Prepaid iPhone plans for Aussies road tripping the USA
August 19, 2012 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Arriving in Los Angeles with Australian unlocked iPhone 4S in two days. Need a good data, international text plan with ability to hotspot to run a wifi only iPad. Pre-paid T-Mobile or AT&T seem the go. But what's the catch if any?

Have read previous askmes but a lot are out of date. Our phones are officially unlocked by Virgin Mobile Australia. We'll be road tripping for 7 weeks and don't mind paying extra if it does the job. Receiving international texts essential. We're on our honeymoon. And we've got photos to upload along the way.

If we can get a plan at Wal-Mart even better.
posted by dinoworx to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Tmobile will only connect at Edge speeds rather than 3g due to Tmobile using a different 3g frequency than the iphone supports.
posted by Harpocrates at 8:51 PM on August 19, 2012

Not sure this is possible. The best AT&T would do would be a couple hundred MB on a pay as you go plan, and I don't remember seeing GoPhone micro SIMs. Haven't worked for them in a year though, maybe they offer something now. I distinctly remember this coming up in SF and we referred people to TMobile.
posted by tremspeed at 9:30 PM on August 19, 2012

I'd look into StraightTalk, which happens to be exclusive to Walmart. You'd want the $45 plan covering unlimited voice/text/data for 30 days. StraightTalk is a 'mobile virtual network operator' riding on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks.

I'm not sure whether StraightTalk meets your requirements on international texts and tethering. Because T-Mobile can't do 3G speeds on the iPhone, and AT&T doesn't support the iPhone through its prepaid service, and other carriers (Verizon, Sprint) use the different CDMA technology, your options are unfortunately limited. Welcome to America.
posted by Sfving at 9:36 PM on August 19, 2012

I was recently in the USA (New Orleans) and used my iPhone on T-Mobile. Oh my gosh was it horrible. It was barely better than having no Internet connectivity, and there typically was no Internet connectivity - at least I think so, because the data rates were so bad it was hard to tell. I would strongly recommend any alternative first.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:51 PM on August 19, 2012

My daughter and her iphone 4S spent last November in San Francisco.I just asked her where she got her SIM card from - she's a but vague on the matter but thinks it was T Mobile.
She says she paid $60 for 30 days unlimited USA & international calls & text plus 100mg data.
The data might be a bit low for your needs, and I'm not sure about using it as a hotspot. I gather lots of places have free wifi, so you might be best off to use the free wifi at starbucks or wherever to save on your data allowance.
posted by goshling at 4:05 AM on August 20, 2012

Oh my. I had no idea it was so bad!
posted by dinoworx at 5:19 AM on August 20, 2012

Straight Talk doesn't allow international texting on its bring-your-own-device plan, and I'm pretty sure you have to order their SIM card online. I think the only thing they sell at Wal-Mart are the little cardboard scratch-off cards for refill minutes. They also don't allow tethering.

Excerpts from their terms of service:
Straight Talk Service does not allow international text messaging except on certain limited phones as described in the phone packaging (currently available with specially marked Samsung Galaxy Precedent™ (M828C), LG Optimus Q™ (L55C) and LG Optimus Black™ (L85C) sold by Straight Talk). Attempting to send international messages where not permitted or supported could result in Service deactivation. In the event of a deactivation, your minute, text and Mobile Web Access balance previous to deactivation will be cleared from the account.
STRAIGHT TALK UNLIMITED PLANS CANNOT BE USED FOR: ... any applications that tether your device to a laptop or personal computer other than for the use of Wireless Sync.
Sorry, the prepaid SIM market in the U.S. sucks for iPhone users. (I am a Straight Talk subscriber with an iPhone, but I don't need tethering or international texting, so those limitations don't bother me.)

You may want to look at AT&T GoPhone, but I don't know if they sell micro-SIMs, or if you'd have to cut down the SIM to fit your iPhone.
posted by Nothlit at 6:46 AM on August 20, 2012

I thought straight talk was a good option but ended up going with an external T-mobile 4G hotspot. Upto 5 devices can share the connection and it has a rechargeable battery built in that lasts several hours at least while we are away from the car in LA. USB charging with wall adapter included or BYO car adapter. 35$ for 3.5gb of data for a month. I can Skype call International. Google maps. Email. And my partner can use her 4S or the iPad at the same time. I got a simple unlimited prepaid text and calls plan for the phone. No need to consider data. I can eBay the 4G hotspot after the trip.
posted by dinoworx at 10:45 PM on August 22, 2012

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