Advantages and Disadvantages of the Prepaid SIM Card World with an Unlocked iPhone 5S

I carry two phones whenever I travel, a BlackBerry (don’t ask me why) and an iPhone 5S. A few weeks ago, I’ve finally broke out of my shell and decided to unlock my iPhone 5S with Sprint. It took a simple phone call and they remotely unlocked it within seconds. So, why have I waited this long to unlock my iPhone 5S? I realized that nano SIM cards were rare when I had the iPhone 5.


Now that nano SIM cards have been out for two years, I decided that carriers must have them on hand (not so fast). I will list some advantages and disadvantages of the prepaid SIM card world with an unlocked iPhone 5S.


Low cost – SIM cards cost less than $10 USD in most cases. In Argentina, the Personal SIM card was $1 USD. In Peru, I’ve bought a SIM card for $3 USD. Sometimes you will get a small amount of credit with your prepaid SIM purchase.

Data only plans – I experimented with TelCel (Mexico) and they have an awesome prepaid data plan. The cool thing about TelCel is that you can buy “data only” if you wanted to. 15 days for up to 1GB came out to $15 USD which was pretty cheap.

Free incoming calls – Some prepaid SIM cards come with free incoming calls which is a huge plus.

Free WiFi usage – Some public hotspots have logins for Claro, Movistar, etc. Once you have your pre-paid SIM, you will have login info for free WiFi in certain places.


Hard to find nano-SIM cards – Most of the time, it’s really hard to find a nano SIM card from a mobile carrier. Most vendors will carry the regular sized sim card. To get around this, you will need to have the carrier cut the SIM card for you in order for it to fit in an iPhone 5S. I bought one on eBay for $1 shipped and I plan on carrying it around when I travel.

Give up sensitive info – You will often have to provide a passport. Some people might be turned off by handing over personal information, but it is necessary as they have to enter your information in their computer system.

Language Barrier – When you’re in a foreign country and you don’t speak the language, you’re going to have a hard time getting a SIM card let a alone a nano-SIM card. I would try going to big malls around tourist areas and there is always one person who will know some sort of English and try to understand you.

Expiration – The SIM cards have expiration dates, but some don’t. One simple recharge could possibly bring your SIM card back to life. After a long period of time, always check your SIM card with the carrier to see if it’s still valid.


Yes, I’ve gotten the “Why don’t you switch to T-mobile for free international data?” Well, that’s an amazing deal for sure, but I really dislike T-mobile. I’m a Sprint kind of guy and their LTE is blazing fast in Los Angeles. Plus, it’s fun to play around with international prepaid SIM cards and you get a “local” number, so you can feel just like a local. This isn’t for everyone, but playing the prepaid nano-SIM card game is quite challenging. I’m always up to challenge and the SIM cards are cool to collect.


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Points Summary
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2 Comments on "Advantages and Disadvantages of the Prepaid SIM Card World with an Unlocked iPhone 5S"

  1. i am currently trying the T-Mo thing in Ireland (i’ll write a post later) and it’s ok. i’ve managed so far but there are times when the throttling is a pain in the butt (like when trying to post pictures to twitter; sometimes it’ll time out). but for $22 a month including taxes (i have a separate data-only SIM with a minimal plan that has the int’l roaming) i think it’s a pretty good alternative, especially since i’m doing a day trip to Northern Ireland on Saturday (so i’ll have coverage there).

  2. another disadvantage: as of a few months ago, its likely illegal to unlock a us-carrier phone without permission.

    The law is pretty ridiculous.

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