Tips for international travel with an iPhone

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by elistan, Aug 22, 2007.

  1. elistan macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2007
    Location:
    Denver/Boulder, CO
    #1
    Some threads have popped up recently about the cost of taking an iPhone out of the US, with plenty of flames to go with the complaints. So I thought it would be worth while to summarize the situation for everybody who travels outside the country.

    1) The first and most important point is that using an iPhone internationally like you normally would is extremely expensive. On the order of hundreds or even more than a thousand dollars per week.

    2) This is a factor of two things:
    2.1) First, the normal cost of international roaming. This information can be found here:
    http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/international-roaming.jsp?WT.svl=title
    I plan on going skiing in Whistler sometime this coming season, so I'll be using Canada as an example. It's either $0.79 or $0.59 per minute, it's unclear which. That's fine, I'd be willing to incur that cost for the occasion call to friends on the trip with me, about meeting up for dinner or whatever. (I wouldn't use it to call into a two hour meeting at work, but I wouldn't do that even if it were free. :) ) This is the normal cost you'd pay for any phone, not just the iPhone.
    Data usage is $0.0195 per KB. Again, no problem, right? Set email Auto-Check to Manual, and never use Safari on EDGE. Instead, use the hotel/resort/coffee shop's wifi service to get that sort of stuff.

    2.2) The second factor is the amount of EDGE data that the iPhone transmits. Even if you're not actively using it. Even if it's 1am and you're asleep and your Airport Extreme is turned on so your phone should be on wifi anyway. My iPhone often likes to transmit 5000KB or more at times like 1:00am - that's nearly $100 at international rates. That is the root cause of the issues people are having - take a normal GSM phone to Canada, even one that supports EDGE, and you'll expect to pay a little more for your usage, sure. But not hundreds of dollars more. And it's not intuitively obvious - a person can see the less-than-two-cents-per-kilobyte rate and think its no big deal. But unless they've been studying their bill closely, they'll never realize just how much data the iPhone liks to send over EDGE, regardless of how much you use it.

    3) Here are some suggestions for when you need to travel outside the country:
    3 a)Best bet, IMO, is to put your SIM into a normal GSM phone for the duration of the trip. I'm told that Go Phone is an ATT product, and therefore might work with the iPhone's SIM. Can somebody confim that? I'll update once I get a confirmation. Any other ATT or unlocked GSM phone should work as well. For example, I have my old Cingular locked Nokia from before I got my iPhone.
    3 b) Second bet, purchase a pre-paid phone in the country you're in. I don't know what that would cost though, and what you could and could not do with it. (I have no experience with these.)
    3 c) That's about all I can think of for actually being able to make calls. Therefore your third bet, is to take the SIM out of the iPhone. Calls will be unavailable but you'll be able to use any wifi connection you have access to for email and web browsing and you won't have to worry about any surprise EDGE charges.
    3 d) Leave the iPhone in airplane mode. You'll have your movies and music, but that's about it.

    Generally, If you need to make an emergency call with an iPhone internationally, do so quickly and realize that if the phone decides it needs to make a transmission at that time, you still might be charged with a hefty fee.

    Comments? Corrections?

    (Updated with some solution suggestions.)
     
  2. plumbingandtech macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    #2
    This is the best advice I have heard.

    So yes. You are carrying two things around. Cheap phone with your sim and a wifi only iphone (which you can still surf. take pics, listen and watch movies and music and get your email. But it seems a small price to pay (literally.)

    anyone know if those pay as you go cheapo phones can take the sim from the iphone. (it should. just making sure they are not soldered in or anything.)
     
  3. walangij macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2007
    Location:
    MI
    #3
    Great write-up, a suggestion would be to leave the iPhone and get a cheapo phone if you don't need any fancy things when you're abroad (unless you are on business then its a diff. story). Get a prepaid sim (in the country you travel) and stick it in a cheap phone which you could find, or invest in a cheap quad-band unlocked phone for maybe $50 or so here in the US if you look (this means getting a phone which model year is like 2004/5).
     
  4. plumbingandtech macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    #4
    As for the local prepaid sim.

    If one is making a lot of local calls then I can see a big savings.

    What if the person really just needs it to keep in touch with business at home? Is there still an advantage of getting a prepaid SIM when I land in Europe? (If most of my calls are back to the states.)

    thx.
     
  5. PupnTaco macrumors regular

    PupnTaco

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    #5
    Good advice; we need to keep this story front & center until there's a fix!
     
  6. Sobe macrumors 68000

    Sobe

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Location:
    Wash DC suburbs
    #6
    honestly, of all the problems people talk about with the iPhone, the way it handles EDGE internationally is the biggest problem.

    There needs to be a simple way to shut the sucker down for travel purposes, somewhat similar to airplane mode.

    I shouldn't have to worry about a $500 phone bill. I should be able to flip a virtual switch and know FOR CERTAIN that it won't be active.

    In fact, if people really cared, you should be able to set it once to autodetect and when you go international, your iPhone would check your settings and autoshut down EDGE until you specifically told it otherwise. Then when you get back to the US towers, it would flip on automatically unless in airplane mode.
     
  7. question fear macrumors 68020

    question fear

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Location:
    The "Garden" state
    #7
    Tips for getting an extra phone

    For anyone who switched to ATT and therefore does not have an extra gsm phone handy, go phone is your friend.

    If you really don't care and just want a phone to make calls, some of those are as low as $50.00. Benefits: Already set to all of AT&T's settings, can pop your SIM in no problem. Relatively cheap, probably low end enough that you don't need to stress about it if you're taking it on an intense trip. Cons: You can go cheaper on Ebay (Just watch for scams, also depending on the model of unlocked phone you might need carrier settings for certain features), the cheaper phones offered are pretty crappy.

    Just to help anyone out who is bugging on how to get an extra phone. Also, another tip: even if you are happy with your iphone as an existing customer, if you pop up as eligible for an upgrade, take it and keep the phone handy as an extra.
     
  8. Sobe macrumors 68000

    Sobe

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2007
    Location:
    Wash DC suburbs
    #8
    hmmm thanks for the reminder...I actually have an old go phone back when AT&T wireless was AT&T wireless then they sold to cingular I believe and now it's AT&T again...wonder if it would work, this phone is c. 2002.
     
  9. stantrb macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    #9
    I realize this can't work everywhere, BUT...

    Why can't you remove your SIM and use VoIP via wifi? Skype has an iPhone service now. If you're going to be near a hotspot, that seems like a fairly viable option...

    Stan
     
  10. question fear macrumors 68020

    question fear

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2003
    Location:
    The "Garden" state
    #10
    the 64,000 dollar question is if it is a gsm or tdma phone. If it is a gsm phone, if it doesn't work right away with ATT they can probably unlock it for you. TDMA they will not touch, they are actively trying to eliminate the remainders of their old TDMA business. Worth a shot though. And you can probably find out the specs through CNET or a similar site.

    I have to say, SIM flexibility is the #1 reason i steadfastly refuse to consoder anyone but gsm...why lock yourself to a contract AND a phone?
     
  11. sJv macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Sierra Foothills, CA
    #11
    The old AT&T network is incompatible with Cingular and the new AT&T. Your old phone will not work.

    The Skype on iPhone is a quick and dirty hack that doesn't actually use VoIP. It mereley instructs a remote Skype server to use SkypeOut to call your cell phone, and the party you want to talk to, then conferences you two together.

    I hope a real VoIP client will be written for the iPhone some day...

    -steve
     
  12. walangij macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2007
    Location:
    MI
    #12

    So locally it is viable, but keeping in touch w/ business @ home, well it's probably not much different than just using international roaming then. At least that's my experience for calls in Asia, calls going out were just as expensive as using roaming. I just got really friendly with Skype and strict schedules to make sure I could contact people when they were available. Also, with my prepaid international calls coming in were free even though quality was just a tad lower. No idea for Europe though. Skype on the iPhone with Wi-fi sounds great for that if it is an option.
     
  13. MazingerZ macrumors 6502

    MazingerZ

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2007
    #14
    Well, I got charged about 50usd in roaming data charges while in Asia for 14 days last month. I made sure to turn off email checking, didn't use safari, didn't check stocks, weather etc.

    I think the main culprit was Visual Voicemail. Yes, I was able to receive voicemail (intermittently) and listening to them probably was the bulk of the data charges but I think I was connected to a wifi router during those times.

    They really need to turn off the switch off edge. :mad:
     

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