Taking Fairphone 2 to USA

One more datapoint: my experience in the US with FP2 (Summer 2016, Boston)

TL;DR : Works great on local SIM card.

French SIM card in the US:

  • Telephone functionality is great!
  • Text works but several recipients complain about getting duplicates. Or duplicates x10, enough that people ask that I stop texting them.
  • Data is fail. I can send chat messages (Google hangous, whatsapp…), but that’s about it. Even pages composed of text don’t load. Maps and location settings are also unavailable. The data situation is the same across 4G, 3G and 2G, AT&T and T-Mobile networks. No amount of settings adjustments remedied the problem.

US SIM card in the US:

  • 100% data functionality at 4G using T-Mobile SIM card.
  • Still using French card for phone. Finaly, a use for double SIM card!
  • The only settings change was to set the US-SIM to the preferred SIM for data.
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Update: French SIM card in Portland, Oregon, April 2017.
Blazing fast internet on 4G T-Mobile. No weird duplicate texts yet.

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Hi, in particular, I am interested in whether the FairPhone works in the EU an the USA. I recently traveled to the USA with a phone that only works in Europe. A mobile phone. It was strange. I thought cell phones worked everywhere & that’s why they’re considered “mobile phones.”

Mobile means you can easily carry them around with you, and cell means they work in areal cells of a network defined by the provider’s technology, which can differ.
Phones that work almost everywhere use satellites.

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No, unfortunately not. Different countries are using different frequencies for their mobile networks and some networks are using different technologies (CDMA/CDMA2000).

But I think only a few people need worldwide working phones as most European persons never travel out of Europe.

Look at willmyphonework.net if your phone supports the frequencies in the country.

The Fairphone 2 will probably work everywhere, but in some countries only with one, not with two SIM cards (in countries without 2G: South Korea, Japan, soon Australia) and in some countries it only works with 2G/3G, not with LTE (like the USA).

But there are also some China phones which do not support the 800 MHz LTE band, so LTE does not work properly in Europe.

In Europe, the Fairphone 2 (and any other modern European phone) probably works everywhere. It is built for whole Europe, and European networks do not differ much from each other.

For the USA and the Fairphone 2, you should use the T-Mobile network as it’s the only network with GSM, so you can use two SIM cards. (AT&T will work, too, but only with 3G. You will only be able to use one AT&T card, not two. A 2G T-Mobile card next to a 3G AT&T card is possible. Verizon and Sprint are CDMA/CDMA2000 networks and do not work with the Fairphone 2 and most other European phones.)

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For reference:

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This is a great answer. One quick update based on my experience:

In NYC – T-Mobile has recently updated its LTE towers, so it no longer supports European cells (apparently a load of old US cells lost connection too). So, the FP2 no longer works with T-Mobile in NYC (to be more specific – it runs on 2G internet (which is useless) and has very bad reception for phone calls (T-Mobile had shaky coverage to begin with, and it’s got significantly worse for FP2 since this update)). I believe this is the case across the country, since I’ve heard noises about them updating towers across the US, but I’m really not sure.

AT&T seems to work – If, like me, you don’t need crazy fast internet, you can switch really easily to AT&T, which works fine on 3G (NOT 4G). Calls seem to work fine too.

Apparently AT&T is not planning to update its towers, so there should be no frequency changes (i.e. the FP2 should work on this network for the foreseeable future). However, that’s just what one guy in a store said to me, so it’s hardly gospel… For now, at least, I’m back on the internet after a month of 2G.

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Thanks for the warning! On my last trip a T-Mobile US prepaid SIM (great deal) worked just fine (3G only), but it seems AT&T is the last remaining option now.

What they are actually doing is switching off HSPA (3G) and deploying LTE (4G) on the same frequencies (band 2, 1900 MHz). While the FP2 does support HSPA on band 2, LTE does not work on this band. So it can now use neither 3G (defunct) nor 4G (band not supported) and falls back to 2G.

(They also use band 4 / 66 (1700 MHz) and 12 (700 MHz), but those are not supported by the FP2 at all.)

AT&T still operates an HSPA network on band 2.

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I have been in the US with my FP2 and got a T-Mobile card ($30 for 4 weeks, 1000mins, unlimited texts, unlimited data, 2 GB LTE), but 4G did not work and 3G only worked very poorly in Washington DC. This might have been a consequence of the tower updates.

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Hi all, since this is a topic that might be relevant to more people, I just wanted to post an update.

I have moved to the United States (Seattle) from Switzerland in March 2017. For the first two months, I was running with data roaming on my Swiss SIM Card (which by the way was cheaper than a local mobile contract). After that time, knowing that there are limitations with the FP2 and the available bands, we signed up with T-mobile.

This was working fine at 3G speeds for two months, but after that suddenly we only got 2G connections, and doing phone calls also was virtually impossible without interruptions. It took quite a while until we found a qualified T-mobile person who told us that they “upgraded their network”, i.e. along what jc636 has reported for NY, the bands wont fit any more.

As of yesterday, we ported our number to AT&T, which seemingly is still operating 3G on Band 2, 1900MhZ. As of today, no problems, good 3G data connection and no problems doing phone calls. I hope that AT&T will continue to operate these bands.

I will let you know in case this should change. Otherwise, using the FP2 in the USA is fine. Be aware though that Fairphone does not even ship any spare parts to the US.

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Update: Back to Boston, where I had data / internet problems with a French SIM card earlier. I have a new French SIM card from a different provider (switched from SFR to Orange), and the internet is amazing this time.

For those who didn’t scroll the rest of the post: Internet worked with a US SIM last time, but not the French one.

It is well possible that your old French operator had no roaming agreement with the network in Boston that you are currently using (AT&T or T-Mobile, probably).

Issues like that can happen everywhere. I have travelled in remote areas in North England, where it often happens that Vodafone is the only network with coverage; the other networks covered remote places far worse. But my operator had no roaming contract with them so I couldn’t use the network.
This could have been changed though, it happened before I had a Fairphone.

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Albert, Good point. I did not add the US network I was on. This year I’ve
been consistently on AT & T. Last year, nothing worked.
Before using the Fairphone, I had never had any problems with international
roaming anywhere. People keep asking where it works, so I add what
anecdotal evidence I can. I know there is https://willmyphonework.net/ ,
but it’s definitely not perfect.

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5 posts were split to a new topic: Why does the FP2 not support US frequencies?

To share another US fairphone experience: I am using my FP2 with a T-mobile traveler pre-paid card in Portland, OR, and everything works great. Set US SIM as default for data and texts, for calls I chose to be asked before each call so I can easily switch between my home and the US number as needed. Great advantage of double-SIM slot: I am accessible via both numbers anytime!
One other thing I want to share: Be prepared to receive an emergency message test monthly. First time it happened, I had no idea and thought it was a virus. These messages are provided to inform people in case of a life threatening emergency or child abduction. You can easily shut this off, though. I am still undecided about this. Any opinions?

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It’s a system and awareness test message, to be used in case of earthquakes, tornadoes, public safety alerts, etc. You shouldn’t need to worry about it.

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2 posts were merged into an existing topic: No U.S. Fairphone?

I am a mobile phone novice. I am in the UK and visiting the US. Will my phone work there and do I have to do anything?

You will have to be careful if you are buying a local SIM card, but if you use your UK SIM card it will just connect to any compatible network by itself as European operators tend to have a multitude of roaming contracts with local operators. If your operator has a roaming contract with AT&T you should be able to use their 3G service, otherwise you will likely end up on a 2G network.

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Thank you Albert, I’ve been in touch with my provider and I should be able to use my phone.

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