4. Mobile Handsets
Mobile handsets for Crime Fighters On The GoFinding an unlocked, inexpensive, no-frills phone in an American mobile shop can be difficult. Many electronics stores sell prepaid phones locked to a specific carrier. These phones are often from prepaid carriers that offer their handsets at very low prices but charge a lot for prepaid minutes. If you plan on tossing your phone after not much use, then this can be a very convenient and affordable way to get new burners since these phones can cost as little as $15 and you can get minutes for as little as $10. There are more details available on prepaid phone services in the Batphone Services section of this site.
If you choose one of these phones, my personal favorite is the Samsung a157V from AT&T Go Phone. It usually sells for around $15, and comes with an AT&T prepaid sim. It's a very basic phone: no camera, no bluetooth, no GPS, and few media options. It is also very easy to unlock (see below).
If you plan on keeping your batburner around for a while, you may want to buy an unlocked handset from one vendor and minutes from a different vendor. Websites that specialize in Chinese made electronics often carry unlocked refurbished, or even counterfeit phones at great prices.
If you go this route, my personal favorite is the Motorola RAZR V3 Quadband GSM. The Razr was a popular model several years ago, so there are still many accessories available for it, especially replacement batteries. Also, because the phone operates on all four GSM frequencies, it will work if you travel internationally and buy a local prepaid SIM. The Razr has a bunch of features like a camera, bluetooth, and the ability to play MP3's from a micro SD card. For around $150 (give or take), you can also buy an unlocked quadband smartphone. At the risk of sounding like a Moto Fanboy, I recommend the Moto G or Moto E for travel-friendly economy smartphones.
My only complaint about the Moto Razr is that it's finicky about chargers. It uses the older mini-USB connector, but it won't charge when plugged in to a computer USB port. It also has a tendency to complain about non-Moto chargers and refuse to charge all together. If you want to use a computer or a random USB charging brick to charge your Moto Razr, you will need a special "charge only" cable that does not carry data. The Samsung a157v uses the more modern micro USB connector for charging, and does not complain about many random chargers. If you need an unlocked phone that you can charge in random locations, and you don't plan on traveling to Europe with it, the Samsung a157v may be a better choice.
If you bought a Samsung a157V with the intention of ditching it, but you would like to unlock it so you can use it with another GSM Carrier. Please be aware that unlocking mobile phones is technically illegal in the US, but if you decide to break the law, here's what you need to do:
- Remove the SIM card and boot the phone.
- Dial *2767*3855# to factory reset the phone.
- Wait a few minutes for the phone to reboot automatically.
- One the phone boots up again dial #*7337# to remove the SIM lock.
- Wait a few minutes for the phone to reboot automatically. Disregard the AT&T logo at boot, your phone is totally unlocked now.
- Remove the battery and insert your prepaid SIM
- Boot the phone one last time.
- If you have an already configured SIM, you can test it by dialing 1(800)444-4444. The recording should read your number back to you.
Having a second (or even a third) mobile phone is surprisingly handy for a number of reasons.
- Even without a SIM, a mobile handset can dial 911 in the US.
- Even if you don't have a prepaid SIM, you can put the SIM from your primary phone into your cheap handset if you want to travel, or do something dangerous, like basically anything involving water or the outdoors.
- If you have a friend visiting from a foreign country, lending them your burner for the visit will save them (and you) a fortune in texts and calls.
- Keeping a topped up and charged up burner in your car is great in case of an emergency.
- Nothing says "I love you and I don't want you to die" like the gift of an emergency burner.