iPhone 1G and 4G in Europe
August 27, 2010 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Headed to London, Rome and Paris and would like to use our iPhone (1G) and iPhone 4 there. Help me figure out the pre-paid SIM side of things.

I know to be able to put SIMs in my phones I'll need to unlock them, and that won't be a problem. What I'm wondering is where to get pre-paid SIMs in each city (if possible, can I get them ahead of time in the states?). Furthermore, for the iPhone 4, I'll need a Micro SIM, will this be a deal breaker or has adoption picked up enough in Europe?

With respect to data, it would be great if that was provided, but I'd be fine with just local phone calls if that's all I can do.
posted by mge to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In London, Carphone Warehouse sells phones / SIMs for a few different carriers.

I assumed that any British phone would work in France, but the one I bought recently did not. (International roaming fees aren't ridiculous over there, so I had hoped it would work.) So either ask when you buy the SIM, or you might have to buy another SIM in each country.

I bought a phone + SIM + £10 airtime for £14, so there are good deals to be had.
posted by blue grama at 9:12 PM on August 27, 2010

Furthermore, for the iPhone 4, I'll need a Micro SIM, will this be a deal breaker or has adoption picked up enough in Europe?

All you need is something sharp, but if you want you can buy a purpose-made gadget to do the cutting. That's not to say that the street vendors/kiosks/storefronts all around airports and bus/train stations wouldn't also sell Micro SIMs as well, but if they don't you can still make do.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:26 PM on August 27, 2010

telestial.com sells SIM cards for various countries. (only Italy, for you) It's expensive compared to buying in-country, though. In my experience, cell phone shops are not hard to find anywhere in the world. Oftentimes there is one in the airport. If not, there's probably one around the corner if you're in a major city.

If you're going to be traveling about the countryside, you ought to check the roaming maps at gsmworld.com to get an idea of which carriers have coverage in the particular places you are going. You can use that list of providers to look at their websites and determine who has the most cost effective prepaid/pay as you go/PAYG option. After that, it's just a matter of locating a store.

There is a thread on HowardForums with a lot of information, although some of it is outdated at this point.

I can't help you regarding the Micro SIM. I doubt that any carrier that doesn't offer the iPhone 4 will have them, although it's possible to cut a SIM down to the right size if you're careful..
posted by wierdo at 9:34 PM on August 27, 2010

Are you sure unlocking "won't be a problem"? Unlocking an iPhone isn't like unlocking every other phone in the GSM universe. Do not assume that this is going to be simple and straightforward. Make this your priority.

In contrast, getting a SIM and minutes/data is a piece of cake. All of Europe is on GSM and providers are almost literally on every corner. If they have the iPhone 4 or the iPad they have micro SIMs.

Seriously, focus on the unlocking. The SIM issue is insanely simple.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:45 PM on August 27, 2010

ethnomethodologist, I'm sure it will be easy, I've been very careful to ensure that I didn't upgrade either phone in a way that would render it unable to be unlocked, but thanks for your concern.
posted by mge at 10:41 PM on August 27, 2010

In the UK Virgin Mobile have a great prepaid SIM deal. You automatically get unlimited data for a daily charge of less than a dollar. The calls are pretty cheap too.
posted by w0mbat at 12:03 AM on August 28, 2010

It's been 2 years or so but I was in the UK with my iPhone 1 (back in the day when it was THE hot phone). I bought a tmobile-uk sim on ebay before I left so I had the number for it and it worked great when i was there. I was able to text to buy "walk n web" and i got 5 days of data for 5£, which came off my balance. I never figured out how to buy more time on an ATM, and I tried to add minutes online but I could not with my US credit card, so I simple bought more time on ebay as well and got a code to enter for more minutes.

It worked really great, but with only EDGE data back in the day it seemed fine. I don't know if iPhone 4 data frequencies match what you will run into in Europe... someone here must know if you'll just go back to EDGE or what...

Unlocking is easy if you aren't on 4.0.2 - I have unlocked my 3G and 4 recently "just because" - both phones are on 4.0.1
posted by thilmony at 7:17 AM on August 28, 2010

« Older Location: Prague. Schedule of events: chillin'.   |   What can I do when I *DON'T* have canker sores to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.