Turning an American iPhone Kiwi
January 18, 2013 12:39 AM   Subscribe

I'll be going to NZ for a couple weeks in a few months and have an old iPhone 3G S that I'd like to be able to use there as a local cell phone. Can anyone suggest the best method for doing this?

FWIW, I'm happy to permanently convert it as there's a reasonable chance that this will become a regularly occurring event, taking place for increasing amounts of time. I've read about jailbreaking and unlocking and replacing SIM cards, but much of the conversation on the forums is at least 2 years old and not a little contradictory. I'm unclear on the nuances and implications of each of these solutions and as forum directions can be a bit dubious, I'd appreciate advice from a crowd I know.

Additionally, any direction on how to get a prepaid or pay as you go account there would be great. My goal is to be on the ground and on the go ASAP so any details on prep work / account setup that I can do prior, I would love to hear.

Thanks so much!
posted by Frisbee Girl to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I should probably also mention that this is an iPhone that was purchased from AT&T on my account and has been, in no way, modified.
posted by Frisbee Girl at 12:44 AM on January 18, 2013

I did this earlier this year with a UK iPhone 3GS. I just had to get my UK provider to unlock it - literally I called them and they took a couple of hours to do... whatever unlocking entails. Then it worked with a Telecom NZ sim card, which costs $5 NZ. So presuming AT&T will unlock it, you should be able to use it with Telecom here.

A thing I didn't realise initially is to complete the unlocking process, you have to hook it up to a laptop and sync with iTunes. Something to bear in mind.
posted by pink_gorilla at 1:08 AM on January 18, 2013

If you go the pay-as-you-go route, there's a pretty good Telecom $29 monthly deal that doesn't require a contract and comes with a bunch of texts, minutes and data.
posted by pink_gorilla at 1:09 AM on January 18, 2013

Yes, if it is not already unlocked, you need you unlock it. Then it is a simple matter of getting a SIM card in NZ that has a plan you like (Pay as you go, probably). I travel between Europe, Australia, and the US regularly, and this is exactly what I do. If you know someone there, you can just have them pick up a SIM card from any mobile store before you get there, and they can give it to you to save you the trip. It is a five-minute process at the mobile store; trivial, really.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:24 AM on January 18, 2013

The main providters in NZ are Telecom, Vodafone and 2Degrees, and all have phone+contract, monthly contract only, and prepay deals. The prepay deal allow you to retain the number if you top-up after a set time, usually 6 or 12 months. There are also some good data deals going on prepay if you need that.

I'm not an iPhone user, so I can't be authoritative on the unlocking, but I expect that to be the case unless one of the providers has an arrangement with AT&T.
posted by arzakh at 3:01 AM on January 18, 2013

yeah, you can't get at+t to unlock your US phone, as of the last time I checked, several years ago. The good news is that if you are running an old enough OS, you can just go to jailbreakme and the jailbreaking process will be done.

The unlocking is just a matter of downloading the right unlocking thing on cydia... then get a payg sim and you are off!
posted by jonbro at 4:54 AM on January 18, 2013

Actually you can get an unlock from AT&T. Here's the page with the requirements: http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB414532&cv=820#fbid=B_L6vzwEyXx and a link to the form you fill out requesting the unlock. My sister in the US just did this so she could give me her old iPhone 4 which I'm now using with a pay as you go sim in the UK. (sorry for non-active link; typing on an iPad)
posted by tractorfeed at 5:35 AM on January 18, 2013

I got my old 3GS unlocked a while ago as well from AT&T. Their policies have definitely changed.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:52 AM on January 18, 2013

There are Vodafone (No!) and NZ Telecom providers at the airport in Auckland. They're near the baggage claim. We just went up with the phone, told them how long we'd be around for and what we needed, they gave us a range of plans, we picked one, they took my SIM out, put in theirs... and we discovered the phone wasn't unlocked. Everything up til then was super easy though. So yes, unlock and sync before departure! We survived on free WIFI though - check out Shaky Isles coffee if you want to have a nice coffee and save some of your data allowance. It was like an NZ Starbucks? But nicer/cooler/quirkier and very chilled out.
posted by t0astie at 3:39 PM on January 18, 2013

Perfect. Thanks so much for all of the very specific info and direction; much appreciated!
posted by Frisbee Girl at 6:31 PM on January 20, 2013

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