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American Digital Nomads: Best Phone Plan + iPhone for Traveling



15 Jul 2015

Are you an American who travels overseas regularly? Or maybe you're thinking about taking that dream round the world trip? Whether you travel frequently outside of the U.S., or are thinking about traveling abroad for an extended period of time we've found the best phone plan + iPhone combo for the American digital nomad.

What makes us experts on this? We live it. We're digital nomads here at CallerSmart, i.e. we don't work in a traditional office space, face-to-face.  Instead, our team is distributed across the globe and we travel regularly, which means we need cell phones and phone plans that can go with us.

Because of our global travels, we've researched and selected the best iPhone/phone plan package for Americans while they are abroad. With this plan, we don't feel like this when we're looking at our monthly cell charges following an overseas trip:

Throwing Money Out the Window

Instead, we feel like we're saving a lot of that cash for future trips. The key is to use an iPhone 5S, 5C, 6, or 6+ with T-Mobile's "Simple Choice North America" no-contract plan. We got turned on to this cash saving tip by Ben Trotter, who travelled with an iPhone 5S to 16 different countries in 5 months without ever changing his SIM card once or paying any exorbitant fees! (He also traveled BUSINESS CLASS the entire trip with credit card airline points!)

The Plan:

We know what you're think, but really T-Mobile is the best for the U.S. wanderluster!

T-Mobile offers a $50 unlimited talk + text + data (1GB @ LTE speeds) no-contract plan called "Simple Choice North America" that comes with two key features which make it teriffic for U.S. digital nomads with an iPhone:

1) Unlimited 2G data WORLDWIDE - This lets you turn on your iPhone in an exotic locale and have data as soon as your plane lands. There's no need to buy a local SIM card (and lose your U.S. number), or stress out looking for a Wi-Fi hotspot.  Instead, you've immediately got data when you turn your iPhone on in a new country - and it isn't costing you any extra.

2) Wi-Fi calling WORLDWIDE - which we'll get into later. 

The Phone:

First of all, if you want your iPhone to work best abroad, you need one that runs on GSM, not CDMA. GSM is the world standard. Outside of Verizon in the U.S., almost no carriers use CDMA.

Not only do you need a GSM-enabled iPhone, but you need a GSM-enabled iPhone that supports the most LTE bands - and that’s where it gets tricky. You can find the model number on the back of your iPhone. These are the models of the iPhone that are GSM and support the most bands.

 Model #
iPhone 5S  A1533
iPhone 5C  A1532
iPhone 6  A1586
iPhone 6+  A1524
iPhone 7  A1660
iPhone 7+  A1661

We recommend the iPhone 7 or 7+ because they have the most LTE bands, which equals 4G in more places. However, if you're on a budget, or think you might run into some questionable situations while abroad, a 6, 6+, 5S or 5C will work too and call less attention.

If you don't already have an iPhone that is one of these model numbers, we suggest getting one directly from Apple, one of the GSM U.S carriers (T-Mobile), or buy an unlocked iPhone from a trusted third party seller on Amazon or Ebay. We've had a lot of travel buddies that have run into issues because they didn't know they had CDMA phones until they went abroad and it stopped working. If your iPhone is CDMA you can't just switch the signal by unlocking it or changing the SIM, you have to get a new phone.

Regarding the Wi-Fi calling worldwide that we mentioned earlier, with an iPhone 5S, 5C, 6, or 6+ you can use the iPhone’s native Wi-Fi calling feature with T-Mobile to make and receive calls and texts from anywhere in the world. (This features not available on older iPhones, but you can sign a  petition to change that.)

So maybe you're going to Brazil for a few months? As long as you're connected to Wi-Fi, then you can make and receive calls and texts to your U.S. number with Wi-Fi.  (In fact, nobody needs to know you're outside the U.S., unless you post it everywhere.) Plus, the calls or texts are FREE to all U.S. numbers. This is the magic of the plan + iPhone working together to make your life 100% easier while traveling. No more new SIM cards. No more changing numbers!

The Wi-Fi calling feature can also be useful while you're in the States, as sometimes T-Mobile's cell coverage isn't the best.  For instance, you can still make and receive calls via this native Wi-Fi calling feature on your iPhone - even from your parents' basement!


In addition, let's say you made a lot of great friends while traveling, or you have family overseas that you want to stay in contact with. For an additional $10 a month, you can get unlimited calling from the U.S. to landlines in 70+ countries via T-Mobile's "Stateside International Talk" option. On top of that, another $5 a month will get you unlimited calling from the U.S. to mobile phones in 30+ countries. (If you’ve been to Latin America, you know how expensive it can be to call someone’s cell phone!) 

Also, if the 1GB of high-speed data isn’t enough for you when you're in the States, then you can bump it up to 3GB of high-speed data via their 3 GB High-Speed Data with Data Stash plan for just $10 more a month.

So there you have it! This is the best U.S. mobile phone/phone plan package that we've found for Americans who either travel abroad frequently, or who spend long stretches outside the U.S. So long as you don't mind slower 2G data speeds when you're abroad, it's almost as if you (or at least your iPhone) has never left the States.  Plus, it's great to keep your own U.S. number and not have to constantly update friends and family on how to reach you when overseas.

Let's Fly Away! 

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