Monday, May 18, 2009

Taking my iPhone to Europe or Abroad - iPhone International Plan

In the past, when we have traveled abroad, I've disabled iPhone features by enabling a SIMM Pin and used the Wi-Fi on my phone only. What I discovered is that Apple has since changed their iPhone Software and Wi-Fi now works on Airplane Mode so disabling the SIMM Pin is no longer necessary. For this trip, I will be signing up for an International Roaming Package so that I can use the iPhone's 3G service for directions, checking mail and receiving text messages. Here are the details:

1. AT&T International Plan Customer Service 1-800-335-4685 - The day before I leave, I'm called them to subscribe the following services:

  • AT&T World Traveler- $5.99 per month (calls in Spain, Switzerland and Italy are $.99 cents per minute)
  • AT&T Data Global Add-On for the iPhone - $59.99 for 50MB of usage, $0.005/KB overage or $5.00 per MB for overage. You have approximately 1.67 MB per day data usage which is important as it relates to your normal AT&T billing cycle, your vacation dates and how AT&T does the pro-ration. When you sign-up, the beginning and ending date of your AT&T contact and how it falls within your travel period. To be safe, you might have to have the AT&T Rep back date your contract 30-days or less because of how they calculate the pro-ration.)
  • Here's an Example: AT&T takes your total MB per month and divides by the number of days until the next billing period. If you travel started 1-day before your new billing period, then you would have 1.67 MB and $5.00 per MB for any overage. So if you used 3.67 MB the first day of your trip, you would be charged $59.99 / 30 days or $2.00 per day + $10.24 (2MB overage @ $5.12 per MB ) = $12.24. The second billing period you will be billed at $59.99 under the same formula. (Yes, it sounds complicated but worst case if you you pay$119.98 for two months for 50 MB iPhone data usage. (more later on data usage) In my case, the Rep back dated my contract 30 days so I had 7 days to use 50 MB which was more than enough.

2. Forwarding -- Before I leave the United States, I will use the iPhone to forward my calls to my Google Voice number. When people call this number, for any voice messages, text transcripts will be sent to my phone using Google's new cool service. I am lucky to have one of these beta accounts.

3. Text Messages -- Incoming text message are covered by my domestic plan. Outgoing text messages are $.50 each.

More info is at the link below.

4. Canceling - When I get back to the States, I will cancel the plan without any penalty.

5. iPhone Usage Reset Statistics - Before my plane took off from the United States, I Reset the iPhone Usage Statistics Settings --> General --> Usage --> Reset Statistics (This allowed me to track my Cellular Network Data Sent and Received).

6. International Usage -- On my first day of travel, we landed in Madrid, Spain and drove North to Salamanca. The first thing I noticed was that I was not able to connect to Google Maps until I re-booted my iPhone several times (i.e. everytime you change Cellular providers such as Vodafone, Orange). Google Maps worked, but I'm not convinced it was as accurate as in the United States in the smaller town of Salamanca.

7. Photos and Google Maps - I normally blog on vacation and like to upload photos from my iPhone. As you would expect, each blog photo uploaded used a good amount of my daily 1.67 MB data usage. In addition, Google Maps also uses up your data.

8. Email - Spain didn't have good free wi-fi service like some other countries so I was judicious about checking my email, especially with the amount of spam I get in some of my accounts.

9. Coverage - For celluar service and 3G on the train from Madrid to Barcelona was also better than I expected.

10. Wi-fi - A side note that wi-fi was $20 to $26 per day in Spain and Switzerland. When I had Internet cable access in Barcelona, I actually used wi-fi sharing for the first time. My daughter was able to use my Internet connection and I also used it to connect my iPhone.

11. AT&T Text Message - Reset Statistics - On the day my billing period ended, I received a very informative text message from AT&T reminding me to reset my statistics and of the $5.12 per MB overage charge.

12. Text Messages - When using this service abroad, my incoming messages were generally unrelaible. There appeared to be a long latency from the time someone in Spain sent me a text message to the time I received it. In general, this was not expected.

12. Returned Home - I returned home and canceled my International plans today. I had to wait a few days to avoid the data plan overages.


Unknown said...

HUGELY helpful. Thank you very much. I was a little confused about the Wi Fi thing though. However, I have heard that you can use free wi fi spots in Europe, and if you have the data plan added, then you are just paying for the data useage. Correct? Also, with Google maps, was the map somewhat accurate and did the GPS work?
Thanks again.

Florence said...

Wow, very helpful. I'm going to the UK for 2 weeks and this is good info, thanks. How was your bill when you got back? Do you have a feel for how much data twitter uses?

JOE RIOT said...

Very helpful indeed! I am off to Barcelona next month for two weeks and had already started my ATT World Traveller + 20 MB Data Global I am guessing should be enough during that time as it would mostly be used texting friends traveling together and the occasional photo upload on to twitter. Thanks.