How can I used my iPhone SE in Canada?
June 30, 2016 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to Canada this weekend from the states (Oregon to Vancouver BC). How can I use my unlocked, GSM iPhone SE (currently on Ting) while on the trip without incurring massive data fees?

In my mind I think I need to buy an international SIM card, activate it, put it in my phone, do some magic on the phone, and I'll be good to go. However, whenever I go into a mobile phone store of any kind and ask about that I get either a friendly "we don't carry that", or a sad, condescending smile that says I'm missing something obvious.

Is this possible? If so, is there a straight forward guide to doing it anywhere online, and is there a place in Portland, OR I could buy the sim before traveling to Canada? Any advice and warnings welcome, and thank you!
posted by alan to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are right except you should wait and buy a SIM when you land in Canada, not from an American provider. Here is a page that talks about the different Canadian providers. I would go to each provider's website and decide which one gives you the best PAYG (pay as you go) deal. It should be in the neighborhood of 20-30 Canadian dollars for a few gigs that are good for the next 30 days. You will also have a different phone number, so people can't reach you by texting or calling your current number. iMessage will still work, however.
posted by soelo at 12:13 PM on June 30, 2016

What I ended up doing in the same situation (because I couldn't figure out how to do it otherwise, and neither could mathowie when I asked him since he's done this sort of thing a few times) was driving into Vancouver, hitting up a Koodo kiosk at mall downtown, and having the guy there sell me a pre-paid SIM with a chunk of data on it. He twiddled the appropriate bits on the phone to get it good to go for use over there, and then I had zero issues. (I did have to remember to un-twiddle said bits when I got back, after replacing my standard SIM.)
posted by cortex at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2016

You're probably better off getting a t-mobile prepaid SIM in the US and activating their package that adds unlimited Canada + Mexico roaming for $5 a month. Pre-paid plans in Canada have laughably low data allocations, like 200 MB.
posted by GuyZero at 12:37 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding using T-Mobile. We've lived in Canada for a while and continue to use our US phone numbers and plans here because it's cheaper to use T-Mobile than to use any Canadian mobile service. Canadian mobile phone users pay some of the highest prices in the world.

With a T-Mobile plan your phone works in Canada just like it does in the US without any roaming or additional fees. I would call them and ask if this is available on any of their pre-paid plans or if you can add it as suggested by GuyZero. But, bottom line I wouldn't buy anything in Canada related to mobile phone service, it's wildly expensive here. Unless you just need some minutes to make a couple of phone calls and don't want any data.

Alternatively though, you could skip the 'phone' service altogether and just use your phone on Wi-Fi - make calls if you need to through skype, Google Chats/Hangout, etc. Here's a map of wi-fi in Vancouver, and also have a look at this map from the city itself of free public wi-fi.
posted by jardinier at 4:56 PM on June 30, 2016

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