Here is perhaps an easier solution to the frequently asked question of how to obtain cell service in France.
Towards the end of next month, Orange, the cell service of France Telecom will launch the Bic phone. It will be sold as a ready to go prepaid cell phone with the number inside the box already set up for the prepaid Mobicarte service.
According to the press release:
The BIC® phone pack will be easy to find. It will be sold over the counter, in major supermarkets and local convenience stores (tobacco shops, newsstands, train stations, airports…).
More from the press release:
The BIC® phone offer in detail:
1. The BIC® phone offer includes 60 free minutes, valid for 2 months from the time the phone is activated.
2. The telephone number, which is included in the pack, is valid for at least 12 months from the time the phone is activated.
3. The BIC® phone is manufactured by TCL which sells its mobiles under the Alcatel brand.
4. Suggested retail price: €49 including tax.
Before we get too excited, this would not be a French product, or certainly not one from France Telecom, without this puzzling note:
"In order to receive all 60 minutes of free time, clients must identify themselves to Orange service agents." ("Pour bénéficier de l’intégralité des 60 minutes de communications offertes, le client doit s’identifier auprès du service clients Orange.")
How one will do this is unclear. Some years ago, in order to use a Mobicarte phone for international calls, you had to register yourself at a France Telecom office in person with some acceptable ID like a passport. Obviously buying a "disposable" phone at CDG and then having to go to an office is somewhat self defeating, but we shall see.
[Mods: If you want to combine this with the "How much is a European SIM card, exactly?" sticky, that's fine with me. I would appreciate, however, if you want to send this to a different forum, that you delete it instead.]
Why would you buy this for €49 when they offer more than a dozen much better prepaid handsets for €39? And atleast one at any given time for €29
This thing looks like it is in the same neighbourhood as the C139.
I'm not a salesman for the company; I merely posted this information to share with my fellow FT members, so tone it down a notch or two.
I suppose that people would buy this for the convenience of having a phone ready to go as soon as they open the box. The traditional Mobicarte pacakaging required the phone to be assembled with the SIM carte inserted. Not everyone is very technically adept. Some people, particularly on business travel, may be rushed.
Finally, I have not noticed "more than a dozen much better prepaid handsets for €39" that are available for that price on the Mobicarte prepaid service.
It seems to me that the Orange France web site lists TWO Mobicarte phones at €39 and none for less. Those phones are the Alcatel OT C701 and the Alcatel OT-S320.
If you can find "more than a dozen much better prepaid handsets" on the Mobicarte plan for less, that's great. Why not share the links here for anyone who might be interested?
Incidentally, I am merely a subscriber of Orange so I have no way of knowing what the Mobicarte program will look like after the Bic phones are released. Do you?
Yes, indeed, the Sagem is close to the bottom of the page which is not automatically in price order and you're right, it's 29€.
Saying that you can buy any phone on Mobicarte is slightly misleading. First, you can't buy the iPhone on Mobicarte, although up until now you could buy one unlocked. The Orange France version comes out on Thursday so we'll see what price they'll have. (The unlocked price is not yet posted.)
Second, a phone like a Nokia N95 will cost a subscriber like me 79€. If someone walked into an Orange Boutique and were willing to pay the Mobicarte price of 499€ I suspect they would call the SAMU and have him carted away for psychiatric examination. That would get you a LOCKED phone good only for PREPAID service on Orange France in France. Sounds like a great idea to me.
One of the problems of Mobicarte has always been the setup time. I suspect Orange took a look at Virgin Mobile, AT&T GoFone, Tracfone and other "out of the box" products and figured to try this.
Ultimately, I think the retailers will have a strong voice in what sells. If the CDG store I recommended in the SIM card sticky decides it's better for them to stock the Bic phone which they can simply hand to the customer as opposed to the "regular" Mobicarte phones they need to set up, they might well go with the Bic phone.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend certain people spending 10 or 20 Euros more for a phone that they can immediately use on the ride into Paris without waiting for a store clerk to do anything other than give them a receipt.