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Verizon turns on Razrs’ GSM radios, pushes out Android 4.0 upgrade

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We knew international roaming was coming to Verizon’s(s vz)(s vod) LTE phones – the GSM radios shipped in many of its LTE handsets were just sitting there dormant – but on Friday, Verizon is finally turning them on in two of its devices, the Motorola(s goog) Razr and the Razr Maxx, as part of the same update that will upgrade those handsets to Android 4.0, a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich.

Verizon will start pushing out the update today, according to a blog post on Verizon’s site, giving customers access to new features such as Face Unlock and access to key applications, including the camera and dialer, from the phone’s lock screen. My colleague Kevin Tofel gives a full rundown of ICS’s features here.

Though the GSM radios will now be active, customers must still pay international rates, which aren’t cheap. Even if you subscribe to Verizon’s $5 a month global value plan, a 1 minute call in the U.K. will still cost $1, and prices go as high as $5 per minute in other countries. The phones will be able to access GPRS/EDGE/HSPA data networks as well, though be prepared for bill shock, as international data rates are even more exorbitant than voice rates.

Verizon does offer international data roaming plans that will help you manage your data spending, but these aren’t cheap either. A 100 MB plan will run you $25, which works out to roughly $250 a gigabyte.

One twist on Verizon’s LTE devices is they have SIM cards. Theoretically you could swap out your domestic SIM card for an international one and pay the same rates as a local in any foreign country. Verizon hasn’t stated whether it will let customers use that capability or if it will lock phones down to their SIMs.

6 Responses to “Verizon turns on Razrs’ GSM radios, pushes out Android 4.0 upgrade”

  1. Chris Lex

    FYI I was looking at my Verizon account the other day and if you view the details for your phone in your My Verizon profile there is an option to click to display the SIM unlock PUK.

  2. svashist

    Verizon global phones can use other GSM/UMTS SIM’s to get on their network to use voice/msg/data.
    LTE will only work on Verizon networks, you will be limited to HSPA when in GSM/UMTS mode.
    Using domestic US GSM/UMTS network SIMs is blocked however.

  3. Dilip Ramachandran

    Hi, I was told that the new Verizon phones with SIM cards, the slots are for LTE only. I thought you couldn’t pop any domestic SIM cards, and the ones you did just gave you LTE service outside the US and not voice and messaging. Can you talk to this? This is a point of confusion for me in picking VZ

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hi Dilip,

      That’s true. Domestically Verizon uses CDMA technology which has no SIM and it depends on CDMA providers for roaming. GSM networks, which Verizon will use (in part) for international roaming, though, authenticate to a SIM card. Unless Verizon has done something crazy, like gotten its vendors to embed some kind of internal SIM, then those GSM networks should link to same SIM card used by the LTE network.

      Sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer. Our handset guy Kevin T (confusing, yes?) is off today. So I’m filling in on the device stuff for the day.

      • I thought I remembered the case being that Verizon can remotely approve/disaprove usage of the sim tray even when abroad. Like in the iPhone 4s for verizon it still can’t pop in any foreign sim unless verizon unlocks that phone. i could easily be mixing it up though