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I landed on Friday in Lisbon, where for the next week I'll be working from a seaside garret in the town of Cascais, looking at the Atlantic with the next stop across the water being the tip of Maine from all accounts local. When I first landed, I immediately grabbed a pre-paid SIM from Vodafone (15 Euros) and added 15 more to have connectivity in my unlocked iPhone (legal unlocked purchased in the UK last trip) as the thought of being disconnected, or paying ridiculously high roaming fees just didn't sit well with me.
In the shop the customer rep said, "we don't have micro SIM's" but immediatly whipped out a SIM cutter that reminded me of a Swingline stapler, cut a SIM to fit and said, "you're all set." And he was right. It worked and not only for voice, but also for DATA, something that was a challenge in France last trip (and still not resolved.) While Vodafone offered me the connectivity I needed, and for most people it would have been enough, I'm not "most people" when it comes to "staying connected" as we say on the World Technology Roundup each day on KenRadio.com
The next morning though I found joy on an unparalled level when I visited the local chapter of the The Phone House shop (a sister company to Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy through investment). The Phone House was a short three minute walk from my lodging. There not only did I once again realize that the their sales staffs remain the best source of information, but the consistent level of care I've found in their shops in Spain, France, the UK and here in Cascais, make a visit to the AT&T or Verizon shop in the USA a visit only a masocist would enjoy.
There I got tricked out, pimped up and primed for a week of being and "staying...connected."
First up was getting the iPad Portugal friendly. A quick buy and a top up and I was good to go using Kanguru from Optimus where they give you Internet for about a Euro a day after paying for the SIM. Optimus has built out one of the fastest networks in Portugual, offers very competitive prices and seems to have very fast speeds, both up and down. The advice from the sales person was for the iPad and any tablet, when in Portugal, go with the Kanguru.
Then came the Android based Nexus One that has been a global paperweight for sometime. I've decided to give the Android platform a workout this trip so I picked up a SIM for that also and was good to go on TMN from Portugal Telecom.
Then came the iPhone, and the purchase of second SIM, also cut down and ready to go on also on TMN (Portugal Telecom.) Basically, their voice coverage is better and cheaper than Vodafone and according to the guys at the Phone House the carrier of choice to use for Voice in Portugal, so who was I to argue....
For my Novatel MiFi it was a full size SIM, being a data only device, the SIM of choice was back to Optimus-Kanguru. Unfortunately, they use dynamic assignment and CHAP to authenticate and the Novatel was not able to connect with the SIM to their authentication and signup page, no matter what we tried. However my unlocked T-Mobile Wireless Pointer that I grabbed last time in the UK, at the suggestion of Truphone's wireless sorcerer James Body, which is made by Huawei, was not daunted, and within a few minutes it was active as well. (Note this is how to unlock it simply and easily-but you need a Windows PC) meaning I can jump in the car and go do some sightseeing and always pull out the laptop and get connected. The Pointer is a lighter, sleeker clone of the MiFi, and in PocketSpot parlance, a way to connect multiple devices and a hotspot on the go.
Data connectivity overkill, um, not really. Staying connected has been a way of life for me on the road since 2000 when I bought my first Nokia Communicator in France and signed up for a year long contract back then with SFR. Not paying high roaming fees is another. Is the process as simple as it could be? No. But having learned the ropes of how to do this after so much travel, I pretty much resign myself to the fact that the first thing one has to do in a country that you haven't been to recently is to SIMply get the cards and TopUp.
So, if you visit Portugal, go first to the closest Phone House shop, spend some time with their staff, and then, know you ended up with the best of everything vs. SIMply going into a carrier's shop and getting what you thought was best. These folks consistently know which carrier and for which device, what is best.
P.S. Yes there are services out there that offer you the convenience of a single service, single bill, which for some is the right model. But as someone who likes the challenge of figuring out how to do it, and what works where, with the ability to share the knowledge this is a game of sport for me as I get to understand more and more of what we have and don't have back in the USA and how different each mobile operator works. Thus, the cost is all part of ongoing tuition in the school of LIFE.