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How can I use my smart phone as a camera and not pay data charges?
December 27, 2011 2:29 PM   Subscribe

How can I use my smart phone as a camera in the US and not pay data/mobile network charges?

I live in Canada. Next week, I am going to the US. I want to be able to use my smart phone as a camera. If it is possible to use my phone with free Wifi (like at Starbucks) to do downloads/uploads of email and so on, that would be great. But I am primarily interested in using my phone as a camera.

I don't want to be stuck paying network fees or anything like that. I do not want a huge roaming bill.

I was thinking I could put the phone in airplane mode, perhaps, and make sure all connections were turned off.

My friend told me that even if I do that, some data will get through and I'll be paying $1 a minute.

I have an HTC Incredible, if that info helps.

Thanks.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Travel & Transportation around California (19 answers total)
 
My phone works just fine with no SIM card. Have you tried physically removing the SIM?
posted by idiopath at 2:31 PM on December 27, 2011


I just turned off one of my kid's phone who went out of the country by calling Verizon and putting a temporary hold on the service. The phone still works for camera and wifi, just will not connect to Verizon network. Not sure who your carrier is in Canada, but call them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:40 PM on December 27, 2011


You should be able to do the following:
- put phone in airplane mode
- turn off radio in settings/Mobile Networks. Turn off Data enabled and roaming
- turn on WiFi (still works in airplane mode)
- do what you want.

You can also try calling your cell phone company and ask to deactivate your phone for the period of time, but there might be a fee associated with this.

I've done the above with an Android phone and have had no problems using it like you've written. Can't hurt to remove the SIM card as well, but I wouldn't know-- my phone doesn't have one.
posted by herrdoktor at 2:44 PM on December 27, 2011


I've done this with my deactivated HTC Inspire from AT&T. Over WiFi I can use it for everything from phone calls (via Skype) to accessing the Internet and taking/posting photos. Works perfectly.
posted by Telpethoron at 2:48 PM on December 27, 2011


Here's a free widget that will quickly turn off your data connections. Your camera will work fine, as others have said.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:50 PM on December 27, 2011


I don't understand what the camera has to do with Wifi or 3/4g. It's a camera. Turn off the GPS-stamp option and any 3rd party upload software you have and taking pictures doesn't use wifi or data.

Also, you can go to T-Mobile and get a pay as you go plan for $2 per day (5 day minimum) that includes unlimited everything, including data. I just did this last week with my Android phone.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:52 PM on December 27, 2011


> . Turn off the GPS-stamp option and any 3rd party upload software you have and taking pictures doesn't use wifi or data.

No need to turn off GPS tagging (if you want to use it). That uses GPS data, which doesn't incur any fees. As for all the sundry apps that may want to access the internet, there's no need to try to manage those piecemeal. Simply disabling data network connections will do that.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:54 PM on December 27, 2011


> My friend told me that even if I do that, some data will get through and I'll be paying $1 a minute.

Oh, and that is flat wrong. If your phone is actually in airplane mode then no antennae are turned on. That means no roaming, no nothing.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:56 PM on December 27, 2011


My HTC has a setting to turn off data when roaming, which I've been using to great effect while I'm in Norway. I assume the same thing is on the Incredible. Although, I hear that you pay for incoming SMS messages in the US so who knows....
posted by knapah at 3:15 PM on December 27, 2011


Burhanistan, GPS on a cellphone downloads data to look up the location of the nearest mobile tower, so it will use data and needs to be turned off. It's almost always A-GPS that mobile phones use.
posted by ambrosen at 3:25 PM on December 27, 2011


When the bf and I went to Europe we just left our phones in airplane mode and were able to use all the other features without being charged for data.
posted by brilliantine at 3:29 PM on December 27, 2011


> Burhanistan, GPS on a cellphone downloads data to look up the location of the nearest mobile tower, so it will use data and needs to be turned off. It's almost always A-GPS that mobile phones use.

A-GPS refers to the Navigation apps. The phone itself has a GPS antenna that can triangulate your location like any other GPS device, no data network needed. I just verified this by turning off data networks on my phone (and altering the APN for good measure). I could both get a satellite read from a utility app and take geo-tagged pictures. You don't need internet for GPS.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:08 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK. So, I checked and the radio doesn't work when I am in airplane mode. If I just have the phone set to airplane mode the entire time, I should be okay, right?
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:34 PM on December 27, 2011


I took my iPhone to Slovenia from the US and had no trouble using it only over WiFi. I think I had it in airplane mode, and turned data roaming off just in case.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:36 PM on December 27, 2011


Yep. You can also individually enable WiFi even if you have Airplane mode on.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:36 PM on December 27, 2011


Thanks. Sorry, if I have it in airplane mode, do I also have to turn off data roaming? I can't even see a setting for that on the phone. (I will check out the app suggested above, too.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:16 PM on December 27, 2011


Different phones have slightly different power settings. Yours might have the airplane mode option if you hold down the power button while it's on.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:43 PM on December 27, 2011


Even if you don't have to turn off data roaming, you should, just to be safe. Have a good trip!
posted by Night_owl at 4:14 AM on December 28, 2011


Just a note: my Droid X on Verizon Wireless still uses some (variable small amounts) of data, even with Data Roaming turned off. Verizon have now set it to turned off on *their* end as well to prevent this.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 11:18 AM on December 28, 2011


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