Does iPhone Unlock Allow You to Avoid Smartphone Data Plan?


macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 22, 2012
I recently visited our local AT&T store with my mom to look at new phones, since our contracts have recently ended. I have been using a 3GS for the last 2 years and she has been using a standard flip phone. I plan to get a new iPhone with a contract soon, even if it's just another 3GS, since they are selling it for $1 with a contract.

My mom really needs a new phone; she texts a lot, but her keypad has been malfunctioning. The AT&T representative we spoke with brought up the idea that I could get a new iPhone for myself and give my mom my old one; thus, she could see whether she likes using a smartphone without being bound by a contract (but would still have to pay the $20-$30 per month for the smartphone data plan as long as she used it).

She decided she really can't afford that extra $20-$30 a month and just mainly wants to call and text (though she has mentioned being interested in certain apps in the past), and there was seemingly no way around that expensive data plan if she wanted a smartphone. We still haven't gotten any new phones or committed to renewed contracts.

Just now I read that AT&T recently began unlocking phones for out-of-contract customers without the need for any hacking software, which I was unaware of while I was at the AT&T store. The articles all mention that an unlocked phone can be used with any carrier. But I have what is perhaps an unusual question...

AT&T is the only carrier with usable reception in our area, so we do not plan to switch carriers. However, IF we unlock my old phone, is it possible to avoid that extra $20-$30 per month by simply swapping in my mom's AT&T SIM card from her flip phone? Is that against AT&T's policy, to use an unlocked smartphone without paying for the extra smartphone data plan, or does the unlocking policy also free you from paying for the smartphone data plan on that phone? My mom has no need for any data service, and it seems to me that there must be a way she can just use my iPhone for talking and texting without having to pay for data she doesn't need. But does AT&T allow that for a phone that they have unlocked? The fact that the representative didn't mention the possibility of unlocking my phone before giving it to my mom makes me think that the unlock would NOT enable her to bypass the data plan, but who knows...

If bypassing the data plan with an unlocked phone IS in fact against AT&T policy, will jailbreaking it allow her to use the phone for AT&T talking and texting without data? Or does AT&T have a way to detect that the phone is actually a smartphone? If so, what do they do when they detect it?

I would ask AT&T directly about their policy, but I just worry about getting a straight answer from a company that is trying to push their smartphone data plans, which my mom has no intention of using either way.

I have one more related question: If I must jailbreak the phone, am I better off NOT upgrading the OS first? I stopped upgrading mine long ago (if I ever did), so I still have an old OS. I'm not sure if this is the OS version, but when I go to Settings, General, About, it says "3.1.3 (7E18)" next to "Version". Is there a certain OS version that is optimal when jailbreaking?

Thanks a lot!!! I appreciate any information about any of these questions. If nobody knows about the AT&T smartphone policy, I will eventually contact AT&T and post their response here.


macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 22, 2012
UPDATE: Chat with AT&T

Thanks for the feedback. However, I had an online chat with AT&T today and they said the opposite, that unlocking will not allow me to avoid a data plan. (I should clarify that in my post above I am asking about “unlocking”, not “jailbreaking”. I am hoping to avoid jailbreaking because my mom has no need for it and because of the inconvenience involved.) I have included a copy of the chat conversation below.

If anyone has some evidence that what the representative told me is false, please let us know. It would be nice if I didn’t have to actually jailbreak the phone to be able to avoid the data plan. But since that seems to not be the case, any advice for how to properly jailbreak it would be appreciated.

It just seems pointless that AT&T prevents the option of avoiding the data plan, even for people like my mom who absolutely are not going to pay for it any time soon. Why should she have to forgo all of the benefits of a smartphone just because she won’t pay for the data? It’s just a frustrating policy that is meant to create an incentive for people to pay for a data plan, which my mom would never do anyway. In fact, she would be more likely to start paying for a data plan in the future if she could start using my old iPhone now and become acquainted with the possibilities it enables.


My mom, sister, and I share an AT&T Wireless account. Our contracts recently expired, and my mom ([...]) really needs a new phone. She has been using a flip phone, and I have been using an iPhone 3GS with the $30/month smartphone data plan. We discussed the possibility of myself getting a new iPhone with a contract and giving her my 3GS, but she is absolutely against having to pay the extra $20-$30 per month for the smartphone data plan. Last night I learned that AT&T has begun unlocking iPhones for out-of-contract customers. We don't plan to switch to another provider, but I do have one question: would unlocking my old 3GS allow me to put my mom's SIM card in it so she can use it WITHOUT the smartphone data plan? She would like to have the phone for the wi-fi connection and apps, but has no intention of paying for the smartphone data plan either way. She only wants talk and text


Please note: Protecting your personal information is one of our highest priorities; hence, you will be required to provide account related information to ensure whom we are working with. Data encryption is also enabled to protect your personal information during this chat session. For more information please go to or Please wait for a site operator to respond.

You are now connected with 'Ben'.

Ben: Thank you for contacting Business Data Support. My name is Ben. Before we begin, can I confirm the wireless number that we will be working with is […] ?

[ME]: Yes, though I just have a question about unlocking, not an issue with the phone or service.

Ben: You want to unlock and iphone?

[ME]: Not today, just had a question regarding unlocking.

Ben: I'll be more than happy to assist you, one moment please.

[ME]: I typed it on the previous screen but can paste it here if you didn't receive it

Ben: I see it. So unlocking will not allow you to not have a data plan.

[ME]: Oh, okay! Great.

[ME]: That is all I was wondering.

Ben: Sorry about that, Do you have any other questions I can assist you with?

[ME]: Oh wait, you said it will "not allow" me to not have a data plan

[ME]: I misread

Ben: Right.

[ME]: Okay, that is unfortunate.

[ME]: What is AT&T's policy for using jailbroken phones without data plans?

Ben: I do not know we do not jailreak iphones. But all smartphones will have to have a data plan.

[ME]: Okay, thanks for the information.

Ben: Your welcome. Would you like me to email you a link to our self support site with device tutorials?

[ME]: Sure. Thank you.

Ben: If you need additional assistance specific to your device, you can view our website at We welcome your feedback; please take a moment to complete our Customer Satisfaction Survey by clicking the Close button to the right of the chat window (just above the AT&T logo). Thank you for your business and have a pleasant day.

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