Interesting and scary. But for many of us, any forced access to our phone would sorely disappoint anyone looking for anything bolder than our Words with Friends scores.
On our last trip to Italy, even though I had notified all my CC accounts and my bank with specific info on my itinerary and travel dates, when I arrived in Rome I was unable to access my funds at any ATMs.
This happened repeatedly throughout our two weeks abroad. Fortunately, for personal reasons we had made the decision to take my phone on the trip. Without it I cannot imagine how I would have been able to navigate the byzantine protocols of overseas pay phones to communicate with my bank. As it was I had to make at least three phone calls, each lasting no less than 30 minutes, over a 5 hr time difference and with only temporary relief each time. Over $150 in phone charges and 90 minutes of my Italian vacation gone.
With each call I was told that they were only looking out for my security…as if leaving me penniless in a foreign city was a necessary part of the protocol that I should thank them for. The fact that I was demanding access to my own money (three times!!!) was apparently not a point worth considering.
Fortunately, we made it through; and back in the states my first order of business was to climb the corporate ladder of the bank, which recouped my $150 phone bill, but not my lost 90 minutes. Needless to say, I also changed banks.
So my answer to your advice is, if you have lots of sensitive stuff on your phone, leave it home and invest in a disposable international one and load it with your emergency contacts and some minutes. It will be worth the peace of mind even if you, hopefully, never have to use it.