On my way to Aruba a friend told me she heard I could text for free using my iPhone and Sprint mobile provider. I was surprised to hear it after a crappy experience battling lackluster service throughout my U.S.A. road trip, so the international perk was surprising, to say the least.
Nevertheless, I searched Sprint's website for a phone number to connect to their customer service line (which was an arduous journey in itself) and eventually called their sales line to get connected and transferred. (I later found the official global roaming webpage and accompanying phone number: 888-226-7212. You're welcome.)
I confirmed the good news: the rumor was true! I never received any notification about it BUT apparently the free international roaming benefit applied to my account automatically as I was using a qualifying iPhone 6s. Upon further inquiry I learned any Sprint account using iPhone 5 or later and Samsung Galaxy Note 5 or later can access this benefit (basically any LTE/GSM capable device).
Here are the Sprint International "Roaming" plan details as of March 2018:
Update: still working as of December 2017 and has expanded to more places (I updated the image below with the latest coverage map).
Update 2: The Sprint website now says that service is included with your LTE/GSM capable smartphone automatically. Since I travel long-term, I've been too afraid to test if this is true so still set it up before leaving the country.
***Update 3: An official Sprint press release indicates you no longer need to activate global roaming. Here are the new instructions as posted February 2018:
- 20¢ per minute for phone calls
- Unlimited texting to the USA and many international countries (including Aruba). Here is the list of countries from the Sprint website.
- Unlimited data up to 2G speed
How to set up international roaming on an iPhone in just 5 Steps:
Step 1: While you're still in the USA, dial ##873283# and press "call". Instead of a call going through, it will hang up and a pop up notification will appear. The pop up will say: "Updating service data profile". Press OKAY.
Step 2: A second pop up will appear when complete, press OKAY again.
Step 3: Make sure roaming is turned on and CDMA turned off. To do this, go into settings ---> cellular ---> cellular data options ---> roaming ---> voice and data roaming "on" (will turn green when on) ---> international CDMA "off" (will turn white when off).
Step 4: Turn phone off for one minute and then back on to complete activation.
Step 5: The phone should now be all set to send and receive calls and messages while you are abroad.
Things to note:
- iMessage might have trouble when using international roaming (except for when it's operating over wifi). Turn off iMessage and use standard texting if this happens. (It didn't happen to me at all, but the Sprint associate warned about it.)
- To make international phone calls to the USA while abroad, dial 001 first, and then the full phone number.
- As far as using a country code when calling locally, I found phone calls in Aruba, worked just fine by dialing the area code 297 without the country code.
- If there are any problems, call Sprint at 001 817-698-4199, their international toll free number.
- Remember to turn data roaming back off upon return to ensure no domestic roaming charges.
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