Could I transfer my iPhone from AT&T to a carrier in France if I move?
May 28, 2010 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Could I transfer my iPhone from AT&T to a carrier in France if I move?

How are people handling their iPhone accounts when they move to another country? I have a 3G, locked, AT&T account, but I want the 4G when it comes out in June. I'm trying to decide whether to get it here (US) or wait until I get to France when I move.
posted by scazza to Technology (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you get the new 4th-gen iPhone when it comes out (next month, fingers crossed), you'll probably have to re-up your AT&T contract to get it at the subsidized price (200-300; again, fingers crossed). Then you'd have to pay the contract cancellation fee when you move to stop paying the AT&T plan.

As hard as it is, I'd say wait, unless you're going to be in the US for two years.
posted by supercres at 8:45 AM on May 28, 2010

No one's exactly sure when the next iPhone will come out. It's virtually guaranteed it will be announced at WWDC in June but, if it follows previous Apple hardware launches, not come out for a month or two after as they get enough product manufactured and stockpiled. I mention this in case your move to France will occur in those couple months of waiting.

If you do buy it in the US, then you'll be re-upped for another two year contract which I don't believe is transferable to a carrier in France. You could pay the new (starting June 1) early termination fee of $325 and jailbreak your phone (if and when a jailbreak becomes available) and then take it to France. But that's a lot of steps and you may want to wait until you get to France.

The downside of waiting until you get to France is that hardware launches are sometimes delayed internationally. The iPad is just this week being released overseas. So that could add another month or two to your wait.
posted by sharkfu at 8:53 AM on May 28, 2010

(Disclaimer: No foreign transfer experience. I just highly doubt that AT&T has the kind of partnerships with overseas carriers to let you off AT&T's contract onto one in France with no cancellation penalties.)
posted by supercres at 8:53 AM on May 28, 2010

I don't know about France, but I spoke with AT&T recently about transfering my iPhone to Mexico and then England. Both of those can be done; they have a department for this and you get a new phone number. I don't know what happens with your contract, but it's not considered a breach of contract, so you're safe from the cancellation fees.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:10 AM on May 28, 2010

Response by poster: iamkimiam, then you're still with AT&T, using their partnerships like with international roaming/international data? Or are you switched to another carrier and plan completely? Are you paying your bills through AT&T? When I was in Paris in March I paid extra for international data, so is it like that? Do tell. Thanks!
posted by scazza at 9:34 AM on May 28, 2010

I haven't actually switched over yet (but I leave the country tomorrow and won't be able to check back into this thread for some time, FYI). But I was told that I would be transferring my services to a local service provider, complete with a new phone number and everything. So, yes AT&T is losing me a customer, but to their preferred foreign associates, and without penalties or roaming, etc. I imagine the phone would need a new sim card, which would need to be picked up.

I just didn't get around to researching this further (yet), which is why I'm curious about the answers here too.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:40 AM on May 28, 2010

FYI, my brother returned his iphone (last July) because ATT said there was no way for him to unlock it and use it with an Australian carrier. So either some this 'transfer' thing is only available for some countries, or perhaps only if you ask the right rep with the right magic words.
posted by jacalata at 1:37 PM on May 28, 2010

I would recommend waiting until you arrive in France. The biggest reason is that - unlike AT&T - the French carriers are legally required to unlock your phone after a certain time - I believe after one year for free, or after six months for a fee (A legally unlocked iPhone has a very high resale value).

But there's also the issue that if you want to use your iPhone in France, you'll likely want one of the iPhone plans, which will require a contract. If you brought your phone with you, you would be throwing away hundreds of euros in subsidies that you otherwise would have received on a new phone purchase. Plus you wouldn't receive any kind of warranty support and couldn't purchase insurance on it.

As for the delay, it's quite possible that there won't be one: The 3GS launched on the same day in both the US and France.
posted by helios at 1:57 PM on May 28, 2010

Response by poster: helios, you still think that subsidies & insurance wouldn't be available in light of what iamkimiam had happen? Complete transfer to another country & carrier. Besides I never use warrantee support, never have bought insurance all these years I've had an iPhone.

I do see that I'll have to talk to AT&T. My 3G is soo slow so I sure do want that 4G (and cheaper data plan!). Thanks everyone!
posted by scazza at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: BTW I am inclined towards iamkimiam because those moving are not leaving AT&T out of choice and AT&T might want to maintain a good relationship with these customers for when they return to the US. There may be more in it for them to bolster their partnerships with other carriers and may just be included in their agreement with other carriers, rather than a $xxx breach charge. I'll update after I talk to AT&T, possibly after the 4G comes out.
posted by scazza at 10:36 PM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: Well, I'm speaking from personal experience. I had an iPhone when I moved from the US to France, and AT&T didn't offer to transfer my contract, nor were they willing to unlock my phone to work with other carriers. They did, however, waive the cancellation fee after I sent them proof of residency in France.

But in my case, I already had my phone for several months before moving. I'm not sure if they would be willing to waive the cancellation fee for someone who buys the phone and then immediately moves.

But looking at it from a purely economical perspective - how to get the most for your money - I don't see any way you would be better off buying it in the US. The French carriers give you a superior phone - one that is unlocked after 1 year for free. If you buy the phone in France, take good care of it, and unlock it, it will be worth $600 or more. You can sell it on eBay, buy the newest model iPhone, and still have hundreds of dollars leftover.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure to choose a 1-year contact in France (the 2-year contracts are a ripoff) and make sure that you don't throw away the subsidies offered with the contract: if you bring your own phone, then at least make them give you one of the phones that's normally offered for free with a contract, so that you have something to sell (or use as a backup in case you lose your iPhone).
posted by helios at 2:32 AM on June 5, 2010

Best answer: Talked to AT&T. They do have a "relocation" department. However nothing like what iamkimiam described. He had no idea what I was talking about. He said I would cancel service with AT&T, pay the penalty and get a new service provider. (My contract is up July 18, and even if I cancelled this month it would only cost $65. The penalty diminishes with each month.)

He was very nice, suggested a "no contract purchase" for the new iPhone which for the 3GS was $300 more.

It looks like it releases June 24 2010 in 5 countries: USA, France, England, Germany and Japan. So I will buy it in France, if I can resist, and then figure out how to use it when I travel back to the US...

nor were they willing to unlock my phone to work with other carriers
helios, what happened afterwards? Were you able to use it again?

Thanks everyone!
posted by scazza at 11:34 AM on June 8, 2010

FYI, whatever special deal I got before no longer exists. I'm getting the runaround from AT&T about moving to England with my iPhone. My options are A) "Sell" the remainder of my plan to a friend, including phone, phone number and bill, B) pay the cancellation fee, or C) pay $10 a month for a deactivated/useless brick for the remainder of my contract. Outrageously unbelievable. How can they get away with this??

(I'm posting this for future reference, for anybody else in the same stupid predicament as me.)
posted by iamkimiam at 2:04 PM on September 12, 2010

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