Using a smartphone overseas is a challenge every traveler who wishes to keep in touch with friends, family or business contacts has to face, and the costs, while becoming more budget-friendly, can still be a significant investment.
The good news is that the swift and constant growth of technology has paved the way for travelers to now get the best smartphone for your budget. In fact, technology is changing so fast, this article may be outdated by the time it runs. However, with that in mind, we’re reviewing four awesome smartphones that look great for travelers: IPhone 6; Samsung Galaxy s6; HTC one M8; and Motorola Google Nexus 6.
Hopefully this assessment will give you some guidance on choosing the best smartphone for your particular travel needs.
Before moving on, it’s important to note that the main factor that determines how optimally your smartphone will work when traveling is the radio technology the phone uses.
Radio Technology: GSM and CDMA
Different phone companies and countries use different technologies that your phone must be compatible with to function in their domain. GSM, Global System for Mobile Communications, is the most popular cellular technology and is widely used all over the world.
GSM is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe the protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile phones.)
CDMA, Code Division Multiple Access, is a competing phone technology supported by providers such as Sprint and Verizon and it is the primary service in the US. In essence, if your smartphone solely supports CDMA technology, it will not work everywhere.
GSM is the primary type of technology used for smartphones in the rest of the world. Only a small number of US service providers (such as T-Mobile and AT &T) are on the GSM standard. Using a GSM-compliant phone makes it much easier to switch providers or networks since all that’s necessary to switch is the purchase of a new SIM card for the phone.
This ability to easily switch between providers makes a GSM phone a more desirable option for international travelers, especially for those who take frequent trips to Europe. That said, here are the smartphones we like the best and why.
Top 4 Smartphones for Traveling Overseas
1. iPhone 6
Price range: $550 – $700
The iPhone 6 from Apple is arguably one of the most popular smartphones around. This particular phone features 1GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage that can’t be expanded. For travelers who like to take memorable pictures on their trips, you will love the 8-megapixel rear camera and the 1.2-megapixel front camera. The Apple iPhone 6 is a GSM smartphone that accommodates just one SIM (Nano-SIM). Among many other incredible features, this smartphone features a versatile range of connectivity options including GPS, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, 3G and 4G.
- RAM: 1GB with 16GB non-expandable internal storage
- CAMERA: 8-megapixel rear, 1.2-megapixel front
- OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS 10
- BATTERY: 82 V 6.91 W·h (1,810 mA·h) Lithium polymer battery
- GSM – one single Nano-SIM
- CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, WI-FI, NFC, GPS, 3G and 4G
Pros: Spectacular camera and versatile connectivity options.
Cons: Quite expensive and has a limited internal storage of 16GB.
2. Samsung Galaxy S6
Price range: $350 – $450
Barely superseded by the Galaxy S6 Edge, the Galaxy S6 is another outstanding smartphone from giant tech company – Samsung. This device boasts of a massive 3GB RAM and non-expandable internal storage of 32GB. It also packs a 5-megapixel front camera and a 16-megapixel rear camera for capturing better pictures. This smartphone is powered by an non-removable 2550mAh battery and runs the latest Android 5.0 for its operating system. Just like the Apple iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is also a GSM smartphone that supports a single (Nano) SIM. It also features every necessary connectivity option including: GPS, Wi-Fi, Infrared, Bluetooth, USB OTG, NFC, 3G and 4G
- RAM: 3GB with 32GB non-expandable internal storage
- CAMERA: 5-megapixel front, 16-megapixel rear
- OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 5.0
- BATTERY: 2550 mA-h
- GSM smartphone: single Nano-SIM
- CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Infrared, GPS, WI-FI, USB OTG, NFC, 3G and 4G
Pros: Large memory capacity and sufficient connectivity options
Cons: Low battery capacity. I have this phone and, indeed, it does have low battery capacity. In addition, I wish it had a larger megapixel front camera for sharper selfies.
3. HTC One (M8)
Price range: $150 – $250
Many will argue that this is one of the best smartphones ever made. The HTC One (M8) has a solid 2GB of RAM and an internal storage of 16GB. Unlike the two other smartphones reviewed, the HTC One (M8)’s internal storage can be increased to 128 GB with a microSD card. In terms of camera capabilities, you might say it is lagging behind its peers though; with a 4-Ultrapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. However, it is also a GSM smartphone that accommodates just one Nano-SIM. It supports all necessary connectivity options like GPS, Infrared, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, 3G and 4G.
- RAM: 2GB with 16GB internal storage. Can be increased to 128GB with a microSD card
- CAMERA: 4-Ultrapixel rear, 5-megapixel front
- OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 4.4
- BATTERY: Non-removable Li-Po 2600 mA-h battery
- GSM: supports one Nano-SIM
- CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Infrared, GPS, NFC, WI-FI, FM, 3G and 4G
Pros: Massive storage capacity and tags a very affordable price
Cons: Low camera quality
4. Motorola Google Nexus 6
Price range: $250 – $350
The Motorola Google Nexus 6 is another powerful smartphone formed by the joint co-operation of two giant tech companies; Motorola and Google. The phone features a RAM size of 3GB and a non-expandable internal memory of 32GB. The Motorola Google Nexus 6 comes with an effective 13-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. This device runs the latest Android 5.0 for its operating system and is steadily powered by a 3220mAh battery. Just like all the other smartphones in this review, the Motorola Google Nexus 6 is a GSM phone that supports a single Nano-SIM. Connectivity options include Bluetooth, WI-Fi, 3G, GPS, and 4G.
- RAM: 3GB with non-expandable internal memory 32GB
- CAMERA: 13-megapixel rear, 2-megapixel front
- OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 5.0
- BATTERY: 3220 mA-h
- GSM: supports single Nano-SIM
- CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, WI-FI, 3G, GPS, and 4G
Pros: Strong and durable battery at an affordable price
Cons: This device falls short in terms of availability
So, how to choose the best smartphone? All things considered, every cell phone in this review will be quite efficient for any traveler; the best smartphone for overseas travel will vary for different travelers depending on personal preference. For instance, if you’re obsessed with capturing every moment in photos on your trips, you’ll definitely want the smartphone with the best camera quality, the iPhone 6.
On the other hand, if you will be using the phone continuously; then the HTC One (M8) or Google Nexus 6 with strong, durable battery power should be your choice.
The most important thing, whatever smartphone you choose, make sure you enjoy the trip…and GoRoamin!