Need to buy iPhone 6 Plus in US but use internationally, intermittently.

Discussion in 'iPhone Tips, Help and Troubleshooting' started by thunksalot, Oct 14, 2014.

  1. thunksalot macrumors newbie

    Oct 14, 2014
    I am eligible for an upgrade on AT&T, but for work I've begun to travel abroad for periods of weeks at a time, sometimes as long as a month. When abroad, it can be very useful to buy a local pre-paid SIM card for making local calls and using data (and so locals have a local number at which to reach me). This worked well on a recent trip with my iphone 4S, which AT&T unlocked for me because I was beyond my contract. They wouldn't have unlocked it otherwise.

    So, now that I want to upgrade to the iPhone 6+, I'm trying to figure out a way to do it where I'll still be able to have my phone unlocked for purposes of using a local SIM card when abroad. I've called all the carriers but, according to the reps I spoke with, none of them seem to want to make that possible. I know I can buy an iPhone 6+ unlocked from Apple by paying full price, and I'd be happy to do that if I would then get a lower rate plan from a carrier (because I brought my own equipment they wouldn't need to recoup the equipment subsidy via my rate plan). But that's not how it works. They say they would charge me the same rates. The idea that they are going to charge me the same rate as they charge people who are paying for their phone through their contract is upsetting. It'd be like paying for the phone twice! If it was just a matter of paying for it upfront vs over time, I'm happy to pay upfront, but I don't want to pay twice!

    A couple of the carrier reps "helpfully" told me that I could keep my iphone 4S and use that when I'm abroad. That's frigging stupid. I'm upgrading because I want *a better phone*. It's insane that they think it makes sense for their contract requirements to turn my new phone into a brick when I'm abroad (or a tool for extortion, considering their international roaming rates), so that I can "enjoy" going back to my slow 3+ year old phone. I don't understand why if I continue to pay them on for my contract while I'm abroad, they won't let me also go and pay someone else for service at the same time. They're still getting their money, but without having to render any service! Shouldn't that be a steal of a deal for them??

    Anyone have any advice for me? I'm super frustrated trying to figure out how to not get financially screwed and not have the new, faster, big-screened iphone that I intend to purchase reduced to a wifi-only device when I'm abroad.
  2. reidconti macrumors newbie

    Oct 6, 2008
    Actually, that is how it works. For at least the past 6-8 months, ATT (for example) offers a Bring Your Own Device plan.

    For example, I have a mobile share plan. Adding a subsidized phone to it costs $40 per device. Adding a BYOD phone to it costs $25 per device.

    So you save $15/mo, which is $360 (incidentally, $10 more than the ETF on an advanced device).

    These days all of the carriers are pushing Next and Edge-like plans.

    Since your 4s is paid off, you are already getting screwed if they're not giving you the BYOD discount.

    Call now, get BYOD discount, then order a 6+ TMobile version through, pop an ATT SIM into it, and off ya go!

    I actually paid the ETF on my 5s and got it unlocked immediately, but others have reported issues with this process, where the carrier will not let you (??) keep paying them money if you pay the ETF, they want you to switch carriers.

    I'm done with that noise, I don't ever want to give a carrier a dime for my device. I pay for it, it's mine. Not interested in their phone rental/lease schemes.

    I thought you couldn't even get a subsidized device anymore.
  3. IrishVixen macrumors 68020


    Jun 20, 2010
    You might also consider switching to a prepaid setup--TMobile and Cricket Wireless (which apparently AT&T now owns) are two of the more common ones. Both of these have a variety of plans, you can bring your own unlocked device, and they have auto pay options that make the process near identical to your typical postpaid account. There's a number of threads on the subject here in the forum, as a lot of single line payers have found that to be a better way to go now that the carriers are putting all their emphasis on things like NEXT and family share plans.

    Plus, if you're going to be overseas for a month, you can always just turn off autopay and don't refill your account until you get back. So that way, you're not paying for service you aren't using. Most prepaid carriers will allow you to do this for a up to a few months at a time without penalty and without losing your number.
  4. thunksalot thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 14, 2014
    Thanks friends!

    Sorry for the long delay in sharing my appreciation for your very prompt replies. I've been super busy with work travel and just hadn't been able to return to this matter until now.

    After reflecting on your tips, I thought up a new way of approaching it. I called up AT&T and chose the option in the phone system to cancel my service. I told the rep I was going to cancel my service and buy an unlocked T-mobile iPhone 6+ out-right, switch carriers and get more data for less money. I just wanted to know what the ETF for my girlfriend's line would be. (This wasn't really a bluff. I was genuinely considering switching even though T-Mobile's coverage isn't as great in my area, simply because of AT&T's latest obnoxious stunt of locking the universal Apple SIM cards that come with the new iPads. We need more carrier competition so I was willing to take one for the team.)

    The AT&T rep offered to double my data plan at no extra cost, which I accepted, naturally. When I pointed out that that wouldn't solve the fact that AT&T was going to turn my new phone into a brick when work takes me to Europe for all of February, she said I could pay the ETF before I leave to have it unlocked. I asked her to walk me through the dollars and cents of paying the ETF three months into a new contract. If I got it right, the total cost of the phone would be $299 (64GB iPhone Plus) + $345 (ETF) + $45 (for the first three months without BYOD, which is $15 more per month). Total = $689 That beat buying the T-Mobile outright for $849.

    I told her that I couldn't believe AT&T would actually let me do that. Why would AT&T let me cancel my contract virtually right away at a price that would be so much lower than buying it outright? There had to be a mistake. She said there wasn't a mistake and that it is sort of a loophole. I made her promise a couple times that I wouldn't run into a glitch with the unlocking when I go to cancel and pay the ETF in three months. And, I wrote down her name just in case I run into a problem!

    Anyway, just wanted to express my appreciation and share back the outcome. Hopefully, I didn't get bad information and don't run into any problems. I'll let you know if I do!
  5. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Jun 14, 2010
    Are you still on a contract plan with the embedded subsidy or did you switch to a Mobile Share plan which discounts the service when you're off contract?

    Also I thought the 64GB iphone plus is $399 with contract not $299. Typo or something else?

    Something doesn't add up with what you describe, though I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps I'm just be misunderstanding what you ended up with.
  6. thunksalot thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 14, 2014
    Hmm, well I'd written down $299 for the 64GB while I was talking to the rep, but I must have misheard or made a mistake because it does appear to be $399, as you correctly noted. That reduces the "loophole" by quite a bit: savings of $60 vs a savings of $160.

    I was already on a Mobile Share Plan, so it turned out that I had already been switched to the BYOD price when my 4S contract expired. When I get my 6+, I'll be starting a new two year contract, which, I believe, will still on the Mobile Share Plan pricing.
  7. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Jun 14, 2010
    Yeah, if you're on a 10GB or higher Mobile Share plan buying the phone via Next or buying it outright is the better deal vs 2yr contract. With the contract on Mobile Share you pay $450 less than retail up front, but lose the $25/mo discount for 24 months thereby costing you $600. Add the $40 activation fee in and you're paying $190 more for that contract phone vs. paying retail or using Next as interest free financing. Sales tax considerations offset that somewhat as in most places on contract you just pay sales tax on the discounted price vs. paying sales tax on the entire retail price.

    One the 6GB or lower Mobile Share it reverses since you're only losing a $15/mo discount, meaning you're paying $360 over two years to get that $450 off retail subsidy. At that level the contract is the better deal.

    (Remember you can treat Next as just financing; you don't have to trade the phone in and can just finish your payments or even pay it off early and keep the phone either way)

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6 October 14, 2014