Is This the Ultimate Travel Phone? We Hope So, Because It Only Costs $179

by  Darren Murph | Dec 19, 2013
iPhone / Farknot_Architect/iStock

For travelers who are consistently arriving in other countries, there’s another challenge beyond the long lines at immigration: keeping your mobile phone connected.

Outside of T-Mobile’s radical Simple Choice plan — which allows customers to roam for free (albeit slowly) in over 100 countries — practically every other U.S. carrier charges astronomical rates to use one’s phone overseas. Thankfully, options do exist to make the hit to your wallet a little less severe. For instance, it's possible to procure a local SIM card in the country you’re traveling to, or rent a SIM ahead of time from outfits such as KeepGo. However, in either case, the SIM will do you no good in most U.S. phones. Why? A foul little thing called “carrier locks.”

Essentially, any phone purchased on a postpaid contract in the United States will be locked to the carrier you purchased it from. In other words, an AT&T iPhone 5s will not accept a T-Mobile SIM card, nor will it accept a SIM card from Japan, the UK, or anywhere else. It is factory-programmed to only operate with an AT&T SIM inside, which creates a predicament for jetsetters. For those who don’t have time to wait for their contracts to expire, your best bet is to purchase a secondary device that’s unlocked from the get-go.

Motorola’s new Moto G perfectly fits those criteria. In the past, smartphones that were quick, well-equipped, and relatively modern cost upwards of $500 to purchase off-contract and unlocked. The $179 Moto G breaks that mold, offering specifications that are good enough for the masses, a sleek design, and the most up-to-date edition of Android. And the $179 price is no mirage: this phone is sold unlocked from the factory, with no contractual strings to any carrier whatsoever. It arrives without a SIM, so just toss it in your carry-on and use it when procuring a local SIM at your destination. There’s never been an unlocked smartphone this affordable that wasn’t used, partly damaged, or many years behind the times. For most, it’ll be good enough to continue using once you get back home should you so choose.

We know what you're thinking: is this really the only phone on the market to allow such easy SIM flexibility? Pretty much. There's just nothing else in this class at this price — the closest one on the market costs more than $300. For those looking to get their hands on the latest tech toy (the Moto G just started shipping last week), and also want a reliable, cheap, easy-to-use unlocked phone, this is the one to get.

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