I’ve been using my Blackberry in Mexico for a few months now and I’ve learned a few things about getting mobile email outside the United States. I wanted to write a bit about things I’ve learned in hopes that others will find it useful.
If you are looking at an international email plan, you will probably want to go with a Blackberry instead of some of the other types of smartphones. Other smartphones will allow you to work internationally, but I haven’t seen a plan that gives you unlimited usage. Instead they charge you by the KB which works out to about $15 to $20 per MB downloaded. If you are busy with email, it doesn’t take long to get 20 or even 50 MB of data transfered. At $20 per MB you’ll pay over $1000 for 50 MB. That is a pretty steep charge for a month of usage.
Blackberry on the other hand seems to have international usage at a flat fee from most carriers. I know that TMobile and Cingular both offer unlimited international roaming plans and I think there is something available from Verizon as well.
Keep in mind that the roaming plans may be fairly specific. For example, the Tmobile plan only allows you to check your email internationally. They will charge you by the DB for any web browsing. However they have a fairly reasonable rate at $49 per month. Cingular offers an international plan that allows you to use unlimited data on the device regardless of whether it is for email or web browsing. Their fee is $69 per month. The unlimited data does not include hooking your Blackberry into your laptop and using it for internet access. I’m not sure how the measure that usage, but I was told you would pay by the KB for that.
Another consideration is the cost of using the device as a phone. TMobile offers a plan where you can pay as you go for $0.20 per minute in the U.S. and $1.49 in Mexico (probably similar for other countries). Cingular charges $0.40 per minute for pay as you go usage and I’m not clear how much pay as you go would cost in Mexico. However with a basic voice plan, Cingular allows you to add a $6 per month option that gives you calls from down in Mexico for $0.59 per minute. If you make a lot of calls this is significantly better than the $1.49 rate.
The best phone rate internationally is going to be getting a local phone. Most of the time, you can just get a SIM card and put it in your existing phone. However in many other countries data services are still more expensive than purchasing an international plan from the U.S. In many cases you’ll be better off carrying a U.S. based Blackberry with a data only plan and a local cell phone with a pay as you go plan.