Ask Paul: October 7 (Premium)

Happy Friday! Well, I thought last week’s installment was epic, but this week is even longer, so let’s settle in for the long haul.
International connectivity
cwfinn asks:

Based on your extensive foreign travel, what's a better option for my month-long trip to Australia in 2 weeks? AT&T offers U$10/day (only for the days I use it) for unlimited talk/text/data including calls back to the USA, keeping my US mobile number.

Telstra offers a lower rate (they're cagey about the exact amount but about U$100 for a month) but would provide me with an Australian number, so people would need to us a new mobile number AND potentially cost them money to call me.

I'm leaning toward the AT&T solution but would value your input.

Obviously, this is something I’ve struggled with over the years, and I hope I’ve written somewhere---if so, I can’t find it---about how transformative the evolution of international connectivity has been over the past 20 years.

For example, when we went to Germany in 2003, we drove into Boston ahead of the trip to pick up a rental Nokia phone with an international SIM card so that we could call home to check in with the kids, who were staying with our parents (or vice-versa). And when we were in France in the summer of 2007 on a home swap with the first iPhone---which had no sense of roaming/not roaming let alone international usage, and people were reporting coming home from Europe and receiving $5000 AT&T bills on a stack of paper that was inches high---I was terrified to even turn the thing on.

Today, things are much easier. But the question you’re asking is one that reminds me of more recent years, when the phone I was using had a single SIM card and I had to decide what to do on an international trip. I could use my AT&T SIM and keep my phone number but pay a lot for limited international usage (this could be off, but I recall paying hundreds of dollars for 800 Mb of data, which required me babysitting connectivity as I couldn’t add more). I could buy a SIM at the location I was traveling to. Or, eventually, I swap out my SIM card for a Google Fi SIM and use that while I was away; in the latter two cases, I would lose my phone number while I was away. And when I was only on Google Fi I could just use that normally while away.

I did each of those things multiple times. But these days, my phones all have dual SIMs. So I could---and, in one case, have---use two accounts at the same time, one my normal account (now T-Mobile) and one with another SIM for international use; I did so this past year on the Pixel 6 Pro, which had both Google Fi and a Mexico AT&T SIMs in it.

So the first thing I would suggest is going the dual SIM route if you can. The issue is that you may need to communicate with people back home, will likely get text messages and phone calls, and that will make it difficult to just give up that number while you’re away. Especially for that length of time...

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