How to Handle Roaming on an Android Phone

The word roam takes on an entirely new meaning when applied to an Android phone. It means that your 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 it’s roaming. A Roaming icon appears at the top of the screen, in the status area, whenever you’re outside your cellular provider’s signal area. The icon differs from phone to phone, but generally the letter R figures in it somewhere, similar to what’s shown in the margin.

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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. Open the Settings app.

  2. In the Wireless & Networks section, touch the More item.

  3. Choose Mobile Networks.

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

  4. Remove the check mark by the Data Roaming option.

    On some phones the option is titled Global Data Roaming Access. Choose it and then choose the Deny Data Roaming Access option.

Your phone can still access the Internet over the Wi-Fi connection when it roams. 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. Ensure that you’re viewing the apps’ main screen, the one that lists all the conversations.

    Touch the Back icon or the app icon in the upper-left corner of the screen until the app’s main screen is displayed.

  3. Touch the Action Overflow icon or Menu icon.

  4. Choose the Settings or the Messaging Settings command.

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

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

The lock screen may also announce that the phone is roaming. You might see the name of the other cellular network displayed. The text Emergency Calls Only might also appear.

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