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National Geographic "Duet"
D888 Travel Phone

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Duet D88 travel phoneCellular Abroad, a U.S.-based company that sells and rents mobile phones to international travelers, is currently featuring the National Geographic Duet Travel D888 Phone, the first FCC-approved handset that supports two SIM cards.

The Duet D888 phone comes with National Geographic's prepaid SIM card, which offers free incoming cards in more than 70 countries and outgoing calls at competitive rates in 200+ countries.

The multiband GSM phone works with mobile networks on six continents--and because it's "unlocked," you can use it with a SIM card from your existing GSM carrier (such as AT&T or T-Mobile) as well as the National Geographic Talk Abroad multi-country SIM card or single-country cards from Cellular Abroad and local vendors. (The price for the phone plus the Talk Abroad SIM card is US $179, which includes approximately 30 minutes of outbound calling time.)

The Duet includes other features for travelers, such as dual-line Bluetooth, a camera, an FM radio, mobile TV (outside the U.S.), a plug-in memory card, and National Geographic content such as travel videos and ringtones. However, the phone's real claim to fame is its support for two SIM cards, which can be useful in several ways:

  • You can use the National Geographic SIM card (or a single-country SIM card) for outgoing calls and for free incoming calls from friends and family while traveling, but other people--such as business callers--will still be able to reach you via your regular number if you've enabled global roaming for your domestic phone plan.

  • If you plan to spend considerable time in one country, you can use the National Geographic SIM card in one slot (for incoming calls and calls from other countries) and a single-country SIM card in the other slot (for cheap outgoing calls and free incoming local calls within the country where you're doing most of your travel).

  • When you're back in the United States, you can use the D888 as a combined "two numbers in one" personal and business phone if you have accounts with carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile that use the international GSM technology standard.

In 2009, I tested the Duet D888 on two separate trips: a cruise in Scandinavia, and another cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean. I encountered only one minor problem, which was easily rectified by turning on "extended roaming" for Italy, as suggested by Cellular Abroad's customer support. Otherwise, the phone and the current-generation National Geographic Talk Abroad SIM card worked perfectly, once I figured how to open the phone and insert the SIM card. (The instruction manual should have included the sentence, "Don't be so nervous about breaking the phone when you slide off the battery cover.")

I should mention that I've been using Cellular Abroad's multiband phones, single-country SIM cards, and first-generation Talk Abroad package for more than five years. Having an international mobile phone in my pocket offered a lifeline to home (and made it far simpler to rebook my homebound flight) when a minor stroke induced by the strap of a heavy camera bag pressing against my neck landed me in an Italian hospital for 18 days in 2006.

Should you buy the Duet D888 phone? I'd say that depends mostly on how much you value the convenience of having two SIM cards. (If you're an infrequent mobile-phone user like me, you may be just as happy with a simple, minimalist, big-buttoned cell phone from the early 2000s--providing you're willing to live with incredulous stares from today's more sophisticated phone users.)

For more information about the Duet D888 phone, visit