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Internet phone service vs. Thai cell phone/SIM card


TheOldMan
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I posted this yesterday in the "Technical" section, but nobody has responded, so I'm trying again here:

 

I have a little device called a magicJack that plugs into my computer, which allows me to make and receive calls over the Internet. Their service has expanded, so I can now make and receive calls over my iPod Touch, when I have Internet access.

 

My magicJack phone number is a U.S. number, but calls to Thailand are dirt cheap. Do you think I should buy a cell phone/SIM card in Thailand, or would my current Internet phone service suffice? (I'll be in Thailand for four weeks.)

 

Thanks in advance for your insight and advice!

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I'd say get a local SIM card, it's cheap enough. You might or might not need a local phone - if you're on AT&T or T-Mobile, check whether or not your current phone can be unlocked (if you're on Sprint or Verizon, however, you're SOL). There are several significant issues with using MagicJack on iPod Touch:

  1. WiFi coverage is spotty - always, that's the nature of the beast. I've never been to Pattaya - first trip in two weeks - so I don't know the exact situation on the ground, but I can guarantee you that GSM coverage is better. WiFi is also often not free. Another quirk of WiFi is that its frequency range - 2.4GHz - happens to be very well absorbed by water, so rain between you and the access point leads to significant service disruption.
  2. Even when you do have WiFi, VOIP (Voice Over IP, which MagicJack is a type of) is very sensitive to things such as latency and packet loss. WiFi internet in hotels and such is often slow, leading to poor quality or completely incomprehensible voice signal.
  3. Finally, as far as I know, MagicJack servers reside in US. This means that every time you make a local call, the packets carrying your voice have to travel from Thailand to somewhere in North America, then back to Thailand. At these distances, you start feeling the effects of simple physics - it takes electrons some time to travel halfway around the world, and then back. As a result, even if your voice is crystal clear, there's a secondary effect - a second or two of delay between you speaking and the person you're talking to actually hearing your voice leads them to thinking you aren't actually talking - and starting to talk themselves. Then your voice arrives, and both of you are talking over each other all the time - this is very very annoying.

To sum it up, you're better off getting a pre-paid local SIM, and if you don't have access to an unlocked GSM phone, get a $20 Nokia. You can use your iPod Touch to call back home when the conditions allow, but don't rely on it.

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I'm interested to see the input from others, as I was in the store considering a "Magic Jack" yesterday specifically for my trip to Pattaya; however, I was thinking of using it to call home, not for communications with Thai girls. So far -- like my brief flirtation with getting a new Slingbox -- I have decided against it. I think I can get a cheap calling card and only plan to call once or twice during the short period of time that I am there.

 

A few points to consider with regard to your specific inquiry:

- in order to use that phone number, wouldn't Thai girls be charged international rates? Aren't they're calling a U.S. number? I was under the impression Magic Jack cuts YOUR rate.

- along those lines, does it even work for incoming calls? A benefit of a Thai cell phone is the ability is to get the 2 a.m. "I didn't get BF'd" text.

- a bigger issue, if you give a TG your Thai cell number and she tuns out to be ting tong, she can pester you while you are in Thailand, but it pretty much ends once you hop on the plane back home. If she has you Magic Jack/US number, it could continue to be a problem after you return. I'm not saying that there won't be girls with whom you would be happy to share your US number, but you can still do that if you have the Thai cell phone.

 

My thought would be to take the Magic Jack and see how it works there, but to also get a cheap Thai cell phone -- they're just too easy and cheap. I just charged up my phone from a prior trip, and will just get a new Sim card when I land.

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My magicJack phone number is a U.S. number, but calls to Thailand are dirt cheap. Do you think I should buy a cell phone/SIM card in Thailand, or would my current Internet phone service suffice? (I'll be in Thailand for four weeks.)

 

 

Yes you should! Why?

1. You will not worry about loosing your iPhone (use an old phone)

2. You will not have to worry about unexpected calls back home.

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Thanks for the technical details, some of which I don't understand.

 

I think I'll take the advice here and try using my Internet phone service just to call back home. For calls within Thailand, I guess I'll have to buy a cheap cell phone when I get to the LOS. You're right, I certainly don't want a lot of girls calling my phone number once I get back to the States.

 

I have a cell phone, but the company tells me there is no way to "unlock" it so it can use a Thai SIM card. Since I'm going to be in Pattaya for four weeks, buying a cheap cell phone is a minor expense.

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Do both.

 

Bring your Magic Jack, and leave it in your hotel room to serve as your "land line".

 

Get a Thai Sim card (55 baht + 45 credit + whatever else top up you want) as your cell.

 

Wouldn't this be your setup at home? Here in US, WiFi coverage is only cover at various spots. That means I wouldn't be able to make calls is a good number of places.

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I have used Skype and Vonage on my PC and you will need a PC for your magic jack.

I think the girls will have to call and international number to contact you.

and you will not be able to carry it in your pocket.

 

The internet speed has been lousy over the 2 trips I did in 2010 and 2011.

 

VOIP will be very sensitive to the line speed and latency of the network.

 

Bottom line is that the call quality sucked...

 

I had an unlocked iPhone 3GS last trip but my daughter lost her phone and I have to give it to her.

It worked pretty well on GSM for both Voice and Data and was not very expensive.

Just make sure you have an unlocked phone to use the Thai SIM.

 

I think every McDonalds in the WORLD now has free WiFi but I have found that WiFi connects even in the US are bad...What do you want for FREE.

 

For Skye use I have my Laptop, iPad, iPhone and a WiFi Skype Phone that looks just like a Candy Bar mobile phone but only uses Skype over WiFi.

I have an incoming Skype number for cheap and buy my minutes in $20 blocks that seem to last me for quite a bit.

 

Additionally I have read that Magic Jack will just turn you off if you are using too many of their resources to make tour calls.

 

BTW I you bring your Vonage box and plug it into an internet line it will work with a convention phone line...But you will still have the issue of a non - Thai line.

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Local SIM is by far the best, easiest and reliable option for making local calls, sms etc. Calls are dirt cheap and no worry about reception issues. Also your friends can call you from the US on whatever is cheapest service, probably Skype and there is NO incoming call charge for you. If you don't have an unlocked phone pick up a simple Nokia or similar in Pattya for max of 900 baht

 

If you want to call the US best option is to either use skype from internet shops, (one approx every 100 metres) or load skype on your ipod touch. There are several coffee shops that have free good quality wifi so you can call on your ipod from there. Some hotels like Areca Lodge have good Wifi which is OK for calls which is free. I use skype a lot to call UK, or have people call me, its not that expensive IMO and my ipod touch works well.

 

Hope this helps.

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Yup. I'm sold on the local cell phone/SIM card plan.

As far as calling home is concerned, I'm not really that concerned about it. My kids are all grown up and have busy lives of their own. I don't think I'd call them more than once a week.

I have Skype and magicJack on my iPod, and both work very well. I made a Skype call to China from a hotel in Washington, D.C., and even though the signal was weak, the call came through loud and clear.

I'm not too worried about magicjack turning me off, either, I've had the service for two years, and I hardly ever use it ... except for having calls forwarded from my magicjack number to my cell phone (which I can't have unlocked so I can use it in Thailand).

 

I appreciate all the expertise and advice available here. I'm confident my experiences in Pattaya will be greatly enhanced if I follow the wisdom of the BMs.

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If your GSM phone is one of those common phone, there are many places on 2nd road or Tuk.Com that will unlock your phone for you.

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I have an iPhone 4s.

Anyone have any luck getting it unlocked other than the AT&T $500+ method?

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I have an iPhone 4s.

Anyone have any luck getting it unlocked other than the AT&T $500+ method?

 

If you have been with your carrier for a while (say 6+ months), just call them and tell them that you need an unlock code for your pending international trip. They are going to try to guide you to use their partner, but just tell them that you'll keep that in mind, but would still like the unlock code just in case of coverage and you need a local provider that has the coverage.

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