Verizon Wireless Enters the Free International Messaging Game

by on February 19, 2014 · 39 comments

in Mobile

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As someone who is constantly on the road, I need to keep in touch wherever I am in the world. I thrive on connectivity and I make sure to keep a keen eye on my cell phone usage while traveling abroad, since as we all know, high charges can pile up on your bill faster than you can say ‘4G LTE’. That holds true even when using your phone within the US to call or text abroad. Instead of included minutes and texts, you can end up paying up to $4 a minute for talking and usually about 50 cents per text you send, which can add up fast.

Recently, T-Mobile announced unlimited global roaming roaming plans, and while I hoped that would get other carriers to introduce competitive plans, so far the response has been lackluster. Case in point: Verizon’s new “More Everything” plans.

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These plans offer more data, cloud utilization and,unlimited international messaging (including text and multimedia) – but only when texting international numbers from the US, and it does not include international data, which is usually the largest chunk of my bill when traveling abroad, but it’s still helpful for those of us who prefer to communicate with others via text when away.

As I said, we’ve seen more comprehensive international plans from T-Mobile, who is aggressively trying to poach customers from other carriers. However, given that their coverage in major cities is limited and data when roaming internationally are at slow 2GS speeds, I was not jumping at a chance to switch carriers just for the international capabilities.

As for Verizon’s new international feature, it’s pretty disappointing. Not only do you still need to pay sky-high fees for international roaming, but the international text feature is just for use in the US to text numbers in other countries. You still need to pay for international data with the Global Data Feature of $25/100MB  (comparable to AT&T’s at $30/120MB, and free with T-Mobile).

Weighing the options of the networks for international travel, T-Mobile still looks like a better choice solely in terms of unlimited data. However, you sacrifice data speed abroad and good coverage while in the US. Verizon is inching towards toward cheaper international plans though you’ll still have to pay for data. AT&T has essentially the same pricing scheme at Verizon, though you pay for messaging with rates between $0.10-$0.20/text sent depending on the plan you pay, and Sprint is hands down the most expensive at $0.50/text and $80 for 85MB, which seems absurd given that Verizon and AT&T are under $35 for 100MB.

While I’m disappointed by the limitations of these new plans, I do intend to keep Verizon as my network of choice with the hopes that the network leans in the direction of T-Mobile and making all international data part of a low, bundled fee. Are you a Verizon customer? What are your thoughts on this new feature?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Rob philip

    Just swapping SIM cards on my Verizon iPhone is the cheapest. I’m in Oman now and 2gb of data and all the talk and text I need was $25 for two weeks. Australia was about the same, or cheaper, in December. Ditto NZ.

  • Hairythunder

    Totally agree with the Verizon vs T-Mobile comparison. My wife and son have VZ and I switched to TM for the intl features and simpler pricing. But TM’s coverage in the US is not as good as VZ overall. VZ intl feature is still not compelling. $25 for 100 Mb intl data is poor.

  • Diane

    I think “unlimited international messaging” means the ability to text international phone numbers while in the US for no additional charge. It does not mean free texting while traveling internationally.

    “Verizon is now offering More Everything customers unlimited texting to anywhere in the world — from the US, that is.”

  • jumustube .

    Verizon phones are CDMA not GSM and don’t have SIM cards in them. How were you able to swap out a SIM card in a Verizon I Phone ?

  • Allen

    I have traveled throughout Europe and Australia and never had any problems with my T-Mobile service. I got tired of being raped by Verizon.
    Also, it works fine in Southern Calif.

  • Rob philip

    My iPhone 4s certainly has a sim card. The iPhone is CDMA in north America, but has a gsm radio too. In fact it’s a dual CDMA/gsm radio. The phone has a Verizon SIM in it that you swap for a local sim in your country of travel. Put the Verizon sim back when you get home to reconnect to your Verizon plan. I’ve done it a half dozen time without problem in the last two years. Make sure your phone is unlocked though. For the 4s there is a mildly clumsy process involving Verizon and apple as a onetime thing. With the iPhone 5 and beyond I think the phone is unlocked by default.

    And no – you cannot use AT&T or t-mobile SIMs. Verizon has them locked out, stupid as that is.

  • Lonetree

    All Verizon 4G phones have SIM cards. All of those are unlocked and all within the last few years have GSM capable chipsets.

  • Lonetree

    The newer phones don’t lock out the other carriers anymore.

  • Mike

    The premise of this post is totally false. The free messaging is only while the verizon subscriber is in the US, not while overseas.

    The best bet is still to pop a local SIM in your phone while traveling. Verizon iPhone 5 & 5S are totally unlocked for international SIM use.

  • Lonetree

    As are the Androids.

  • Jennifer Purdon

    My favorite way to communicate with people back home when I travel internationally is to use Face Time on my iPad or iPhone. As long as you can find Wi-Fi, and are calling another Apple device, it’s FREE! Then you get to show off your surroundings!

  • Matt

    I will be traveling to Switzerland for 2 days followed by South Africa for 2 weeks. I currently have AT&T. Any suggestions on what to do in order to use phones for data/ messaging, etc? I dont really want to change plans just for this 2 week trip, but am willing to buy some kind of short term add on coverage.

  • Rob philip

    @Lonetree: good to know.

  • SeaBee3

    You are correct with your definition.

  • Steve

    I think this is extremely confusing for customers and a terrible feature line. With T-Mobile you get free SMS even while you’re abroad. When I read “Unlimited International Messaging” from Verizon I assumed it would be exactly that – free international texting as well.But it turns out it’s only if it’s sent from the United States. What a sham!

  • dginchelsea

    I was going to switch to t mobile, but I’m getting reports that the service is very spotty overseas. Anyone have any data points on recent service?

  • jumustube .

    Oh I didn’t know that, thanks. Guess its been a couple of years since I purchased a Verizon I Phone.

  • dsamso

    In my humble opinion, T-Mobile is so far ahead of the game that I do not understand this post. Let me explain:
    1. T-mobile charges 20c a minute for roaming in over 100 countries. That means if you are in Germany and want to call someone in Germany, it is 20c a minute, if you call the US, it is 20 c a minute and if you call Brazil it is also 20 c a minute. So this includes international long distance also. It works, I just tested it in three countries (Spain, Germany, and Brazil in the last few months)
    2. No roaming data charges. Free. Unlimited. Yes, 2G, but you can buy 3G for comparable prices to the other carriers. You can go to your destination, test the speeds, decide if you can live with the free service and if you cannot, buy 3G. You don’t have that free option with Verizon or AT&T.
    3. T-Mobile has traditionally had the best list of roaming partners, so roaming with them should not be an issue, it is GSM anyway like most of the world. Verizon only has an advantage in the US, where they have the best network.
    4. Free international messaging in the US is of limited use for one more reason: say I send a free international message to a colleague or friend in Europe. They will have to respond and that will cost them money, so end of the conversation. There is a neat little application called Whatsapp, that costs 99c a year after the first year and that delivers free text and multimedia messages if you have a data plan or wifi connection. That is what pretty much anyone in the world uses, particularly if they are communicating internationally.
    All this on top of the cheapest rates of the post paid programs and no contract. Am I missing something? (p.s. I don’t work for T-Mobile)

  • Beth Hedquist

    This is a great step in the right direction but what I did when I travelled to Costa Rica recently is I bought an iPad, and whenever I was in contact with wi-fi at the hotel, I could message anyone for free. At least those with iPhones, which was most if not all of the people I would contact in an emergency. I decided not to buy the international phone plan at all, kept the phone off, and communicated by free text via my iPad. It worked great.

  • Mary E. ICN

    I get connected to wifi somewhere in a hotel room, or starbucks, and then use kakao talk to text for free. Kakao talk is commonly used in South Korea. I used it while in Ireland to connect with people in SK. Also, has a voice feature as well.

  • joeypore

    Just looked at Verizon’s website. Definitely looks like international messages are still 50cents a piece… Bummer.

    One day maybe we’ll see a true global roaming add-on that will allow for the same use of our data allowance in the US while we’re abroad.

  • SKGW

    I’ve just switched to T-Mobile new plans with unlimited international roaming and data works amazingly well. in both Mexico and France I was on 3G networks. More than enough speed to get emails, iMessage and other notifications when I am not on wifi. I was impressed! The 2G notifications in their page is because that’s the minimum they guarantee in countries when there isn’t 3G. You can also buy a 4G pack for your trip if there is 4G coverage where you go. ANd all calls are $0.20. With roaming my bill was under $100 last month. In conclusion, Verizon is still falling behind…

  • Mike

    I recently switched to T-Mobile from AT&T and I love it. Their network in the US isn’t the greatest, but it’s fine where I live (DC). I was in Brazil a few weeks ago and was connected to the 3G network… unlimited data, no fees. I could call anyone in Brazil (including cell phones) for $0.20/minute, and calls to the US while in a Wi-Fi network are free. T-Mobile is a no brainer for frequent international travelers. Sure, you can always get a local SIM card, but that’s a hassle if you’re just visiting on vacation.

  • AnotherAndroidKid

    ios is for muggles. most don’t know what a sim is, let alone how to change one.

  • Craig

    Diane is correct. I just spoke to VZ global servies, this is free text messages TO international numbers (from inside the US). If you’re in another country, it’s still the standard $0.50 to send a text an $0.05 to recieve a text.

  • Jason

    Agreed on the post above, T-Mobile is the way to go. Brian, I usually love your posts, but this is one of the worst pieces of disinformation (and I don’t work for T-mobile either) – Verizon is not a viable substitute overseas, and in practice T-Mobile offers 3G speeds globally.

    May I suggest you get a T-Mobile SIM, swap it in your phone, and see how what your experience is? Otherwise you sound like a Verizon shill, to be honest.

  • Frances Tagliano

    So essentially we’re saying that @THEPOINTSGUY’s whole premise in this post is completely wrong? Lovely…

  • Kiooooly

    All Verizon LTE devices are SIM unlocked. The FCC required this concession when Verizon bought a bunch of wireless spectrum that the government put on sale.

  • thepointsguy

    You are correct – I misread the information and will correct post – blaming it on my Australia jet lag.

  • thepointsguy

    I’ve updated post to be more clear about the terms, so thank you for your feedback.

  • thepointsguy

    I misread some of the terms – Australia jet lag! I am updating the post, but thank you for your feedback.

  • Lonetree

    Verizon makes too much money off business accounts paying for Global usage. They would never include it free. Maybe texting.

  • cms1980

    I also find it helpful to use the Vonage app on my iPhone when abroad. It doesn’t offer the same flexibility in that you need an active wi-fi connection, but the calls and texts to the US are free. And I don’t mind being out of touch when I am not in the hotel room – don’t want to be bothered with a phone when traveling anyway!
    Also – it is free to call from Europe to US land and cell phones. Have not had to pay for airtime yet. Can also use it in the states to prevent using up your minutes.

  • Kort

    I switched to T Mobile last Oct for the international travel txting and internet, and in all the countries that i frequently travel to such as Australia, New Zealand, dubai, Great Britton, Germany, Etc all I can say is wow. The speeds are NOT 2G but 3G so they are slower than LTE but still fast. I can txt when ever I want and never have to worry about paying 50 cents a message in the back of my mind and when I really need to call its cheap at 20 cents a minute.
    I was on the road for 3 weeks at the end of last year. I sent over 1000 txt messages and used 15 MG of internet all for NOTHING extra in my bill, my bill was only more by 10 dollars for all the voice calls.
    I Live in Los Angeles and never have a problem with LTE service which shows about 95% of the time and when i travel i have service everywhere, maybe not LTE in rural areas but in every large city where I spend 99% of my travels there is blazing fast LTE.
    The moral? If you are thinking of switching then go to TMobile, they have great coverage and will have even better this year with the Verizon swap. But more importantly they have fair pricing.

  • Jon

    Most definitely agreed. Even 2g speeds are quite usable for basic services and, after all, it’s free with all existing plans. There’s no addon fee for it. If you’d prefer to not “sacrifice speed” abroad, then you’re free to pay up for faster data – the same speeds you’d get if you used a Verizon phone abroad (if not better, considering T-Mobile’s stronger roaming arrangements). Moreover, I’d be curious to hear how T-Mobile’s dearth of rural coverage would impact those of us (and presumably yourself) who live in and travel to cities. 2 years ago, sure LTE coverage concerns would have been an issue. But unless you’re going to the middle of nowhere (which doesn’t seem to be the case), then any city you’re going to is probably getting great TMO service.

    (I also do not work for T-Mobile…)

  • KP

    Brian, as a guy who used to be against Tmobile years ago, I now use tmobile and the speeds are in fact 3G, not 2G. LTE isn’t even stood up in most countries anyways…so 3G will do just fine, especially since free. This year alone I’ve been to Mexico, Italy, Ireland, and Sweden. Had graet speeds when uploading and tethering, most importanly, no overage charges!

    I don’t think you used tmobile once and you’re going off years of wild fire rumors without testing the waters first, so until you do, make sure you know what you’re talking about, instead of passing along untrue information.

    Tmobile even worked fine in upstate NYC, Tennessee, Gulf Coast of Florida, and deep down passed Houston this year, so I don’t know what the fug you’re talking about!

    World Travler

  • KP

    Brian, as a guy who used to be against Tmobile years ago, I now use tmobile and the speeds are in fact 3G, not 2G. LTE isn’t even stood up in most countries anyways…so 3G will do just fine, especially since free. This year alone I’ve been to Mexico, Italy, Ireland, and Sweden. Had graet speeds when uploading and tethering, most importanly, no overage charges!

    I don’t think you used tmobile once and you’re going off years of wild fire rumors without testing the waters first, so until you do, make sure you know what you’re talking about, instead of passing along untrue information.

    Tmobile even worked fine in upstate NYC, Tennessee, Gulf Coast of Florida, and deep down passed Houston this year, so I don’t know what the fug you’re talking about!


    World Travler

  • misterbill

    You should fix the article. It still reads as if the texts are free when you say “and it does not include international data”.

  • Disappointed

    Verizon international text messaging is free and unlimited in a very limited way–that is, I can send a text message to my family in Serbia, but they cannot send a text to me. So far, I have not received any help in resolving this problem from Verizon tech support. I am pretty sure that it is a one-way “unlimited texting” deal. Unfortunately, this is not how they “sell” the product–no one mentioned that I would not be able to receive responses to my text messages from Serbia–and I asked specifically. When I asked for help, they finally told me (after more than an hour on the phone), that they referred the problem to their “international” tech team. This was three weeks ago. When I went to a Verizon store, the person there looked into it, and said that I could “technically” text–and that the fact that I cannot receive a response from Serbia is not Verizon’s fault. He suggested that I should use Skype (which I do on my desktop) or Google voice. I sent a text to my relatives in Serbia and received a response using my friend’s smartphone (identical to mine). The difference was that her provider was ATT.

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