They said it couldn't be done.

They said it couldn’t be done.

Because my work heavily involves technology, media, and the internet, I made a very careful Tech Transition Plan before moving off to Asia. I bought plenty of USA-to-Asia power adapters (which was really stupid — they are much cheaper in Asia), I bought plenty of extra batteries and SD cards (which was really stupid — they are much cheaper in Asia), and, as a final preparation, I treated myself and bought a really nice (for early 2012) smart phone (which was actually pretty smart — they are much more expensive in Asia).

But when I landed in South Korea my dreams were dashed almost immediately when the ever-brightly-smiling young lady at the SK mobile phone store told me that my Verizon phone simply could not work in Korea. I am well acquainted with people at phone stores telling me something won’t work so they can try to upsell, so I rushed home and did some Googling. Much to my dismay, I found post after post, forum after forum, and blog after blog that verified what she had told me: Verizon phones simply would not work abroad because they are CDMA, a standard used exclusively by Verizon and SprintPCS, and not GSM, which almost every other phone company in the world uses.

Heartbroken, I placed my shiny new Droid Razr on a shelf, where it gathered dust for more than a year, waiting for my vague plan of selling it the next time I took a trip to America to come to fruition.

Flash forward to two days ago, when Bokeum had her purse snatched by a motorbike thief. She was really upset that she lost her smart phone, and so was I. Because of taxes, new phones are extremely expensive in Vietnam, and I didn’t want to buy a cheap phone from a shady vendor because I know they are all stolen and I don’t want to support the scumbag motorbike thief industry.

My thoughts turned to the ol’ Motorola Droid Razr, which was still kicking around in my luggage. Out of desperation, I went back to the internet, and after a marathon of about 20 hours of mad tinkering, I finally sorted everything out.

First, the truth about Verizon using phones abroad:

1. MOST Verizon phones will not work on other networks.
2. SOME Verizon phones are “global enabled,” which means they will work on GSM networks abroad (though it takes some light hacking to make everything work properly).
3. NOT A SINGLE Verizon phone will work on a UNITED STATE GSM network like AT&T.

Basically, if your phone has a SIM Card, it can PROBABLY work in Europe or Asia or elsewhere around the world. The problem is, Verizon tends to disable or limit the use of the built-in GSM radio hardware. This is because American corporations are evil.

If you want to get the GSM satelites fully functioning, you will need to use a patch, but before you can use that patch, you will have to root your phone and install SafeStrap or a similar bootloader.

If you don’t understand a word I just said, you REALLY should do more research before you continue.

If you happen to have the exact same phone I have – the Verizon Droid Razr model# XT912 – you can follow these steps:

1. Back up EVERYTHING. There is a relatively high chance you will lose important information by following these steps unless you carefully save your photos or anything else you want to keep to a separate location.

2. Root your phone. Click this link for great info on rooting your Verizon Droid Razr. I had one stupid problem where my phone was not being recognized by USB. There are lots of different kinds of USB cables that LOOK identical from the outside. I was using a USB cable that wasn’t patched for my phone. Use the USB cable that came with your phone for best results, or find one that is wired properly for your phone.

3. Using SafeStrap, install the latest STABLE Cyanogen Mod rom to your phone in the Rom 1 slot.

BEFORE rebooting your phone and starting Cyanogen Mod for the first time:

A: Make sure you download and install the proper Cyanogen Gapps before rebooting your phone and starting Cyanogen Mod for the first time or you won’t have any of the Google Apps like Play Store or Gmail on your phone and getting them will be a super duper pain in the ass.

B: Install this patch to make GSM work on your Verizon phone. This is the key to making your Verizon work internationally.

4. Reboot your phone and Cyanogen Mod will be running. If all goes well, it should work fine. You may need to go to settings and Mobile Networks and make sure it’s set to “GSM Only.”

Don’t set it to “Global.” That’s a weird setting for Verizon data roaming abroad, which, funny story, lots of people come to Vietnam and use Verizon roaming and pay $300 or $400 for three or four days of roaming when they could have bought a Mobifone SIM card and a month of unlimited data for about $5 total.

Anyway, that should be that. You might have some problems or glitches, but if you are patient and careful you should be able to get this all working in about one frantic evening.

-Aaron

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