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Moving to Korea can be an exciting and fun prospect.  But what will be some of the important things that you’ll need before you go to Korea?  This topic will cover what I feel is the most important thing for a person to think about bring with them to Korea if all possible, a good cell phone.  So we’ll look at why it’s important to have a good phone, as well as what to look for in a phone so you don’t wast time and money on something you won’t be able to use.

Why Is It Important?

Phones do more than just make calls and send out text messages these days.  A phone can be someone’s entire life in a small electronic device.  When going to Korea, or any other country that speaks a different language, your smartphone will be your dictionary and translator.  Your phone will be your GPS, and will tell you how to navigate bus routes and subway systems.  You can use apps to find almost anything you need to find.  You can also pay for your bus fare, subway trip or taxi ride with your phone in many areas.  A good, solid phone will allow you to do this, and so much more.  So what do you need to look for in a phone that  you want to take with you to Korea?

Key Features

While there are a ton of cell phones out there, not all of them would be a good choice for you to take to Korea.  If you want to make mobile payments from your phone to pay for bus rides and subway fares, you’ll need a phone that has NFC (Near Field Communication) built into it.  If you plan on keeping your phone for a while, you’ll need a phone with a large amount of memory.  If you want to shoot video and take lots of pictures, you’ll want a phone with a good camera with optical image stabilization.  If you are using your phone for GPS on a daily basis, having a large battery and the ability to fast charge your phone may be things you’ll want to consider as well.

Locked vs Unlocked Phones

This section is mainly for those in the United States and are looking to go to Korea.  To make this simple, there are 2 types of phone networks in the United States.  Sprint and Verizon, at the time of this writing, use CDMA for their 3G network.  Some of their phones can operate without the SIM card that is used for 4G  LTE  service, because of the CDMA backup.  AT&T and T-Mobile use a GSM network.  Their phones must have a SIM card that the phone can read in order to work.  Normally, you will want a GSM phone to use when traveling overseas; but you need to make sure that the phone is unlocked.  Providers, except for Verizon, put a SPC (Service Provider Code), or a SIM Lock on their phones to prevent you from using them with other carriers.  But under U.S. law, you can request to have your phone unlocked for free from your service provider, if you meet their eligibility requirements.  If you need your phone unlocked right away, you can search online and find out where you can buy the unlock code for your phone, or take it to a phone repair shop that will unlock the phone for you for a fee.

Check The Frequencies

Many people don’t know that there are different versions of the same phone that phone makers make.  This is due in part to different countries using different radio frequencies for cell phone use.  For instance, LTE bands in the United States may have higher frequencies that the ones used in Korea.  So just because your phone is unlocked, it does not guarantee that your phone will work in Korea, or any other Asian country.  How can you know if your phone will work or not before you travel?  You can visit the site, www.willmyphonwork.net to check if your phone is compatible with a mobile network in another country, and what frequencies it will pick up.  This way, you’ll be sure that your unlocked phone will work, and that you will know what SIM card to pick up for phone service.

Where To Buy An Unlocked Phone

Once you determine what features you’ll need and what kind of phone you want, you may decide to buy a new phone.  Does this mean that you will have to spend $700+ U.S. on a new phone to get all of the things that you’ll need?  No.  Depending on what you need, you can buy a brand new, unlocked phone for under $500.  In some cases, you can buy an unlocked phone for around $300.  Look for companies like OnePlus, Motorola and Alcatel One Touch for unlocked phones that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.  While you may prefer a more expensive phone, and it may be in your budget to get one, it may be best to buy 2 unlocked phones for the same price so you’ll have a backup if something happens to your main phone.

Your phone may be your best friend when you first get to Korea.  You’ll be able to do a lot of useful and time saving things with it.  But don’t be pressured into spending a ton of money when you don’t have to.  The money you save can help you pay for something in Korea that you may need later on.  With some careful planning and by knowing where to look, you’ll be able to get the perfect phone for your needs, and be able to document your journey to Korea and beyond.