staying in touch while we’re away

I’ve been trying to sort out the best options for communicating with people while I’m away. It doesn’t make sense for me to pay AT&T’s non-trivial cost for phone and data while overseas, especially since I can get a pay-as-you-go phone+data plan inexpensively in Dubrovnik, but my iPhone5 is new and thus locked to AT&T. There’s a pretty wide range of options for routing calls to/from/around phones while traveling, but here’s what I’ve settled on:

1) I’m bringing the iPhone5, but will remove its SIM card while we’re away. This will allow me to use it on WiFi, but not incur any roaming charges. I’ll change my voicemail to tell people that I won’t be receiving messages on that number until June, and will give them a pointer to a web page with a range of contact options. The iPhone will also continue to receive iMessages (SMS/MMS messages sent from an iOS device or the Messages app in OS X) even without the SIM, so my friends with iPhones should be able to continue texting me without any changes as long as one of my devices (iphone5, iPad, Mac) is logged in.

2) (Updated Feb 13) I’ve discovered an application called GrooveIP for Android that will allow me to send and receive voice calls over a data connection using my existing US-based Google Voice phone number (+1 585 598 4947). People in the US can call or text me on that number, and as long as I have data access (wifi or cellular), I’ll be able to receive and respond to them. (I can also use Google Voice’s excellent screening and Do Not Disturb tools to ensure that time zone miscalculations don’t regular wake me in the middle of the night. For voice messages and texts from non-iOS users in the US, I’ll encourage people to use my Google Voice number. While it won’t ring my Croatian phone, it will give me easy access to read the text messages or listen to the voice messages via the web or mobile app. I considered buying a Skype phone number (which would allow people to call a local US number and reach me via the Skype app on my phone), but I really don’t want to have to track any more phone numbers than I already have, and I think there are enough other options for people to reach me this spring that I can’t really justify either the expense ($18 for 3 months) or the additional complexity.

3) For phone usage while I’m there, I have acquired a Nexus 4 phone and will equip it with a Croatian SIM card while I’m there. This will give me a working phone with a local Dubrovnik number, including voice, text, and data, at a very reasonable cost. That number can then be used for all my local communication needs, and also given to close friends and family so that I can reached immediately in an emergency–though they’ll have to pay for the international call or text.

4) I have Skype and Google+ installed on the Nexus 4 (and my computer, and my iPad), which means that I can be contacted for voice or video chats by my contacts on either system, with no international costs for anyone. That’s the least expensive option, and my preference if you want to talk with me while I’m away. I plan to use Google+ Hangouts to participate in meetings back in Rochester while I’m away. (In moderation, I hope, since part of the appeal of this temporary assignment will be a significant reduction in the number of meetings in which I need to participate.)

Before I leave, I’ll update and with links to a contact page here that outlines how to call, text, or video chat with me (and provides a handy time-conversion widget…).

I’ve created a “contacting me” page on this site, which summarizes the various options. I’ll be sending that URL out to friends, family, and colleagues.


  1. Liz,
    Did you keep your old iPhone? If so, had you thought about using Jailbreak on it and inserting a Croatian sim card? BTW, when I moved from my iPhone 4 to the 5, I switched to Verizon. The almost 5 years of dealing with AT&T finally got to me.
    — Jim

    • I did keep my iPhone 4 when I upgraded, and got AT&T to unlock it. (They’ll do that if your device is at least a year old.) But I decided I wanted to give Android a try for a while–thus the unlocked Nexus 4. I haven’t decided whether or not to also bring the unlocked iPhone along too. Probably not, since the number of electronic devices I’m already bringing along is a bit much. (iphone5, Nexus 4, iPad, MacBook Air, Alienware m17x)

      I know a lot of people have had problems with AT&T, but for the most part I haven’t been unhappy with them.

Leave a Reply