HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Cambodia

There are now 9!!?! different mobile phone companies in Cambodia and a great summary of them all is on khmerbird.com. They all offer different pay-as-you-go SIM cards, and of course, there are lots of different Android phones, but here what I used in my recent trip back to Cambodia, in case others find this helpful:


Disclaimer:

  • 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 “Smart Mobile” pay-as-you-go SIM card, with the “Fresh Internet+” plan. I bought mine at the airport in Phnom Penh, but they were also for sale in any of the countless green “Smart Mobile” stores across the country. While each of the 9 cell phone companies in Cambodia have different voice prices, this company seemed to have the best data plan, which is what I cared about most. Oh, and the staff at their booth were great fun and their ad for “Fresh Internet+” data-plan looked fun!

  • Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new SmartMobile sim card and power up the phone.
  • On the phone, enter “*888#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This should send you a text message within a few seconds containing:
    * your mobile number
    * remaining balance on your SIM card
    * expiry date of the credits on your SIM card
    * whether or not you have a data plan set up (the default is “not”).

  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, and check your account balance.
  • Dont bother setting up the voicemail. Like in Hong Kong, no-one seems to use voicemail; if you dont answer the phone, callers simply try again later or send you a txt msg.
  • To enable your phone for pre-paid data, you need to setup “Fresh Internet+” plan, as follows:
    * To verify data plan status, enter “*093*0#” and press dial. It should tell you that you have no data plan.
    * On the phone, enter “*093*3#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This cost me USD$5, and gave me 2GB data limit for 30days. (Click here for list of codes for different prices and different data limits.). All the SmartMobile plans are 30day duration, the only difference is how much money you want to prepay, and what data limit that gives you.
    * You should receive an SMS confirming the amount paid, and the data plan.
    * To verify data plan status, enter “*093*0#” and press dial. It should tell you that you have a data plan, days to expiry, and how much of your data plan allowance remains.

  • The following APN settings were enabled automatically on my Android 2.2 phone, so I did not set these manually. However, I’m listing them below in case it helps others debug problems transmitting/receiving on their data plan:
    * 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 “smart” APN, then create one as follows:
    ** Name = smart
    ** APN == smart
    ** Proxy == Not set
    ** Port == Not set
    ** Username == Not set
    ** Password == Not set
    ** Server == Not set
    ** MMSC == Not set
    ** MMS proxy == Not set
    ** MMS port == Not set
    ** MCC == Not set
    ** MNC == Not set
    ** Authentication Type == None
    ** APN Type == default
    …hit save, and go back to “access point names”.

  • verify that this new “smart” APK is present, and is selected.
  • Reboot the phone to see if that helps.
  • When you need additional credits, buy a one-time use scratch-refill card at almost any roadside stand (they are literally everywhere, and all have the distinctive green “Smart Mobile” logo or beach umbrella!).

10 thoughts on “HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Cambodia”

  1. Thanks this was awesome and detailed. I am heading there next week and im sure this will help!

    Cheers

  2. Everything was very useful and I’m sure this will really help people were going over for the first time. I use SMART too when I’m there. It seems to be the best and the people are wonderful all over the country in the offices that help you.

    I am returning to Cambodia as of the 4th of March …. can you tell me if SMART has the small SIM card since I just bought a new galaxy S 4 from TMobile in Hawaii. They unlocked it for me. I use my samsung galaxy s2 for a year over there as it took a large SIM card but I’m curious if they have the small SIM cards for the new S4’s. if not do you know if there is a carrier that does have the small SIM cards?

    I’d appreciate any help on this thank you.

    Fran

    1. hi Fran;

      Disclaimer: I am unable to verify this personally, as I am not currently in Cambodia, but here’s what I found in case this helps you.

      1) On the Smart website, they do sell the Samsung Galaxy S4, with the micro-SIM card. http://www.smart.com.kh/en/products/phones/phone-samsung This leads me to believe that Smart would sell the micro-sim cards for prepay Smart plans using your own existing Galaxy S4.

      2) In case Smart for some reason does not work out, I found another place in Phnom Penh (http://www.iknow.com.kh/phonenew/index.php?view=companydetail&companyid=61460&show=detail&PSID=17002&NS=Mobile%20Phone&CPID=135174&value=) that *does* sell Galaxy S4 phones, and would therefore likely also sell the micro-sim cards for local mobile phone providers like Smart.

      Hope that helps
      John.

  3. There are 3 big Phone operators in Cambodia currently.

    Cellcard (also known as Metfone)
    Smart (merged with Hello Axiom)
    Metfone
    DO NOT use Metfone!!! They have the WORST customer service. They also ONLY provide 3 months non usage, before deactivation of your account (that means if you do not use your sim card for 3 months, bye bye sim card).

    Cellcard and Smart give you 1 year non usage.

    Metfone service also say YES to everything you say. They are like retarded parrots. DO NOT USE!!.

  4. Hi,

    I am a new user of SMART but I dont know why my mobile data is not working even I topped up 2$ in it. I even access the APN name already. I am using a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

    Pls help me with this.

    Thanks! I will appreciate your cooperation.

    1. hi Mitzi;

      As I dont have a kindle device, I don’t know. I’d guess it depends on which model Kindle you have, and whether you care about kindle on wifi or celldata. Hopefully Google can help answer?

      Best of luck.
      John.

  5. The section describing how to manually make the APN settings worked perfectly for me: Galaxy S4, Smart Network.

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