T-Mobile phone with international roaming
September 11, 2013 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Apologies for the probable stupidity of this question: I want to take my locked T-Mobile phone to Ireland for a couple weeks and use it as a camera, and for internet access where there is wifi. No calls, no texting. Can I do this without incurring outrageous international roaming charges? Or does just, like, turning it on overseas set in motion the roaming charges? Thanks.
posted by CheeseLouise to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What kind of phone is it? On the iPhone, there's something called "airplane mode" in the settings which turns off the cellular antenna and wifi; you can turn the wifi back on. The local cellular network does not see the phone and you will not be charged for any minutes or data if you're on wifi (and you can even send iMessages).

Even if you're not using an iPhone, you surely have options to turn off cellular and turn of "data roaming" somewhere in your handset's settings. If you have a T-Mobile store near you, a salesperson can help locate the proper settings and toggles.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:28 AM on September 11, 2013

What model phone do you have? With an iPhone, the easiest thing is to put it in airplane mode and then turn on the wifi - that makes it a wifi only device.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:28 AM on September 11, 2013

Yeah, I'd either pull the SIM or turn off international roaming with your carrier.
posted by supercres at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depending on your exact plan, receiving text messages might charge you something. But otherwise you can turn off data roaming which will have no effect on your regular usage at home but save you from roaming charges. It's easy to do on iPhones and Androids.
posted by jeather at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. It's a Samsung Galaxy SII. I found the "data roaming" in settings so I will just keep it off, and probably keep it in airplane mode as well. I appreciate the help.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:41 AM on September 11, 2013

I do this with my HTC when I'm in the States. I just take out the SIM and then I can pick up free wifi when I'm out and about. As I understand it, if you have it in Airplane mode you won't be able to access wifi (but I may be wrong, as I'm not all that tech-savvy where phones are concerned).
posted by essexjan at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2013

"Airplane mode" also turns off the wifi. Androids have the same thing. On an Android phone the easy way to get to it is to hold down the power key while the phone is turned on.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2013

Response by poster: I put it in airplane mode in settings, and then re-enabled the wifi from the drop down menu at the top. It's still showing the airplane symbol in the top bar, but wifi is definitely working as well (I'm opening various webpages to check). Does reenabling wifi override airplane mode, even if it's still showing the airplane mode symbol?
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:01 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: No, at least for the Samsung Galaxy S4 turning wifi back on does not override airplane mode. I do that every evening because I have little-to-no signal at home for my mobile carrier (Also T-mobile as it happens) so it sucks out the battery trying to find signal overnight, but keep wifi on and use with my home network.
posted by seyirci at 9:03 AM on September 11, 2013

Best answer: Airplane mode with wifi enabled is good, but given the potential costs, I'll re-iterate the idea of just removing the sim card. If the SII is anything like the other sammy phones I've had, shut the phone down, pop the back off, and the sim is right by the battery (you likely need to remove the battery to get clearance to remove the SIM). With the sim out, you can't be charged for anything, even if somehow airplane mode is disabled.
posted by nobeagle at 9:42 AM on September 11, 2013

Airplane mode + WiFi is the right answer. Some airplanes provide WiFi now - WiFi is independent of the cellular radio.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:36 PM on September 11, 2013

Best answer: The last time I checked with T-Mobile, if you turn your phone on overseas and it's not in airplane mode, you might incur international call charges anytime your phone gets a call that gets sent to voicemail. I believe you get charged for 2 minutes worth, even if there is no message left. Removing the SIM before turning your phone on overseas is the best way to completely avoid this.
posted by dcjd at 1:47 PM on September 11, 2013

Whatever you do, call T-Mobile and ask for an unlock code. In all likelihood you can get a local prepaid SIM card for ~$30 to use for both data and phone calls.
posted by alexei at 1:28 AM on September 12, 2013

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