Using US-based iPhone during trip to Korea for web, Skype, etc?
April 10, 2011 2:15 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are visiting Korea soon. Is the famous WiFi in Korea ubiquitous enough to use his iPhone 4 for web browsing and Skype? We're also renting an SKTelecom cellphone, but we'd like to use the iPhone for data-related tasks and travel apps. Is it just a matter of his iPhone jumping on any Wifi network (without incurring any roaming charges)? We're coming from the US (AT&T), and staying in Jeju and Seoul.

We're renting an SkTelecom phone at Incheon so that my relatives in Korea can reach us easily. But, we'd like to use my husband's iPhone to Google things, access documents in our DropBox and make/receive calls on Skype.

I know we're supposed to put the iPhone in airplane mode to avoid roaming charges. But can we use Wifi and Skype in airplane mode?

I know OllehKT has iPhones for rental, but they charge for data usage. Seems cheaper to use our own iPhone, but I could be wrong.
posted by yeoja to Travel & Transportation around South Korea (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't need to have the phone in airplane mode to avoid roaming charges. Just make sure "data roaming" is set to off while you're out of the country. Having the phone out of data roaming will mean you can receive calls and texts while you're there. To save $ on calls, you can just not answer them/send them to voicemail. I think receiving texts are free still (sending is 50c of $1). But if you want to put it in airplane mode, you first put it into airplane mode, then turn on wifi. This is who you're supposed to use your phone on airplanes with wifi.

If you use wifi, you won't get charged for roaming. There's lots of open wifi in Korea, but there's also lots of private/locked wifi too. Boingo Wireless has a thing for $7 for a month that lets you use paid locations too.
posted by birdherder at 3:02 PM on April 10, 2011

My iPhone (3gs) has an option in Settings (under Network, I think?) that allows you to turn off international data roaming. In theory, doing so should prevent you from incurring crazy data charges while not interfering with your ability to use wifi as airplane mode would do.

I'm off on a similar international adventure with iPhone, and my plan is to keep international roaming turned off, as well as using airplane mode unless I find myself somewhere I know there's free wifi.

I would really love to be schooled about this if I'm off base here.
posted by Sara C. at 3:02 PM on April 10, 2011

Best answer: Many Korean routers are passworded. Google around- There's a list of common passwords that are the default on most Korean routers (i.e. nearly all routers named "iptime" can be accessed with the password 12345qwerty). MOst of my Korean friends keep it on their iPods/Laptops all the time.

In general, WiFi is ubiquitous in Korea. From my apartment in a mid-sized city outside Seol, I can access no fewer than 11 networks from the 9th floor.
posted by GilloD at 4:01 PM on April 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you don't need to receive calls/texts, I think you can just take the SIM card out. That's what I did with my iPhone the last time I was in the U.S. It still worked fine for getting on wireless networks, and I didn't have to worry that I was going to be socked with a big bill back home.
posted by web-goddess at 5:45 PM on April 10, 2011

Do keep in airplane mode. You can still activate the wifi function manually if I recall correctly even under airplane mode.

If you only disable the data roaming function and allow incoming calls to come in, you will be charged for voice roaming. Even if you let the phone ring and go to voicemail, you will be charged. I know it's a little counterintertuitive.

Sadly, you can't receive text messages if you are under airplane mode, unless you're willing to let your phone ring while in Korea and having ATT charge you for that.
posted by ccl6yl at 9:43 PM on April 10, 2011

Yes, WiFi in Seoul is extensive - but not necessarily working or open to everyone. Your best bets are the coffeeshops or the PC rooms. About a dollar an hour for your unlimited browsing / Starcraft playing sessions :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:50 PM on April 10, 2011

Response by poster: Just wanted to give an update for future reference. We ended up removing our sim cards and have been relying on free Wifi and Skype for our Internet and international calling needs. It's working out great, and it's nice not to worry about roaming charges. Before I left, I set calls to my iPhone to forward to my Google Voice number, so I can still access voice mails left for me back home. Checking the messages only requires a wifi connection since the messages are both transcribed as an email message as well as an audio (.wav?) file. Last but not least, the wifi in Seoul is indeed ubiquitous. I'm actually posting this thanks to free wifi at one of the palaces in the middle of the city.
posted by yeoja at 6:37 PM on April 30, 2011

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