Here what I used in my trip to Portugal in Jun2013, in case others find this helpful:
- In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
- Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
- Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said, as most countries use GSM.
- Buy a “LycaMobile” pay-as-you-go SIM card. I bought mine at the train station in Lisbon, but they are also for sale on most small street corner stores. While there are several mobile companies selling pay-as-you-go, I went with Lycamobile because they had the best price for all-you-can-use data at 4G speeds, great high speed coverage everywhere I went, and no hassle about using your cellphone as a hotspot. Oh, and comparable prices for voice calls and text messaging.
- Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new LycaMobile sim card and power up the phone.
- On the phone, enter “*#123#″ and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This connects you to an automated service that tells you your balance.
- To find out what your lycamobile phone number is, dial “*#122#”
- Assuming that all works, you should now attempt to call any local number. By habit, I call the mobile phone of the person at the store selling me the SIM card.
- Cultural tip: I never setup voicemail – as discovered in my other recent trips, most people dont both leaving voice messages on cellphones anymore – if they cant reach you when they phone, they hangup and send you a text message instead.
- Now that you can make/receive calls, to make my Android 2.2 phone transmit/receive data, I had to add the following APN settings:
* on home screen, go into “settings”
* go into “wireless & network settings”
* go into “mobile networks”
* go into “access point names”
* if there is not already a “data.lycamobile.pt” APN, then create one as follows:
** Name = data.lycamobile.pt
** APN == data.lycamobile.pt
** Proxy == Not set
** Port == Not set
** Username == impt
** Password == impt
** Server == Not set
** MMSC == Not set
** MMS proxy == Not set
** MMS port == Not set
** MCC == 268
** MNC == 04
** Authentication Type == Not set
** APN Type == Not set
…hit save, and go back to “Access Point Names”.
- verify that this new “data.lycamobile.pt” APK is present, and is selected.
- verify that “Use only 2G networks” is not selected.
- Reboot the phone to see if that helps.
- At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, send/receive text messages, surf the web, use your cellphone as GPS, and use your cellphone as a wifi hotspot.
- To check your account balance dial “*122#”.
- When you need additional credits, buy a one-time use scratch-refill “top up” card at almost any corner store, and follow the instructions on the back. You’ll receive a text message with the new balance when the credits are added to your account.