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How to Handle Roaming on an Android Phone

The word roam takes on an entirely new meaning when applied to a cell phone. It means that your Android phone receives a cell signal whenever you’re outside your cell phone carrier’s operating area. In that case, your phone is roaming.

Roaming sounds handy, but there’s a catch: It almost always involves a surcharge for using another cellular service — an unpleasant surcharge.

Relax: Your Android phone alerts you whenever you’re roaming. The Roaming icon appears at the top of the screen, in the status area. The icon differs from phone to phone, but the letter R appears over the traditional signal bars. The lock screen may also announce that the phone is roaming whenever you’re outside the standard signal area, possibly using another cellular provider’s network.

There’s little you can do to avoid incurring roaming surcharges when making or receiving phone calls. Well, yes: You can wait until you’re back in an area serviced by your primary cellular provider. You can, however, altogether avoid using the other network’s data services while roaming. Follow these steps:

  1. At the Home screen, press the Menu soft button.

  2. Choose Settings.

  3. Choose Wireless & Networks and then Mobile Networks.

    On some Android phones, you may have to choose Battery & Data Manager and then Data Delivery.

  4. Ensure that the Data Roaming option isn’t selected.

    Remove the green check mark by Data Roaming.

Your phone can still access the Internet over the Wi-Fi connection when you’re roaming. Setting up a Wi-Fi connection doesn’t make you incur extra charges, unless you have to pay to get on the wireless network.

Another network service you might want to disable while roaming has to do with multimedia, or MMS, text messages. To avoid surcharges from another cellular network for downloading an MMS message, follow these steps:

  1. Open the phone’s text messaging app.

  2. If the screen shows a specific conversation, press the Back soft button to return to the main messaging screen.

    (It’s the screen that lists all your conversations.)

  3. Touch the Menu soft button.

  4. Choose the Settings command or the Messaging Settings command.

  5. Remove the green check mark by the Auto-Retrieve or Roaming Auto-Retrieve command.

    Or, if the item isn’t selected, you’re good to go — literally.

When the phone is roaming, you may see the text Emergency Calls Only displayed on the locked screen.

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