Best International Smartphone

Michael Kwan
Best International Smartphone

Choosing a cell phone for domestic use can be complicated. However, selecting the perfect international phone can really make your head spin. When looking for the best international smartphone, it's important to realize that some models are better suited for international use than others. Therefore, different factors need to be taken into account when choosing a phone to use internationally.

Five Great smartphones for World Travel

When considering the best international smartphones, there are many handsets available from a number of different cell phone manufacturers. Five of the best options include:

Google Galaxy Nexus

As part of the Nexus family of smartphones from Google, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus offers one huge advantage: it comes factory unlocked, regardless of where you buy it. This means that you can put any SIM card in there that you'd like. The Galaxy Nexus also offers one of the broadest ranges of network compatibility. The core hardware is very powerful too with pentaband (850/900/1700/1900/2100) HSDPA 3G connectivity, making it compatible with both T-Mobile and AT&T, as well as many worldwide carriers. The phone is available from most carriers.

Apple iPhone 4S

There is an important distinction to be made here. The version sold by AT&T is different from the version sold by Verizon. The AT&T version is the one that is compatible with international GSM and HSDPA networks and that's the one that you'd want for international travel. The caveat is that AT&T sells the iPhone 4S "locked" to its network, but the unlocked version is available through the Apple Store and in a number of countries. Alternatively, the iPhone can be unlocked as an aftermarket alteration, though this may impact your warranty.

Nokia Lumia 900

While Nokia has been using variations of its Symbian operating system for years, it has since moved on to Windows Phone 7 and will soon proceed with Windows Phone 8 devices. The Nokia Lumia 900 is the flagship device, offering great wireless connectivity, lots of apps and a beautiful display. It is available as a factory unlocked smartphone from, making it a good candidate for international travel.

Samsung Galaxy S III

One of the most powerful smartphones on the market today, the Samsung Galaxy S III has an incredibly fast 1.5GHz dual-core processor to go along with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Like the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy S III also has a vibrant Super AMOLED display, but this one is 4.8 inches. Samsung S Voice provides functionality similar to Apple's Siri too. The Galaxy S III can be purchased from Samsung Direct.


For incredibly impressive performance, the HTC One X is a great option. The quad-core processor is accompanied by a 4.7-inch Super LCD 2, Android 4.0, and 1 GB of RAM. There are two versions of the HTC One X: only the global version has the quad-core processor. The North American version has a dual-core processor. It is available from Amazon and NCIX.

Criteria to Consider

Since individual needs and preferences can vary greatly, some general guidelines and criteria have to be established for choosing the best smartphone international for international use. Of course, these criteria can be adapted to the individual as the circumstances can be quite different, but these few factors should serve as a general baseline to aid in your purchase decision.

Whether you choose one of the phone models recommended here or if you are looking at other options, be sure to consider the following factors.

GSM Compatible

While CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology is still used by networks like Verizon Wireless, the worldwide standard is GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). This is the network technology used in everywhere from Hong Kong to London, Toronto to Sydney. As such, the best international smartphone has to be compatible with these networks in order to be useful.

Desirable Features

Whether you're traveling around the world for business or pleasure, it is certainly desirable to have the same cell phone with you everywhere you go, all while retaining all of your contacts, emails and apps. Make sure that any phone you are considering will provide you with access to your email, social networks, text messages, and contacts, as well as offer your a range of mobile apps, access to the mobile web, have navigation services, and provide other useful functions. Battery life and screen quality features should also factor in when buying an international smartphone.


Most smartphones sold in the United States and Canada are "locked" to their respective carriers. While this isn't too much of an issue domestically, it does become an issue with international travel. Unlocked smartphones allow you to insert the SIM card from foreign network operators, saving you on roaming and long distance charges. This is why BlackBerry phones are generally not considered good choices for international usage - the unlocking process can be much more complicated for them than for other smartphones.

Wireless Networks

Simply being GSM compatible isn't enough. There are many different frequencies ("bands") used for GSM communication, in addition to the myriad of 3G and 4G wireless technologies used for wireless data. The smartphone that is best suited for international travel is the one that is compatible with as many of these network technologies as possible.

New Devices All the Time

This recommendation guide for the best international smartphone is necessarily restricted by the time that it was written. Technology moves at an incredibly rapid pace and this is especially true when it comes to mobile phones. What may be best today could very quickly become yesterday's news tomorrow.

Was this page useful?
Best International Smartphone