International Calling and Texting on Your Amazon Fire Phone

By Dan Gookin

You can use your Fire phone to dial up folks who live in other countries. You can also take your cell phone overseas and use it in another country. Completing either task isn’t as difficult as properly posing for a passport photo, but it can become frustrating and potentially expensive when you don’t know your way around.

Dialing an international number

A phone is a bell that anyone in the world can ring. To prove it, all you need is the phone number of anyone in the world. Dial that number and, as long as you both speak the same language, you’re talking!

To make an international call with a Fire phone, you merely need to know the foreign phone number. That number includes the international country-code prefix, followed by the local phone number.

Before dialing the international country-code prefix, you must first dial a plus sign (+). The + symbol is the country exit code, which must be dialed to flee the national phone system and access the international phone system. For example, to dial Finland on your phone, you dial +358 and then the number. The +358 is the exit code (+) plus the international code for Finland (358).

To produce the + code in an international phone number, press and hold down the 0 key on the Phone app’s dialpad. Then type the country prefix and the phone number. Touch the Dial Phone icon to complete the call:

  • Dialing internationally involves surcharges, unless your cell phone plan provides for international dialing.

  • In most cases, dialing an international number involves a time zone difference. Before you dial, be aware of what time it is in the country or location you’re calling. The Clock app’s World Clock feature can handle that job for you: Summon a clock for the location you’re calling and add it to the Word Clock screen in the Clock app.

  • The + character isn’t a number separator. When you see an international number listed as 011+20+xxxxxxx, do not insert the + character in the number. Instead, dial +20 and then the rest of the international phone number.

  • International calls fail for a number of reasons. One of the most common is that the recipient’s Phone Company or service blocks incoming international calls.

  • Another reason that international calls fail is the zero reason: You need to omit a leading zero in the phone number that follows the country code. So, if the country code is 254 for Kenya and the phone number starts with 012, you dial +254 for Kenya and then 12 and the rest of the number.

  • Know which type of phone you’re calling internationally — cell phone or landline. The reason is that an international call to a cell phone might involve a surcharge that doesn’t apply to a landline.

Sending an international text

Just as you can make an international phone call with the Fire phone, you can also send a text message. And just like placing an international call, you may also find a per-message surcharge for both sending and receiving international texts.

To send an international text, type the complete phone number, including the plus sign (+) and international access code. If you have a contact with an international number, you can use the contact’s name, just as you would when sending any text:

  • Contact your cellular provider to confirm the text message rates. Generally, you’ll find two rates: one for sending and another for receiving text messages.

  • If texting charges vex you, remember that email has no associated per-message charge.

Taking your phone abroad

The easiest way to use a cell phone abroad is to rent or buy one in the country where you plan to stay. Often, international roaming charges are so high that it’s cheaper to simply buy a temporary cell phone wherever you go, especially if you plan to stay there for a while.

When you opt to use your Fire phone rather than buy a local phone, things should run smoothly — if a compatible cellular service is in your location. Not every foreign country uses the same cellular network. Things must match before the phone can work. Plus, you may have to deal with foreign carrier roaming charges.

The key to determining whether your phone is usable in a foreign country is to turn it on. The name of that country’s compatible cellular service should show up at the top of the phone, where the name of your carrier appears on the main screen. So where your phone once said AT&T Wireless, it may say Wambooli Telcom when you’re overseas:

  • You receive calls on your cell phone internationally as long as the phone can access the network. Your friends need only dial your cell phone number as they normally do; the phone system automatically forwards your calls to wherever you are in the world.

  • The person calling you pays nothing extra when you’re off romping the globe with your Fire phone. Nope — you pay extra for the call.

  • While you’re abroad, you need to dial internationally. When calling home (for example, the United States), you need to use a 10-digit number (phone number plus area code). You may also be required to type the country exit code when you dial.

  • When in doubt, contact your cellular provider for tips and other information specific to whatever country you’re visiting.

  • Be sure to inquire about texting and cellular data (Internet) rates while you’re abroad.

  • Using your phone over a Wi-Fi network abroad incurs no extra fees (unless data roaming is on). In fact, you can use the Skype app on your phone over a Wi-Fi network to call the United States or any international number at inexpensive rates.