Buying a cell phone in Germany is probably one of the first things to do upon your arrival. Maybe you need mobile phone access even earlier when you are looking for jobs in Germany or travel there for a fact-finding trip. Obtaining a cell phone in Germany is easy, especially when compared to acquiring a landline or internet access. Sales staffs at the mobile phone shops are always glad to offer advice. They can also quickly sell you a cell phone in Germany and a respective plan.
If you live in a single household, you might as well do without a landline and rely completely on your cell phone in Germany. There are plenty of attractive offers by Germany’s cell phone service providers, some including a second number, others offering a mobile UMTS internet connection, flat rates to other mobile phone networks or landlines etc. As with landline services and internet offers, there is a huge variety of cell phone service providers and rates in Germany.
Some expats who move to Germany want to hold on to their cell phone and SIM card from home, in order to still receive calls on their original number. However, this can get incredibly expensive after a while. If you are afraid to miss any important calls, ask the provider in your home country if a temporary redirection to your cell phone in Germany would be possible. This may come at a price as well, but might still be the cheaper option.
You should also keep in mind that your mobile device from abroad may not work in Germany. European countries generally use the GSM standard of frequencies between 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. Some other states use different frequencies, though. If your phone is customized for those, it won’t work in Germany. Check your mobile phone’s manual to see if it supports these frequency bands. If you need to buy a new cell phone in Germany, think about getting one capable of operating across all frequency bands.
In Germany, two types of rates for cell phones in Germany are available. While one is based on regular monthly payments, the other is a one-time pre-payment which can be renewed whenever you want.
Pre-paid mobile phone services are usually available without a new device. If you already have a functioning cell phone, this is an easy way to get connected quickly. The first payment is made when signing a contract in a shop or when ordering the service online and activating your new cell phone number. Other than that, there is no additional basic fee. Your new number will stay active for a while even without further payments. You can then receive incoming calls, for up to 12 months even without balancing your account.
It is also possible to obtain a number and a SIM card together with a new cell phone in Germany. You may, however, have to order your mobile phone separately, with prices starting at EUR 25. Keep in mind that, if you buy a phone with a pre-paid SIM card, most of these devices are locked. This means that it can only be used with a SIM card of the respective provider. The card, on the other hand, can be used in any unlocked cell phone in Germany. If your device is not locked and you don’t make many outgoing calls, this is probably the cheapest solution – temporary or not. In the past, pre-paid services used to have higher rates than long-term contracts. With new pre-paid service providers popping up all over the place, this has changed. Many of them offer considerably low rates and flexible payment options.
If you frequently use your mobile phone for outgoing calls, a subscription model may still be the best solution for you. The good news is that you can get a new phone for a bargain when signing the contract and lots of providers offer flat-rates for text-messaging, calls within the same network or to landline phone, and mobile internet. Subscription prices start at EUR 10 per month. If you consider buying a subscription contract, please remember that the duration of such a contract and its notice period can be rather long (usually 24 months).
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