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Help my family use our iPhones without data plans!
March 18, 2012 3:38 PM   Subscribe

AT&T's mandatory iPhone data plan is killin' me!

In my AT&T contract, I have a family plan arrangement of four iPhones. My family and I cannot justify the added $100 for us each to have the contract-mandated iPhone data plan since we are almost always in Wi-Fi range. Originally, I placed each SIM card into one of our old Motorola RAZRs and enabled a data block. Then, I would simply place the SIM card back into my iPhone. This used to work like a charm.

But now AT&T has become more strict and frequent with their IMEI sweeps, so each month one or two of us will receive a text message: “[AT&T] has added the appropriate data plan.” I am then forced to reinstate the data block using a RAZR, which is tedious.

This cannot go on! Here are my options as I (barely) understand them. Please clarify for me or suggest an alternative:

• Alter the IMEI of each of the iPhones to that of a dumbphone. Punishable by fine, but not illegal in the US I believe. I have no idea how to do this.
• Cancel my service with AT&T which is approximately a $150 fee with a dumb phone. Then, transfer our accounts to a pay-as-you go service that doesn’t mind us using iPhones. Any suggestions for a provider that doesn't care? Can we keep our same phone numbers?
• Can any of those weird named unlocking software (ultrasn0w) help me in anyway?

Thank you very much for your help and knowledge.
posted by ptsampras14 to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Since your iPhones are locked to AT&T, you'd have to look into using AT&T's prepaid services, like AT&T GoPhone. I haven't done this myself, and it's hard to tell based on internet reports whether it's actually possible.

Unless you have older iPhones such as the 3G or 3GS, you probably can't unofficially unlock them with ultrasn0w. Here's a guide I maintain for figuring out whether your iPhone is compatible with ultrasn0w.
posted by dreamyshade at 4:09 PM on March 18, 2012


Depending on where you are in your contract, why not:
1. Downgrade phones and service to RAZRs with no data contract (keep your numbers though.
2. Sell iPhones.
3. Use money from selling iPhones to buy iPod Touches.
posted by inviolable at 4:23 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


FYI, AT&T drastically increased their early termination fee for all of their smartphones a little ways back:

$325 minus $10 for each full month of your Service Commitment that you complete

so i'd be very careful going that route, if they've got you on record using your sims in iPhones, they could whack you for a grand worth of ETFs.
posted by Oktober at 4:52 PM on March 18, 2012


Credo (on the sprint network) pays early termination fees but I doubt you could take your iPhone with you.
posted by salvia at 4:59 PM on March 18, 2012


Straight Talk now allows you to bring your own phone and uses AT&T. You have to change some setting to make it work, but it does work according to people on HowardForums. $45 a month unlimited everything.
posted by rainbowbullet at 2:01 AM on March 19, 2012


AT&T thinks that what you have been doing is a violation of contract.
posted by fief at 8:23 AM on March 19, 2012


Your AT&T iPhones will work on T-Mobile's network, and I don't believe they have data requirements for smart phones (based on my limited research). The biggest downside, however, is that if you do want to enable data at some point you'll be limited to 2G speeds on their network. You'll need to get your phones carrier unlocked, but you should be able to keep your numbers (AT&T can help with both of these).
posted by bizwank at 8:37 AM on March 19, 2012


AT&T iPhones won't work on T-Mobile unless they were purchased factory-unlocked instead of subsidized by the contract, or unless you unofficially unlock them with ultrasn0w etc.
posted by dreamyshade at 10:50 AM on March 19, 2012


(AT&T doesn't offer unlocking for their phones.)
posted by dreamyshade at 10:51 AM on March 19, 2012


My bad, AT&T will unlock certain phones under certain conditions, but never iPhones: http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=55002&cv=820#fbid=SDEaDsJaaHl. Carrier unlocking via other methods is fairly simple.
posted by bizwank at 12:32 PM on March 19, 2012


In my AT&T contract, I have a family plan arrangement of four iPhones. My family and I cannot justify the added $100 for us each to have the contract-mandated iPhone data plan since we are almost always in Wi-Fi range. Originally, I placed each SIM card into one of our old Motorola RAZRs and enabled a data block. Then, I would simply place the SIM card back into my iPhone. This used to work like a charm.

You do understand that this is basically fraud, right? The data plan is mandatory because you are getting a several-hundred-dollar discount of the price of an iPhone, which is recouped with the requisite data plan. This is not them out to get you.
posted by tremspeed at 4:23 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


T Mobile will allow you to to a pay as you go plan with an ATT iPhone, but with much slower data speeds than ATT.
posted by tremspeed at 4:25 PM on March 19, 2012


FYI AT&T now unlocks iPhones provided you're out of contract: http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2012/04/no-human-interaction-required-att-iphone-unlock-can-be-done-via-itunes.ars
posted by bizwank at 5:43 PM on April 9, 2012


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