Traveling Abroad with AT&T iPhone 4S

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by Hawkeye2, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Hawkeye2 macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2012
    I did a quick search, but I didn't see a post that completely answered my questions. I'm traveling abroad for the next few months (mostly in Europe) and will be taking my iPhone 4s, which is on AT&T. I have a few questions about using my iPhone when traveling.

    1. To avoid data roaming charges when I'm traveling, do I just need to switch "Data Roaming" under Settings to off? Are there any other settings that I should adjust to avoid possible fees? I know I could just switch it to Airplane Mode, but I still want to be able to receive text messages. Are there any apps I need to worry about that might not be covered by the data roaming setting?

    2. Will I be able to use iMessage on wifi if my data is turned off? I have a few friends with the iPhone/iPad that I would like to keep in touch with, so it would be great if I could use iMessage to communicate with them.

    3. I'm guessing apps with location-based services, such as Find Friends, will continue to work when I'm in wifi hotspots?

    4. If I have data turned off, will I be able to access my voicemail when on wifi? I'm not sure how visual voicemail works for AT&T, but I would like to be able to check any messages if possible.

    Any other tips appreciated!

  2. Jordan921 macrumors 601


    Jul 7, 2010
    Bay Area
    You will have to turn off data roaming so that you don't incur any roaming charges. You will not be able to access voicemail on wifi with it turned off. Yes you will still be able to use iMessage on wifi.
  3. thefreeagent macrumors member

    Nov 7, 2010
    New Mexico
    Also, just so you know, you should probably turn off cellular data altogether, so that you won't inadvertantly be charged for incoming text messages or calls. I'm pretty sure that'll prevent you from getting charged exorbitant international rates for receiving data unintentionally, but you might want to double check on that. Another thing that I recommend doing is toggling the Send As SMS switch under message settings to OFF, so that it'll only be sending iMessages instead of trying to send text messages randomly (I've had this happen...very irritating).
  4. cyks macrumors 68020


    Jul 24, 2002
    Westchester County, NY
    Airplane mode is your friend. Turn that on followed by turning on WiFi.

    The last thing you'd want is to accidentally, out of habit, answer your phone or, as someone else said- get a text (or worse, SMS text) and be charged for data.

    The best bet for checking your messages? Once there, buy a cheap prepaid phone card that can call the US - and use that to call your number to check messages every so often.
  5. PharmDoc macrumors 6502

    Oct 10, 2010
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

    My advice to you would be to sell your 4s and buy an unlocked iPhone. You can use the local sims there.
  6. Hawkeye2 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2012
    Thank you for the tips so far!

    I don't want to go through the hassle of selling my 4s and picking up a new phone, but I think I may consider picking up a cheap international phone when I'm traveling.

    As far as receiving texts and calls, I thought AT&T only charges for outgoing texts and if you actually answer the call? I traveled abroad a couple years ago and thought they only charged for texts that I sent. Can anyone confirm this?

    Also, I do have a cheap AT&T flip phone that I received a few years ago when I purchased the original iPhone. Would this phone be unlocked to work on different networks so I can just buy a sim card when I'm traveling? Not sure the policies for non-iPhone units at AT&T.
  7. pdr13 macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A406 Safari/7534.48.3)

    Airplane Mode On The Whole Time You Are In Europe ... Do Not EVER Take It Off Of Airplane Mode. Not Even For One Second. This Will Bypass Outrageous 3G Phone Charges Entirely.

    WI-FI On. Use Hotspots For Conectivity When And Where They Are Available (Coffee Shops, Hotels, Etc.). Internet Cafes Will Charge A Nominal Fee Per Hour. Starbucks WI-FI Access Is Usually Free With The Purchase Of A $5 Gift Card.

    Download Skype. You Can Call Anywhere In The World For A Few Cents Per Minute Via WI-FI. If You Have A WI-FI Only iPad ... Leave Your iPhone At Home And Make Phone Calls Using Skype Through Your iPad. I Phoned Home To The United States And Made Calls All Over Europe For Hours For Under $10 During My Entire Stay. And All This From An iPad With No Phone On It. Skype-To-Skype Phone Calls Are Free As Are Skype-To-Skype Video Calls.

    Enjoy Europe !!!
  8. viewfly, Mar 5, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012

    viewfly macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2009
    Yes incoming texts are free if you have a att text plan. sending is 50cents.

    Just turn data roaming off. When you do the 3G symbol will disappear. So too will the E edge.

    Use wifi for mail, etc.

    You can buy 50 Mb for the month for $25. They have larger plans too.

    Also, voice world traveler for $5/mon reduces your voice rate considerably .

    I remember retrieving voicemail being charged as a phone call. So the world traveller is a good idea. Or maybe change your voice message to have people text you instead. However the indicator will show a voice mail waiting and th number that called.
  9. pdr13 macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A406 Safari/7534.48.3)

    AT&T Propaganda?
  10. -hh macrumors 68020


    Jul 17, 2001
    NJ Highlands, Earth
    This looks like the right thread to revive / ask my questions on...

    Haven't gotten an iPhone yet, so I'm not familiar with the menu options.

    Basically, what I believe that I want to do is:


    Voice - send/receive while anywhere (eg, on a cellular connection).

    Data - send/receive only while logged onto a WiFi hotspot.

    (Yes, I know that I'm likely to get clobbered on the rate for the voice calls; that's OK, because it is intended for emergencies, not social chit-chat).

    Based on the prior posts, it sounds like the answer is just use the "Data Roaming" toggle?

  11. Daveoc64 macrumors 601

    Jan 16, 2008
    Bristol, UK

    Paranoid people might tell you to also hit the "Cellular Data" toggle to off, but that's generally overkill.
  12. moonman239 macrumors 68000

    Mar 27, 2009
    If I were you, I'd just add a roaming package to your iPhone plan.
  13. VSMacOne macrumors 601


    Oct 18, 2008
    You will get charged TWICE for somebody leaving you a voicemail so before you leave the US you need to forward your calls to a landline. This way, you can still MAKE calls if you need to, but won't be charged when somebody calls you.
    And just to be safe, go ahead and turn off Data roaming AND Cellular data. Can't hurt anything!
  14. -hh macrumors 68020


    Jul 17, 2001
    NJ Highlands, Earth
    Thanks...but does that then prompt the obvious dumb question of what the difference between the two of them?

    Yes, been thinking about that too. I assume that that's something that I can add/drop on a month-by-month basis, but it also will depend on how the carrier (which is probably going to be AT&T) defines what a "month" is: calendar, cycle based on billing date, or a "30 days" as of a date I tell them. Naturally, the difference is if we would get hit by one month or two.

    But doesn't that also mean that I'd not receive any incoming calls at all? If so, that wouldn't be desired.

    I don't mind belt+suspenders, but this does again beg the "But What's the Difference?" question for these two settings. Might it depend on the carrier (eg, VZW vs ATT)?

  15. Daveoc64 macrumors 601

    Jan 16, 2008
    Bristol, UK
    The "Cellular Data" toggle does exactly what it says - it disables data over the cellular network ANYWHERE that you use your phone.

    Not everyone has a data plan or wants to use data on their iPhone.

    Data Roaming disables cellular data when roaming on other networks.
  16. jmm74 macrumors newbie

    May 12, 2010
    I use the Magicjack App which is completely free on wifi with Skype (& Skype wifi) as a backup. You can also use Skype To Go to forward to a local cell phone from a US number. That way you can receive calls from home for Skype rates. Many of the local sims I have purchased include free incomming minutes.

    In my experience, turning off data roaming will prevent all cell data usage on any network other than the AT&T network. I have been doing this with no problems for many international trips.

    I have just unlocked my old 3GS with AT&T for use in China. The sims including data are very cheap here.
  17. SAD*FACED*CLOWN macrumors 65816


    Apr 5, 2010
    Houston, TX
    just returned from Thailand and noticed the glitch that says "in order to send messages you must disable airplane mode"....the way it pops up it's very easy to accidently turn OFF airplane mode...I reccomend turning off Cellular data and data roming in addition to being in airplane mode..and yes iMessages work well in wifi only mode
  18. goosnarrggh, Apr 20, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2012

    goosnarrggh macrumors 68000

    May 16, 2006
    Even with "Cellular Data" turned off, you will still be capable of receiving incoming SMS (not necessarily iMessages) texts, and you will still be capable of receiving incoming calls. Neither of these events arrive in your phone via "Data".

    Only "Airplane Mode" (or removing the AT&T SIM card completely) can ensure that you will not receive incoming calls or incoming texts.

    AT&T's website claims quite clearly that incoming texts while roaming internationally are simply deducted from your existing text messaging package -- but outgoing texts while roaming internationally are charged at a premium rate.

    They also acknowledge that it is entirely possible for you to be charged twice for incoming voice calls that arrive at your phone while roaming internationally which are then routed back to voicemail: once for routing the call internationally to your phone, and once for routing the call internationally back to AT&T's voicemail service. If you don't want to be charged double for people to leave you a voicemail message while traveling internationally, then you really only have three options:
    1) Make sure to tell everybody you know not to call you while you're away (and trust them to obey your wishes),
    2) Set up all incoming calls to be auto-forwarded directly to voicemail before you leave, or
    3) Use airplane mode / remove AT&T SIM entirely.
  19. whidbeyben macrumors member

    Nov 7, 2007
    West Coast
    AT&T iPhone 4S in Europe

    I just looked into this for my son. AT&T won't unlock the phone because it still has 5 months left on contract, but they have international calling plans that can be added on $30/month for 30 min, and $30/month for 120MB data. Buying a european SIM might not be all that much less. He's taking my old unlocked iPhone3G in case the european SIM is a lot cheaper, but the 4S is so much better a phone, it may turn out better to give AT&T the $60 for 30 min calling and 120MB data. With wifi iMessage and skype, those allowances may be plenty.
  20. 617aircav Suspended

    Jul 2, 2012
    European Sims are much much cheaper than roaming on Att. I went to England and bought a Vodafone SIM for a pound and put 10 pounds of service on it. You can get the phone unlocked through eBay for less than 5 bucks. Also in Europe incoming texts and calls are free.
  21. CosmoPilot macrumors 65816


    Nov 8, 2010
    South Carolina
    I travel overseas all the time (with an AT&T iPhone). As long as data roaming is turned off, you will NEVER be charged international data charges.

    A helpful tip: Call AT&T and have them turn on international service (it's free, but will allow your phone to connect to international cell towers). Again, as long as data roaming is turned off, you will not be charged data charges.

    The benefit of having AT&T turn on the international service is so you can send and receive text messages when connected to only a cell tower. All incoming text messages are FREE!!! If you send a text message, it is $0.50 a text. MMS is $1.30 a MMS.

    When I'm abroad, my family will send me text messages all day so I know what is going on until I get to a WiFi location and can use iMessage. If I need to send a text in a pinch, I don't mind paying the $0.50 to do so.

    Also, by having the international service turned on, you can use the phone as a phone in an emergency. CAUTION: International phone calls will cost approx. $3.50/minute. So DO NOT answer your phone if it rings unless it's an emergency! Speaking of emergencies, if one pops up, $3.50/minute is not a big deal!

    I'm overseas about 2 weeks out of every month (been doing this for almost 5 years now). I don't change any settings on my iPhone at all. Data Roaming is OFF by default, so I can not access any data when connected to international cell towers. However, I can send & receive text messages and send and receive phone calls. (incoming texts are FREE/outgoing texts do cost money; all voice calls cost money, so don't answer phone calls unless it's very important).

    Please discuss this with an AT&T rep, they will confirm what I just mentioned.
  22. Cartaphilus macrumors 6502a

    Dec 24, 2007
    Great advice on this thread if you don't have the option of bringing an unlocked phone.

    Nonetheless, having an unlocked iPhone in Europe with iCloud is awfully nice if you can manage it. In France, for example, an SFR store will sell you for 30 euros, a SIM card for your unlocked iPhone that gives you unlimited cellular data for a month, along with unlimited calls in country to four numbers, and, of course, free incoming phone calls from anywhere. Cheaper cards for shooter time periods are also sold by SFR and other carriers. Given that you can use Skype or some other VOIP app to use data to call anywhere, it's a great solution, at least if you're only visiting one or two countries. (I think if you're going on a "It's-Thursday-So-This-Must-Be-Latvia" tour, it can be more expensive to get a multi-country SIM or annoying to constantly switch out, but I have no personal experience.)

    Lots of people have older iPhones they've held on to when upgrading, and which are unlocked or eligible to be unlocked. If you ask around, you may find you have a friend willing loan you one.
  23. viewfly, May 17, 2013
    Last edited: May 17, 2013

    viewfly macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2009
    Good summary. But if a phone call
    Is not answered and goes to voicemail, you will be charged 1min plus the length of the voice message!

    I find it worth paying $30 for 130Mb of data. Very useful to have data while traveling. Then you can imessage for ever! And check where you are on maps or use google translate. But i set email to manual so I don't waste data. And if you need more, you can bump to 300 on the fly.
  24. CosmoPilot macrumors 65816


    Nov 8, 2010
    South Carolina
    I don't want to say your wrong, but I've never, ever, ever, ever....been charged for an incoming call that I didn't answer. In fact, when a voice mail is left on my phone, I get a solid red circle where the icon badge normally displays the number of missed calls. I absolutely never touch the until I get back state-side and I've never been charged.

    The voice mail message is not stored on your phone; thus, it is never received internationally via voice or data. This would be no different than turning your phone completely off...someone calls and leaves voice mail...then you get back to the states and turn on the phone and listen to the voicemail. Again, your iPhone never "receives" the voicemail until you open up the and then tap the voicemail tab.
  25. Daveoc64, May 26, 2013
    Last edited: May 26, 2013

    Daveoc64 macrumors 601

    Jan 16, 2008
    Bristol, UK
    The "old fashioned" way of handling voicemail while roaming involves routing the call to the destination network (in this case outside of the US) and then "back" to the customer's home network (in this case, AT&T in the US).

    Carriers sometimes charge for both routing the call there, and routing the call back.

    AT&T is "old fashioned"!

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