An Australian iPhone in the US of A
December 2, 2009 1:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm an Australian who is holidaying in the US and Canada in December -- from Sunday! I have an iPhone and I would like to know whether I can use it for 3G data while I'm there.

I've waded through a number of telephony and travel forums to try to piece this together myself, but they're contradictory and circumstances seem to change constantly.

Let me set out what I *think* is the simplest way to do this, and hopefully you can provide either confirmation or corrections.

1. Network unlock my phone. (Done -- restoring as we speak.)

2. Change my credit card's address to my hotel address.

3. Buy an AT&T GoPhone Pay As You Go sim pack.

4. Put the sim into a phone -- not the iPhone.

5. Visit the AT&T activation site, entering the other phone's EMEI and my hotel's address.

6. While I'm at the AT&T site, buy a $20/100MB data pack.

7. Using wifi, visit one of the sites that allows me to patch the US carrier details into my iPhone.

8. Transfer the AT&T sim to my iPhone; cross my fingers.

Is this right? Does this mean I need to buy a throwaway phone just to activate the SIM? Is there an easier way?

For instance, some people say that T-Mobile has a better prepaid data offer that doesn't require hoop-jumping to activate in the iPhone (albeit Edge rather than 3G), but others say it's no longer available.

And finally, I'll be in Canada for about a week. I won't bother trying to get a Canadian sim for such a short period, but it'd be nice to know whether the US plan will work there.

Thanking you in advance.
posted by robcorr to Technology (8 answers total)
Best answer: The answer to your second question is "no." The US data plan won't work in Canada (or it will work and completely drain your card in a few minutes due to data roaming rates). The non-data part might work in Canada, but everything will be expensive (except maybe the receipt of text messages; there will be a booklet included with your SIM card that provides more info).
posted by helios at 4:19 AM on December 2, 2009

AT&T sim cards are handled by Rogers in Canada. As helios pointed out, it would be really expensive, the data plan, that is. Text messages would be your cheapest way out. Data plans ( and cell phones in general) are ridiculously expensive in Canada.
posted by Danniman at 4:48 AM on December 2, 2009

On the upside, if you're in a large Canadian city, there will be free wifi in many places, making a data plan (or any phone plan) unnecessary. I have no trouble getting cafe wifi in downtown Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver.
posted by rokusan at 5:24 AM on December 2, 2009

Best answer: GoPhone is the way to go in the US, and the steps you've outlined are exactly the way to do it.

Steps 2 & 3 imply you're gonna buy the SIM online. You can also just walk into an ATT retail shop to buy the GoPhone SIM. Make sure you say that it's for an ATT phone that you forgot to bring with NOT say that it's for your own phone from another carrier. The staff will of course know what you're up to, but these days they are disgruntled, disloyal and indifferent to their employer's concerns.
posted by randomstriker at 7:19 AM on December 2, 2009

You've probably already thought of this, but be sure you take advantage of Wi-Fi whenever you can find it. 3G in the US is expensive and unreliable. Free Wi-Fi is awkward in the US, but there are a couple of large networks you'll find. T-Mobile is common ($40/month, I believe) and Starbucks has free WiFi in their cafes via AT&T, which has its own for-pay options.
posted by Nelson at 8:23 AM on December 2, 2009

I suspect you'll be shit out of luck in Canada with respect to 3G data, unless you want to pay shit tons of money. Data here is stupid expensive, and i'm pretty damn sure you can't get data plans on pay-as-you-go SIM cards. Fuck Rogers, Fido, Telus and Bell. You'd be fine paying Fido/Rogers for a sim card while you're up here for voice, however.
posted by chunking express at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2009

Only if you want to get absolutely soaked for usage charges.
posted by so_ at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, all.
posted by robcorr at 11:24 PM on December 2, 2009

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