Relocation Guide: How to Choose a Phone Carrier in Berlin

December 20, 2016
Careers Team
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Relocation Guide: Choosing a Phone Carrier

Once you have arrived in Berlin, one of the quickest decisions you’ll have to make is about your phone service.  There are a few different mobile service providers in Berlin, and each provider has its advantages and disadvantages.  We have gathered information about each of these carriers to provide you with enough evidence to choose wisely based on your own preferences.

In addition to phone providers, there is also some debate about whether signing a contract is better than buying a prepaid card. Here, we will also present the pros and cons of each of these methods.


Contract vs. Prepaid Contract (Vertrag)

The biggest factor to consider when deciding to go for contract vs prepaid is the length of time you plan on staying in Berlin. Pre-paid is perhaps better for short term while a contract is arguably better if you plan on staying in Berlin for the long-term.

Pre-paid has less benefits and it can be harder to get an affordable phone with internet capabilities if your phone is still on contract in another country as you will not be able to use a German sim card in your phone if it is locked.  

For those who are planning on staying in Berlin long-term, a mobile contract might be the way to go, as it offers better prices for purchasing a new phone as well as better monthly prices.  Contracts can be 1 or 2 years and can only be attained after you have completed your Anmeldung and registered for a bank account.  If your old phone is locked when you get to Germany, you can get a new phone for relatively cheap when you sign up for a contract.  This is because the cost of the phone is wrapped into the monthly contract payments.  However, if you then need to break the contract, you will have to pay out the rest of the contract as well as any remaining costs on your new phone.  

The price of the monthly contract depends on your carrier, the phone, and the amount of minutes/data you need.  The average monthly cost is 29.99€.


With a more expensive prepaid card, you are paying extra for the freedom of being off contract.    

If you are unsure of your future in Berlin, need the extra bit of freedom, or don’t like the idea of being committed to one phone company for 2 years, then prepaid is the way to go.  

Prepaid plans can be bought at most grocery stores, some convenience stores (or Spätis), and stores like DM, Rossmann, as well as electronics stores such as Media Markt and Saturn.  

Prepaid cards do not charge a monthly fee and can be used in any unlocked phone.  If your phone is not unlocked, or you do not have a phone, then you might have to pay a lot more than anticipated since phones without a contract tend to be pricier.  

For good deals on used phones, check out ebay or other sites such as asgoodasnew or reBuy, which sell used phones.  

When using a prepaid plan, you must pay every month for service by purchasing a Guthaben for a certain amount of money.  This Guthaben can be purchased at various locations such as the grocery store, Media Markt, and some Spätis.  You must only tell the cashier for which company and for what amount you need the Guthaben.  The Guthaben itself is a code you can enter either online, by calling your phone carrier, or through an app depending on your provider (such as myO2/meinO2). This process is not overly complicated, but it can be a hassle to have to purchase the Guthaben every month, especially if you do not speak German.  

Before deciding which carrier you would like, Take into consideration how many phone calls you make, how much mobile data you need, and the phone provider of your friends, as many companies offer unlimited texts and calls to phones with the same carrier.  The most popular phone companies are:


O2 offers contracts as well as prepaid plans.  It has excellent coverage within Berlin, but has less strong service outside of Berlin, so if you will often be commuting in and out of Berlin, this might not be the plan for you.    

Their recommended plan, Loop Smart M, offers 750 MB of data, 200 minutes/SMS, and unlimited calls and texts to other O2 members for 9.99€/month.

O2 offers a lot of flexibility in terms of plans and offers the most wireless data for prepaid sim cards as well.  


Similar to O2, Vodafone also offers contracts as well as a prepaid plan option.  Vodafone has a slightly better reputation when it comes to service outside of Berlin, and they also have a wide variety of prepaid plans.  Their prepaid plans do not go beyond 1 GB of wireless data.

Their recommended plan, the Callya Smartphone Special, offers 750 MB data + 100 MB extra, 200 minutes/SMS, and unlimited calls and texts to other Vodafone users for 9.99€/month.

Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile)

Deutsche Telekom was previously owned by the German government, but is not a public company.  Although it is the most expensive carrier, it also offers excellent phone coverage throughout Germany.  

Their recommended plan, the MagentaMobil Start M, offers 750 MB data, unlimited calls and texts to anyone in the Telekom network, calls to any personal landline number outside of the EU, and 9 cents per text outside of network for 9.95€/month.  

Other phone companies such as E-Plus and 1&1 offer comparable phone plans, but are not as popular in Berlin.  

In terms of phone plans, the best piece of advice I can give you is to do a little bit of research before you sign up for a plan, especially if you decide to sign up for a contract.  I also recommend you ask your friends and colleagues what phone carriers they have as many companies offer free SMS and calls to those with your same network. And, finally, when talking to friends and colleagues, almost everyone had the same review of their phone company, so don’t be too stressed about picking the right plan! After all, you finally made it to Berlin.

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