International Travel, Consumer Cellular and Facebook Messenger

Published August 25, 2016

I'm a US citizen that recently went on a 10-day holiday across the pond to the UK. Before leaving the US I researched to see if my cell phone would work while overseas. I went to the Consumer Cellular site with fingers crossed looking for a way to use my cell phone outside of the United States.

Gatwick Airport, England

The long and the short of it is, Consumer Cellular is a US-based company and does not offer service in the UK. They suggested  I put my phone on airplane mode and tap into any wifi service I could find while in the UK, and that’s exactly what I did. Fortunately for me I was staying at my daughter’s house and was able to use her wifi. It allowed me to access the Internet, text and make calls with only a few hiccups while in her house. When I went out and about, I looked for wifi hotspots and connect accordingly.

Since my daughter was my tour guide and she had full cell phone service, I was pretty much OK. I could always use her phone if the need arose. There were a few occasions when we would separate and I was on my own. We made sure to communicate the old fashioned way. We made set plans prior to separating so if I couldn't access a hotspot, we would meet at a predetermined location at a specific time. If there was an emergency I would have to disable airplane mode and endure whatever roaming charges that would apply. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do that.

iPhone-to-iPhone Communication

Being a newbie to iPhones, I’ve found the iPhone-to-iPhone communication to be a pleasure. Fortunately my daughter, son-in-law and close relatives (who were state side) all have iPhones. Apple makes it very easy for iPhone users to communicate with each other even when Internet connections are dodgy. What I did find, however, was even though I was able to access hotspots, I was unable to send photos via the default iPhone texting app. Texts went through just fine, but the app would choke when sending photos.

Facebook Messenger Saved the Day

To circumvent the inconvenience (of course there’s always a work around), I downloaded Facebook Messenger. That caused me some angst because I don’t use Facebook. I do have a Facebook account, but infrequently use it. I just don’t like the invasiveness, constant chatter and lack of privacy. It’s the “Big Brother is Watching” feeling that I truly don’t like.

Facebook Messenger on Consumer Cellular

I know, I know, big brother is always watching, but I’d rather not voluntarily share information with thousands of people I don’t know. I find it rather disturbing that I seem to find out information about people that I have no business finding information on. Whenever I log onto Facebook, it flashes photos of individuals that I might want to “friend” because they know a person that knew a person that worked with a person that I knew many years ago. I guess I'm just not that social a human being.

Enough of my Facebook ramble and back to Facebook Messenger.  The Facebook Messenger app more than adequately filled the gap when my texting app failed. With Facebook Messenger I was able to send photos, videos and more. I was even able to make calls to folks on my contact list. For that, I was appreciative, but I knew that when I got back to the states it was the first app I was going to delete...only I didn't.

Why Didn't I Delete Facebook Messenger?

The answer is simple.  I live in the black hole of cell phone connectivity.  While my cable company's service works beautifully with my television, computers and land line telephone, for some reason my wifi isn't enough to keep my cell phones fully functional.  Quite often on my Consumer Cellular phone I get the dreaded "no service" notification in the upper left-hand corner of my phone. While the wifi indicator shows full strength, the no service leaves my phone dead in the water.  Well, it did before I started using Facebook Messenger.

With Facebook Messenger I'm still able to send texts and images when I supposedly have no service.  Since returning to the states, I've experimented with airplane mode and was better able to send messages with Facebook Messenger, than I could with my default iPhone texting app.  I won't begin to try to understand what's going on as I'm not that high tech. As long as I can communicate I'm a happy camper.

An Embarrassing Acknowledgement

I've mentioned in earlier posts that I was quite frustrated with the inability to read iPhone texts on my Windows PC or send texts from my PC that could be read via my iPhone. I like using a full-sized keyboard and was having a difficult time with the onscreen keyboard on the smaller mobile device (that's why I purchased a portable iPhone keyboard). Imagine my surprise and sheepish embarrassment when I found I could send/receive texts on my computer through Facebook Messenger that I could read on my iPhone (and any other device) while signed into my Facebook account.  Yes, I know, the rest of the world knew this, but being the Facebook-phobe that I am, I was the only one who didn't know.

Thought Bubble

Accessing the messages/texts on multiple devices is great, but I really would have preferred to bypass the Facebook login. I wondered if there was a way to get to the messages directly.  This question caused me to do yet another search and that search lead me to pay!

Yes, it's been there all along.  Sometime back in 2015, Facebook released which allows desktop users to access the Messenger only portion of Facebook.  With Messenger, I don't get the distraction and constant chatter of Facebook. I get to send and receive information to those I wish to send to/receive from. Is this low-tech grandma happy or what?!

International Travel

I can't believe it took me traveling over 3,000 miles away from home to find something that was under my nose all the time.  All in all, I was happy with my international mobile phone experience.  I was able to talk, text and send images/videos even though Consumer Cellular does not offer service in the UK.  Gotta love technology! 😊

In the future, when I travel to places without the safety net of having my daughter's mobile phone at my disposal, I'll have to come up with Plan B.  I'll need to have continued cell service while overseas, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Felicia (aka Low Tech Grandma) is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance writer and low-tech blogger.

Last Modified: 13 August 2023

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