotspot). I’m hoping to test this out in near future.


I was looking into Project Fi mainly for planned international travels. Fi appears to offer the easiest usablilty when traveling aboard (i.e., it works without the need to switch SIM or activate/purchase international plan). In regards to #2, can you extended the 90 days indefinitely just by resetting/pausing the service?


Yes you can. I’ve been “re-setting” it every 90 days for about 2 years. The best thing is you can do it directly from the app or website and Google even sends you an email that the service has been “turned back on” so you can immediately go suspend it again.


An ATT iPhone won’t work with Sprint. As far as I know the only iPhones that work with Sprint are ones bought from Sprint or Verizon. Att and T-Mobile iPhones don’t have CDMA radios and unlocked iPhones bought from Apple directly are GSM only versions.


A good number of phones would work: iPhone SE, 6 and 6s, and Galaxy S8, S8 plus. Probably a number of other phones, but these ones are listed in the year free for Sprint, and I can confirm that the 6 and 6s worked for me.

Nick Reyes

I’m not an iPhone guy, but if I remember correctly Apple stopped making carrier-specific versions of the iPhone at some point. They all have both GSM and CDMA capability built-in I believe.


Nick, my understanding is that up to iPhone X, CDMA phones also support GSM. However, GSM phones do not support legacy CDMA network (think where there is no LTE coverage).

As an example: when iPhone X was released, T-mobile GSM version was the only one that was offered sim/account-free, but that could not be used for Sprint/Verizon.


The new iPhone XS and XS Max are the only true, any carrier at any time phones (although some may be locked to their carrier and you’ll have to get the carrier to unlock them). Previous iPhones designated for AT&T and T-Mobile did not come with CDMA radios, just GSM. However, previous iPhones designated for Verizon and Sprint came with both.


@Ben is this also for iPhone XR?


@Evan not sure. Apple’s posted the specs for the XS and XS Max only ( but will probably post XR there too closer to release date.

This page ( shows there is at least one model (A1984) that will do CDMA and GSM and so that one should be usable on all major American carriers, but that was true with past iPhones too (for example, there was an iPhone X that worked on all carriers, but also one that only worked on T-Mo & AT&T). So, not clear yet but hopefully!


Thank you Ben! I am looking at purchasing 4 iPhones. Hoping Verizon or ATT still has the current promotion when the XR comes out. So pay for 2 iPhoneXS use 2 $700 credits for 2 iPhoneXR


I have tried two different unlocked T-mobile phones with T-mobile $3 Paygo plan (Note 4 and S7 Edge). Applied for Sprint, each came back “can’t be activated with Sprint service”.

On a Reddit thread I found this “Sprint… goes an extra step by also whitelisting the IMEI which makes it impossible to use another carrier’s device on Sprint’s network..” 🙁

I won’t suffer thru an Iphone learning curve again, just for a mediocre free year on Sprint. T-mobile mostly great for now.


I’m no expert on this but I’ve read that project FI can be used on iPhones. Again just what I’ve heard.


A Project Fi SIM can be used on many phones that aren’t officially supported. But, the problem is you only get partial functionality of the service. That is a total waste of much of what the plan has to offer. However, it will work in a pinch, but is not a good permanent strategy. And initial account activation does need to be done on one of the supported phone models.

Sg Fm

I have used a Project Fi SIM in my iPhone for 2 years when traveling outside the US. I activated it in my iPhone, in the US, before I used it the first time. It is great for data. I have tried several VOIP apps for calls, but have yet to find one that worked well and was free. Fortunately for texts my Google Voice # has been the only text # I have used for years, so have that covered. I plan to try Google Hangouts for voice the next time I am outside the US.


I’d completely disagree with JohnZ. I’m a permanent Project Fi iPhone user and have only had iPhones since their introduction in 2007. They are not officially supported, no, but minor settings changes to an unlocked iPhone makes them completely usable and very convenient if you wish to remain in the Apple ecosystem. There are some hiccups, though:

1. No group text messaging with Android users – iMessage groups, only.(Yeah, this kinda blows but I find I use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger way more for group chats anyway, especially with friends and family outside the US where iPhones don’t have the same prevalence.)
2. SMS from Android users have a random string of characters at the end of the text. (Just ignore them; it’s not a big deal)
3. No MMS from Android users. (See point 1. about Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. This has not proven to be a detractor for me.)
4. No visual voicemail – you have to call into Project Fi (I’ve set my own phone number as a favorite, and included the keypad prompts in the autodial to include pauses and the option to hear voicemails. And given how rarely I miss calls – or get calls at all, this hasn’t been a big issue.)
5. You can’t use your iPhone as a hotspot. (This also blows, but see point 6. for a workraound.)
6. You have to activate your SIM in a supported phone. (You can either find a friend with a supported Android device and activate it in theirs or, like me, buy a cheap Android phone off eBay or Gazelle, activate your SIM, then order a data-only SIM from Project Fi and keep the Android phone as a supported hotspot. Has been great on international trips with friends and family that don’t have international plans but want to use their phones while we’re out sightseeing or relaxing at the beach or whatever. We just pop the Nexus into our sightseeing slimline backpack and someone has to play hotspot/water/snacks mule.)

Ultimately, the cost savings of Project Fi and the ease of portability on my travels – generally about 8-10 different countries over 3-4 trips per year – makes this a no-brainer. All of the issues have workarounds or I’ve learned to live without them.


I just switched our service from AT&T to T-Mobile after being with the former since before they even got into this business (they bought out my previous carrier). But they annoyed me by raising my rate by $10 a month with no notice. They said they sent a notice but I assured them they didn’t. So, I nervously switched , saving almost $20 a month and the service at home is just as good and we are on our first trip away, in Canad, and so far all is great with my phone, a Galaxy Note 8, but my wife has trouble staying connected on her Galaxy S6. Not sure why yet. But this is obviously the best option for us as we used to buy local SIM cards everywhere we travelled. Seamless too.

I would have stayed another 20 years with AT&T but they blew it. I’ll never go back. Now I am looking at switching my office internet and 2 phone lines away from them too. Can’t wait.