iPhones in the UK
November 4, 2009 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Yet another series of questions about iPhones in the UK: A lot of information has just come out about the potential limitations with the new Orange plans, but I have some questions before I finally give in and perhaps get a miraculous iPhone

- When I originally spoke to Apple when the 3GS I was told that I would not be able to access Skype with O2 if I was within their 3G network area. Is this true? If true, would I still be able to use it in wi-fi areas in the UK and overseas?
- I don't really understand the concept of unlocking (sorry for ignorance). I was told that if I bought new 3GS upfront I would still have to use it with O2 for as long as I had it, even if someone else came out with a better deal. Is it possible to have it unlocked if one day I want to use a different provider?
- Have you travelled to other countries with your iPhone? If so, did you find enough wi-fi (and where were you) or did you have to use some kind of global roaming.
Again, sorry for the ignorance, I am relying on the greater knowledge of the mighty Meta to reveal all for me.
posted by Megami to Technology (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
- apple has required voip apps to be only used on wifi connections. you can use skype in 3g coverage, just over wifi. there are ways around this with jailbreaking, however
- unlocking means you can use it with another carrier. O2 subsidized the cost of the phone for you so instead of 600 it was 200, under the assumption you would be with them for the duration of a contract. If someone has a better deal and you don't mind terminating your contract, you can unlock. Until yesterday, you had to be careful about what you had upgraded to software wise. Now, you can do the latest firmware (but this will undoubtedly not be the case)
- I lived in germany this summer and found it difficult to find non-password protected wifi. I did unlock my phone however and use simyo (prepaid calling and data) and had little problem after initial setup
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:39 AM on November 4, 2009

The Skype app for iPhone only works when connected to a WiFi network. As long as you can get online using WiFi (rather than 3G) you will be able to use Skype.

When you buy a phone you'll usually be tied into a contract of a year or more. It will cost you money to get out of such a contract, as the company has subsidized your phone purchase on the understanding that they'll make that money back during your contract period. At the end of your contract you should not have any difficulty getting the company to unlock your phone to work on another network. If you have a pay-as-you-go phone, you will not have a contract; however I believe the company is allowed to refuse to unlock your phone until they have recouped a reasonable profit to cover the subsidy of the phone.

When travelling abroad, expect to have t use roaming. It depends on the country, but there are not many places in the world where you can reasonably expect to find free or cheap WiFi everywhere you go.
posted by roryparle at 7:44 AM on November 4, 2009

- Have you travelled to other countries with your iPhone? If so, did you find enough wi-fi (and where were you) or did you have to use some kind of global roaming.

Of course the world is a big place and it makes a difference what country you're talking about. I've used my iPhone in Mexico, Costa Rica, the UK, Germany, Italy and France and in most cities of a decent size was able to find wifi (although in Europe it was somewhat expensive, but still cheaper than using international data roaming).

For me, on ATT in the US, international roaming is $19/MB so if a friend sends me an MP3 I could cost $100 to download it. They have cheaper plans for frequent international travelers but I don't travel enough. The iPhone does eat up data and one time on holiday in Mexico just checking email and browsing text heavy -- not youtube or images -- sites like Metafilter I was able to rack up $600 in charges. Since then, I turn international roaming off when I get on the plane to leave the country.

I have Boingo wifi account and it has agreements with the big international wifi providers like BT and T-Mobile in Europe so it is much cheaper than buying a day pass. But if you're willing to take a train or walk around, there's plenty of free open hotspots around as well. You may need to do some homework before you leave or find an app for the country you're visiting, but it is possible to avoid data roaming charges. If you're going way off the beaten path and getting away from it all, then it is harder, but you really should just turn off the phone there anyway. But I've been in the middle of rainforests and in sleepy non-tourtisty beach towns and found a free wireless.
posted by birdherder at 8:53 AM on November 4, 2009

Best answer: - Have you travelled to other countries with your iPhone? If so, did you find enough wi-fi (and where were you) or did you have to use some kind of global roaming.

You generally don't ever find enough wifi to use the phone like you would at home. You have to plan ahead when you do have wifi, and fill it up with the data you need, like by roaming around the map and loading it up with the data it needs. Apps like Instapaper and Byline which store web pages and RSS for offline reading can help take away the feeling that the thing's suddenly become a brick when you turn off data roaming.

But eventually you do fall back onto roaming data, which has worked perfectly for me in the US, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Ireland this year (I've got an O2 UK iPhone). Unfortunately, O2's data charges are extortionate: £3.50/mb in Europe, £6/mb in the US. I was very frugal, and still came home to some unpleasant bills.

As for Orange: They've told a number of papers that they've heard the howling feedback to their data limits, and are looking at revising them. I don't think they're damagingly low, to be honest, but have reset my usage meter to see how much I really do use this month.
posted by fightorflight at 9:14 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the useful answers. While I would like to think that I could just use WiFi, my better half will be deployed overseas while this hypothetical outside the UK travel is going on, so I really have to be in a position that I can at least check my phone messages daily, if only for my own peace of mind. I was also hoping to have a travel blog, so he and others could see what myself and the youngster were up to, but again if I don't have wifi to upload it, that is going to get expensive.
I will have to think about it all.
posted by Megami at 1:21 PM on November 4, 2009

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