AT&T iPhone in Asia. How?
July 19, 2012 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I have an AT&T iphone that I'd like to use on an upcoming trip to Asia. What do I need to do? Is it as simple as a jailbreak and a new SIM card?
posted by New Old User to Technology (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Where in Asia?
posted by mhoye at 6:58 AM on July 19, 2012

Have you talked to AT&T yet? Buying the package for some countries is not that expensive.
It depends on where you are going?

Are you set against doing it the "correct" way with AT&T's help?
posted by Flood at 7:02 AM on July 19, 2012

I'll be in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and China.

I am not set on doing it the "correct" way. The phone was on AT&T, it has no service to it now, I'm using it as a backup iTouch, basically. I was thinking I wanted to be able to make some voice calls and be reachable outside of wifi networks with voice and data.

So, essentially I'll be using skype and some sort of wifi texting service a lot, but I'd like a phone number and the ability to use whatever local service exists there outside of available wifi when necessary.
posted by New Old User at 7:11 AM on July 19, 2012

Hm, if it already went through 2 years of service, maybe you could get AT&T to unlock it for you? Then you don't have to worry about jailbreaking it, and you can just install a SIM once you get to Asia.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 7:13 AM on July 19, 2012

Won't AT&T unlock the phone for you?
posted by eas98 at 7:13 AM on July 19, 2012

Which phone?
posted by devnull at 7:18 AM on July 19, 2012

It hasn't gone through two years of was water damaged. I bought a new phone, and then traded in the dead one for a refurb. So now I have two iphones, neither of which has been in use for more than even one year. I believe my AT&T contract expires next month.

I know, convoluted. It's been a hell of a year, so far.....
posted by New Old User at 7:19 AM on July 19, 2012

The phone is a 4, 8 gigs.
posted by New Old User at 7:20 AM on July 19, 2012

It's the contract that counts, not the individual phones' length of service. They should unlock one after the contract expires.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:36 AM on July 19, 2012

Fourthing the unlock. I don't think you need to jailbreak. Johnny W has it right; it's the contract.

I called AT&T yesterday, gave them the IMEIs on two iPhones. Then you have to do a backup & restore... when the restored phone comes back up, you'll see a screen message that the phone is unlocked.

I'm on my way back to T-Mobile - should save me about $50 a month on two lines.
posted by omnidrew at 7:46 AM on July 19, 2012

My contract expires after my trip is over....does the fact that it's a second device have any bearing at all? Additionally, I only have the one SIM card, in my currently active phone.
posted by New Old User at 8:04 AM on July 19, 2012

Surely at least one of those phones was never even *on* a contract? If you're in the US I'd say just take it to an AT&T store and ask them to unlock it. I don't think jailbreaking should be necessary.
posted by mskyle at 8:36 AM on July 19, 2012

To answer your initial question, it's as simple as unlocking the phone and getting a SIM. Jailbreaking is easy, unlocking is not. The most authoritative source on iPhone unlock info is the iPhone dev team. This Jailbreak FAQ is also a reliable source of basic information. I'm not up on the current state of the art of unlocking, but the longer it's been since you've updated your phone software the more likely it is you'll be able to unlock it.

The other option is to do what AT&T allows you. Either talk them in to unlocking the phone or buy an international roaming package. AT&T's rates have come down; they're still way more expensive than buying a local prepaid SIM, but are now low enough that for light usage they may be acceptable. They are charging $0.25 / megabyte now, and I've found if I'm careful (no Google Maps!) I can live within 2 MB / day.
posted by Nelson at 8:54 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

AT&T will unlock your phone (even over the phone) after about 6 months on a 2 year contract.

So in your case, just call them and be ready to provide them information from your phone. They will share with you the unlock code, which you'll need to use when you acquire a foreign carriers sim card if you decide to rent one wherever you are going.

I did the above for going to Japan (Contract started in August of last year, went to Japan in March, unlocked in Japan and was able to use a rental sim the whole time).
posted by Bodrik at 10:24 PM on July 19, 2012 add: Also AT&T International... or any International plan from your home country is probably a titanic waste of money. It is very unlikely you won't be using data while out there. You will get lost, you will need maps, you will need directions.
posted by Bodrik at 10:26 PM on July 19, 2012

Spoke with ATT, they unlocked with no trouble. Thanks, all!
posted by New Old User at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2012

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