Can I use my own cell phone in Israel?
Can my phone be unlocked?
And what does unlocking a phone mean anyway??
Renting a Gil Travel Phone is a great option for most of our clients. Being in a foreign country with the peace of mind of knowing that at any moment you can call anyone in the world or be reached by loved ones back home is very comforting and convenient.
Gil Travel Phones' low per minute rates and FREE in coming calls and text messages on all our plans from ANYWHERE in the world makes it all that much better.
We know that for an increasing amount travelers, especially the younger crowd, just having the phone and ability to talk is not enough anymore. In today's day and age, you want YOUR phone - whether it's an iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, or any other - in your hand throughout your trip in Israel.
Having your own phone allows you to browse the net, make calls using your existing contact list, use your calendar, your email, and your apps just as you do at home.
There are two ways you can do this:
1. Call your cell phone provider (ATT, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) and get an international calling plan and data plan on your own phone. This is a great way to seamlessly use your phone anywhere in the world … If you're ready to shell out huge activation costs (up to $30/month) and exorbitant per minute rates (up to $3/minute!).
2. Get a Gil Travel Phones SIM Card. For one flat rate, daily charge you can have unlimited calling in Israel, USA, Canada, and other countries, as well as unlimited data (that's email, web browsing, internet apps, etc.). You'll put our SIM card into your own phone and use it just as you do at home.
With a Gil Travel Phones Sim Card you can also add extra features such as a local US number that your friends and family back home can call you on, and, if you're really important :-) you can have all calls from your american line automatically ring to your phone in Israel and never miss a single call while you're away!
But, there's a catch…
Your phone must be UNLOCKED.
What? What in the world does that mean??
Well, as it turns out, even though you think you own your phone, and it's yours to do with as you please - that's not really the case for many of us. Sort of like the home you think you own, may be more owned by the bank if you are enslaved to their mortgage.
Let me explain by way of iPhone example:
You see, the iPhone that you bought for, say, $200, really costs about $600. So why was it so "cheap" for you? Well because your service provider (ATT, for example) really likes you and they really wanted to help you be happy, so they decided to chip in and cover most of the price. In other words, they subsidized the cost.
They're not dumb. In exchange for their kindness, they had you sign a two year contract that says you'll keep forking over monthly fees to them forever - or at least for two years, or until you remember that your contract expired - whichever comes first.
In order to make sure that once they gave you a gift of 400 bucks, you don't just walk over to Verizon and pop in one of their SIM Cards and sign on with them, they LOCK your iPhone so that only ATT SIM Cards will work with your iPhone.
That's what a locked phone is. And that means that a Gil Travel Phones or any other Israeli cell provider SIM Card also won't work in your phone.
So how do you unlock it?
Officially, if your two year contract has ended (or you still have you old iPhone that is already out of contract) then you just need to call up ATT and ask them to unlock it and they should be willing to do it. Likewise, if you're on active duty abroad, they will unlock your phone.
However, if you're still within your 2 years, hope is not all lost. First of all, there are third party services out there that will do it for a small fee and we've heard from many or our customers that this has worked easily for them. Just google it and you'll find a number of options.
But wait! There's more!
If you don't want to shell out a few more bucks to unlock your phone - either because your cheap, or on principal ("Why should I pay to unlock my own phone?!") there's still recourse.
A growing number of people are reporting on blogs and in random conversations in locker rooms and cocktail parties, that they succeeded in convincing their provider to "make an exception" for them. With some begging and a little gentle pressure (threat? No way - just fact stating…) you may be successful too.
Something like this may do the trick:
"Hi Mr./Mrs. cell phone provider representative, my name is Eugene and I'm calling to ask for my phone to be unlocked. My mom, dad, cousin, dog and myself have all been loyal customers of yours for 182 years and am sure you'll help me out with this little favor. I'm traveling to Israel for a few weeks and need to use my phone. I've purchased a SIM card from an Israeli provider and need my phone unlocked to use it."
If they refuse, the conversation may proceed like this:
"Gee, I do understand your policy of being nasty to me for no reason, but believe me, I still love your company and do not want to transfer to XYZ (your competitor) - I just want to use my phone in Israel for a few weeks and then come back to service from your company.
"But… If you insist, I will walk down the block to XYZ and offer them myself as a new customer (and tell my mom, dad, dog, and ALL my Facebook friends ot do the same) . So, again, considering I've been happily paying you for the last Forever, wouldn't it be a shame to lose a loyal customer just because I need to use the phone overseas for a few weeks? … Thanks. I knew you'd understand! Have a great day :-) "
Please post your experiences below and let us know how you fared with unlocking your phone and if you have any suggestions to help others out.
Gil Travel Phones