Moving from US to London (iPhone advice needed)

dread

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 16, 2009
735
4
My wife and I are moving to London this summer and will likely be there for the next four years, but it is also possible that we will only be there for one year. We both have had iPhones since 2007 and are heavily invested in IOS.

I would like to know what my options are for carriers and costs in London.

I also travel abroad a lot and need an unlocked phone. Will UK carriers unlock phones that are on contract.

I am considering paying full price for two unlocked iPhones in the US and then using the cheapest option that gives us each at least one GB of data. In the long run is this a cheaper option than buying a phone in the UK on contract and paying for the required plan?

We will not need a lot of calling minutes as we do not know many people in London. We will likely Skype or FaceTime to call the US.

Also which carrier provides the most reliable/fastest data service in London?

Finally, where can I get a micro sim card upon arrival?

Thanks in advance for your responses.
 

Kyotoma

macrumors 68000
Nov 11, 2010
1,996
46
Carnegie and Ontario
Via their support page, it appears that all of U.K.'s carriers support unlocking, although I'm sure "additional terms apply". Also, it appears O2 is the only carrier that supports Visual Voicemail.

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1937

Any of these carriers would have microSIMs available at their stores, of which should either be free or relatively low in cost when you sign a contract with them.
 

cambookpro

macrumors 603
Feb 3, 2010
6,463
1,909
United Kingdom
You can go to pretty much any carrier in the UK and they will give you a microSIM for free.

In my experience both 3 and O2 provide reliable data in London. Of course, they both tend to cut out while on the tube and with O2 I have experienced a few dropped calls. YMMV.

In the UK plans tend to be pretty cheap compared to the US. Both 3 and O2 have effectively 1 month rolling contracts, around £15-20 a month. I'm not sure what O2 have, but at the moment I'm on 3 and for effectively £15/month you get unltd data, 3k texts and 300 mins. I say effectively as its not actually a contract, but rather a pay as you to bolt on which means you have to manually top it up every month, unlike a direct debit.
 

JD92

macrumors 6502a
Apr 14, 2005
934
30
Hi dread,

Glad to hear your coming to the UK!

I have heard that all carriers will unlock the iPhone, but they vary in how long it will take and how annoying it will be. From personal experience, O2 will unlock your iPhone very quickly after you submit the form online, Vodafone will take about a week, and I can't say from personal experience about the others but I've heard stories of T-Mobile taking 2 weeks.

Buying the iPhones in the US and bringing them over here looks like it could be the most sensible deal. The 16GB iPhone starts at £499 off-contract in the UK, but in the US you can buy one off-contract from Apple at the equivalent of £415 at today's rate. Then you wouldn't need to bother with the unlocking process, and it would give you flexibility to try out different networks when you arrive in case your first choice doesn't have good signal where you need it.

You should also bear in mind that as a new arrival to the country you will probably find it quite difficult to get a subsidised iPhone on any of the networks. It usually requires an established credit history in this country which you probably won't have.

On the subject of which network is best, I cannot recommend O2 highly enough - although everyone has a different opinion on which network is best. I'm based in Glasgow, so can't say what it's like in London, but O2 is by far the most reliable network where I live. It's also the only network which implements all of the iPhone only features like Visual Voicemail, it has good 3G coverage in major cities, and I believe they have the largest EDGE network in the UK which would come in handy if you're out of 3G coverage.

I am on O2's Simplicity 100 plan with the 1GB data bolt-on, which comes to £20.50 a month. It gives me 100 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data.
http://www.o2.co.uk/tariffs/simplicity

And finally, you can walk into any of the network shops (O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, Three) and get a micro-SIM there and then. They all offer 1 month contracts or 12 month contracts. The 12 month contracts are usually cheaper and/or offer more minutes/texts/data, but obviously you're locked in longer.
 
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Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
4,057
49
Bristol, UK
We will not need a lot of calling minutes as we do not know many people in London. We will likely Skype or FaceTime to call the US.
Just one note on this.

You wont pay to receive calls or messages in the UK (even if they're from abroad).

If your friends/family in the US have a good international calling plan then that could work to your advantage.

I would agree with the above posters that Three or O2 would be the best option given that you mostly are interested in data.

Three offers unlimited data for pretty cheap (there's a £25 a month option including 2000 minutes, 5000 texts, Unlimited Data and Unlimited Tethering).

O2 separates data and calls/texts in their plans. That means that you can choose a large amount of data (i.e. 1GB) and only a small amount of minutes if you don't need a lot of minutes. Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone don't do that. If you want a lot of data, you have to pay for a lot of minutes and texts as well.
 
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dread

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 16, 2009
735
4
Thanks for all of the quick replies.
From what I am seeing O2 is expensive, but also the most compatible with the iPhone. Three has very cheap pay as you go plans and orange is just confusing with their animal plans. Although It seems like Orange has the best deals on a contract, but you are correct that I will not have any credit in the U.K. which will probably prevent me from getting a subsidized phone.

Are the prices given the actual cost or are there taxes and other hidden fees?

From what I can tell I will spend the least amount of money by buying an iPhone in the US and using a month to month plan from three. Anyone know if there is a three store in heathrow airport?
 

reclusive46

macrumors 65816
Apr 14, 2011
1,088
27
Canada
Thanks for all of the quick replies.
From what I am seeing O2 is expensive, but also the most compatible with the iPhone. Three has very cheap pay as you go plans and orange is just confusing with their animal plans. Although It seems like Orange has the best deals on a contract, but you are correct that I will not have any credit in the U.K. which will probably prevent me from getting a subsidized phone.

Are the prices given the actual cost or are there taxes and other hidden fees?

From what I can tell I will spend the least amount of money by buying an iPhone in the US and using a month to month plan from three. Anyone know if there is a three store in heathrow airport?
You can find a 3 store at http://www.three.co.uk/Support/Store_locator
 

dread

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 16, 2009
735
4
you might also want to look into this http://giffgaff.com/

I'm not from UK but I've read about this provider on macrumors
This looks interesting. I will look into it.

----------

Yep.

20% VAT applies to virtually everything.

Some products are charged at a lower rate of 5% (like children's clothing) or at 0% (Books, Basic foodstuffs).
ouch, no wonder people are rioting over there.
 

Daveoc64

macrumors 601
Jan 16, 2008
4,057
49
Bristol, UK
It really is.

It will probably go down again to 17.5% again at some point in the future... hopefully :rolleyes:
I doubt that.

The UK government works differently from the US government.

Tax increases are not viewed as wrong if it is necessary to "balance the books".

That's why the Conservative government raised VAT to 20% (from 17.5% at the beginning of 2011).

They described the increase as solving the "structural deficit" that the UK is facing.

This is of course, very off-topic.
 

mopatops

macrumors regular
Jul 21, 2011
159
32
UK
I don't often post here but a huge +1 to the giffgaff suggestion. I bought an out of contract iPhone and use giffgaff. For £10/mo I get 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data with no fair usage policy.

They also run on the 02 network, so no problems with coverage etc.
 

dread

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 16, 2009
735
4
I don't often post here but a huge +1 to the giffgaff suggestion. I bought an out of contract iPhone and use giffgaff. For £10/mo I get 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data with no fair usage policy.

They also run on the 02 network, so no problems with coverage etc.
Yep I was reading up on these guys and I will give them a try. Anyone know if they ship sims to the U.S.?
 

mopatops

macrumors regular
Jul 21, 2011
159
32
UK
Yep I was reading up on these guys and I will give them a try. Anyone know if they ship sims to the U.S.?
Giffgaff don't ship abroad as far as I'm aware. Don't order directly through their site though anyway.

They have a 'spread giffgaff' reward scheme, where ordering through a current user will give both parties a free £5. Look at their forums and many of the users have links in their signatures to their custom order pages which give you the £5 starting credit. Try PMing a few of them and asking if they'd ship to the states. I don't know whether it would be cost effective for them to ship abroad?
 

iPhone Warrior

macrumors member
May 10, 2011
31
0
I am considering paying full price for two unlocked iPhones in the US and then using the cheapest option that gives us each at least one GB of data. In the long run is this a cheaper option than buying a phone in the UK on contract and paying for the required plan?

One thing to take note of is that the warranty for the iPhone is based in the original country of purchase. If you purchase them in the US then if you have any warranty related issues you will need to ship the phone(s) back to the US to someone you know to take into Apple for replacement. With shipping and insurance this could end up costing you more. An Apple store in the UK will help you up to the point where the phone needs to be replaced. They MAY help but are not required to.
One thing to keep in mind.
Good luck.
 

dread

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 16, 2009
735
4
One thing to take note of is that the warranty for the iPhone is based in the original country of purchase. If you purchase them in the US then if you have any warranty related issues you will need to ship the phone(s) back to the US to someone you know to take into Apple for replacement. With shipping and insurance this could end up costing you more. An Apple store in the UK will help you up to the point where the phone needs to be replaced. They MAY help but are not required to.
One thing to keep in mind.
Good luck.
Really? I did not know this. Is this official policy? I assumed you could get it replaced anywhere in the world since its still an apple store. I have never ,ade it even a year without replacing my phone and i was going to get the extended waranty. I'm sure they would be sympathetic considering my sexy American accent.
 

Zcott

macrumors 68020
Oct 18, 2009
2,302
45
Belfast, Ireland
One thing to take note of is that the warranty for the iPhone is based in the original country of purchase. If you purchase them in the US then if you have any warranty related issues you will need to ship the phone(s) back to the US to someone you know to take into Apple for replacement. With shipping and insurance this could end up costing you more. An Apple store in the UK will help you up to the point where the phone needs to be replaced. They MAY help but are not required to.
One thing to keep in mind.
Good luck.
I'd be interested to know your source for this. I've had an American iPad replaced in the UK.
 

wordoflife

macrumors 604
Jul 6, 2009
7,563
32
Have you looked into GiffGaff?

The plans look really good. For example, 400 minutes, unlimited UK texts, unlimited internet and free to GiffGaff for £15.

http://giffgaff.com/index/offer

Runs off of O2-UK so you get pretty good service/reception wherever O2 provides.
 

dread

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 16, 2009
735
4
Have you looked into GiffGaff?

The plans look really good. For example, 400 minutes, unlimited UK texts, unlimited internet and free to GiffGaff for £15.

http://giffgaff.com/index/offer

Runs off of O2-UK so you get pretty good service/reception wherever O2 provides.
Yep I have decided to give giffgaff a try and buy an unlocked iPhone in the US. I am really hoping Apple will go back to the summer release schedule so I can get the next iPhone. I'm not really into spending $700 on a phone I already have.

Thanks for the help everyone. One less thing to worry about while trying to move my family to London.
 

reclusive46

macrumors 65816
Apr 14, 2011
1,088
27
Canada
Yep I have decided to give giffgaff a try and buy an unlocked iPhone in the US. I am really hoping Apple will go back to the summer release schedule so I can get the next iPhone. I'm not really into spending $700 on a phone I already have.

Thanks for the help everyone. One less thing to worry about while trying to move my family to London.
Just remember GiffGaff is not an offical carrier and you have to manually edit or the APN settings and voicemail won't work.