Help a Canadian iPhone travel to the US.
July 14, 2011 6:01 PM   Subscribe

My SO will be traveling to the US (from Canada) for six weeks, starting this weekend. Help us figure out an iPhone solution so we can stay in touch.

SO will be biking down the west coast for the next six weeks. He's looking for a way to use his iPhone 4 (currently with Rogers) without paying outrageous data roaming fees.

Do US carriers offer prepaid data service for the iPhone? Voice service is not crucial here, as he will mostly be "checking in" on his phone for safety.

We understand that we will probably need to unlock and/or jailbreak his phone.

There are a few questions about this all over the web, but they mostly date from 2009 and 2010.
posted by OLechat to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
See this thread from a couple of days ago. The best ways is probably with AT&T GoPhone (but you'll probably have to be willing to hide the fact that you intend the SIM for an iPhone).
posted by RichardP at 6:15 PM on July 14, 2011

He might be able to get away with wifi only (reserving overpriced cellular connections just for emergencies). In some remote parts of the USA, it's easier to find a wifi signal than a GSM signal. Almost all motels, libraries, etc will have a wifi node; while I never put it to the test, I'll bet most small-town chambers of commerce will let you hop on their network too.

If he can get away with that, you can do skype or facetime (which, I can tell you from personal experience, is pretty great when you're in the middle of a weeks-long bike tour and missing your SO).
posted by adamrice at 6:28 PM on July 14, 2011

It's very unlikely that your SO has an iPhone that is actually unlockable, unless he bought it when it first came out AND hasn't upgraded his phone software. You'll need a hardware unlocker like the Gevey SIM to unlock the phone, and then get an AT&T SIM like adamrice states above with AT&T GoPhone.
posted by ajackson at 7:08 PM on July 14, 2011

Sorry, like RichardP states above.
posted by ajackson at 7:09 PM on July 14, 2011

If you can jailbreak your phone, T-Mobile offers pre-paid data plans; call ahead to a store near the airport and see if they're smart enough to let you buy a SIM. You pay for the first month when you buy the SIM, give them a CC number for later months, and just cancel the service when your trip is done. It's the cheapest way I've found to get no-contract data to visitors here. (You can price all this online on their website, though it does take a little navigating.) Note that T-Mobile does not have great rural coverage in some parts of the U.S. Check the coverage maps (which seem to be reasonably accurate in my experience).

Alternately, depending on where he's riding, buy a pre-paid voice-only SIM and poach WiFi.
posted by introp at 7:49 PM on July 14, 2011

According to this Rogers in canada will unlock your iphone for a $50 fee.

Once that is done all you have to do is get a temporary T-Mobile month to month account (go to any U.S. walmart - $49 a month unlimited voice , data and texts ) .

Use a sim cutter to cut down your card if you have an iphone 4 - look for it on Amazon

Badda-bing - you're connected. Data services will be slow on T-Mobile as they only offer EVDO on the iphone.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:52 PM on July 14, 2011

When I go to the US, Skype for iPhone is great. WiFi is everywhere. If you need something that always works, Rogers has 500 Meg/month Us and Canada data plan with their portable WiFi hubs for $40/month. I use it in hotels that charge $20/night. A week of Skype phone calls and emails comes to about $10
posted by Yavsy at 8:57 PM on July 14, 2011

Data services will be slow on T-Mobile as they only offer EVDO on the iphone.

No. T-Mobile is a GSM provider. It's Verizon that has the CDMA (Ev-DO for 3G) iPhone and it doesn't accept a SIM. If you DO get a T-Mo "data plan" bear in mind that T-Mo does not operate on Rogers (or your iPhone's) 3G bands so you'll be limited to EDGE for data. The US is not like Canada; whereas we have many companies offering the GSM version of the iPhone (Rogers, Bell, Telus, Virgin Mobile, Fido), the US has only one and that's because there's only one company- yes, ONE COMPANY- in the US that operates on the GSM iPhone's 3G frequencies (850/1900). T-Mo is 1700 which is why you won't get those lovely 3G data speeds. You also won't get an micro-SIM.

You might seriously consider getting a voice/data US travel pack from Rogers. Use 3G data sparingly, use Skype over wifi where you find wifi, use wifi for internet access too, and Bob's your uncle.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:30 PM on July 14, 2011

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