Smart Phones on the Road

I am an unabased Android user. I used an unlocked Nexus S when I was traveling internationally, and have a Galaxy phone now which I use to blog, take pictures, and shoot videos. I also listen to audiobooks, mp3s, watch movies, read books, it is pretty much my goto device for life in general. This year I am working on using it as a GPS unit on the motorcycle as well, eliminating another piece of electronics from my list.

I often make fun of people with iPhones, since I know that, looking just at the specifications, my phone is better. But here is an important thing to note – iPhones are everywhere.
When I was in a small town in Peru I stopped for a couple of days in a small town in the mountains. There wasn’t electricity for most of the day, but there were two cell phone stores selling SIM cards and plans – and iPhone accessories. Not iPhones, to be honest, but chargers and cases.
It’s something you hear now and then when people are thinking about which motorcycle to take with on a overland trip – concern over the availability of parts. It is something to worry about if you are riding something esoteric or that needs highly technical or specialized parts.
For phones, I never saw any case for my Nexus, even in the United States (though I was given plenty of opportunities to order one when I asked at stores). IPhone stuff remains available all over. Since I broke my phone case and wanted to replace it, this was actually something of a big deal.
There is another side to this question, of course. As far as what they do, there is no longer much difference between an android and iPhone. iPhone stuff is more available, but it is also more specialized. While no one was selling a charger for the Nexus, it was really just a USB charger and those are commonly available. While I had to live without a case, I didn’t need one and the Nexus survived.
Another thing to consider in you are buying a phone for the trip is the need to find a GSM unlocked model. GSM phones use a SIM card, which are available in most countries as a pre-paid option. Being unlocked allows any SIM card to be used. While there are many inexpensive phones that are unlocked and use SIM cards, if you are looking to use a smart phone these are two features you will have to ask for.
Unlocked iPhones are still for sale for the non-contract price. Nexus as a new model, the 4, which is also unlocked. If you are on contract with Verizon, you can get their iPhone with a contract extension, and it comes unlocked to allow international use. The Nexus model is less expensive, though it doesn’t have the aftermarket support of other android phones, or the iPhone.
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