Can I activate a replacement phone while outside of the US?
March 25, 2021 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm a US citizen residing in Canada. For [reasons], I still use my iPhone with a US phone plan (AT&T) that gives me unlimited roaming data in Canada. I now have a brand new iPhone with a US sim card - I haven't activated the phone or even opened the box yet - that I want to activate so that it can replace my current iPhone on my AT&T network. Is it possible to activate the new phone here, in Canada while on roaming data, but with my current AT&T plan?

(If proximity to US soil makes any difference, yes, I am only about 10 minutes from the border, but the border is obviously closed right now. However, I can sometimes pick up a US signal when I go to the nearby river.)

Please no lectures on why I haven't already gotten a Canadian sim card or plan yet, or responses like "just get a Canadian phone and mobile plan and move on." I am fully aware that those are options to me if all else fails.

Just need to know if it's possible to do this (what do people do when they lose their phone while traveling to another country?) or if I am wasting my time. Thank you!
posted by nightrecordings to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most iPhones just need an internet connection to activate with Apple I think so long as AT&T doesn't have some sort of strange pairing with their own network, it should be fine?
posted by nickggully at 6:56 AM on March 25, 2021

Response by poster: Real quick and then I will stop threadsitting: I still have my old iPhone, so based on what nickggully said above, I am wondering then if I should be good to just use the AT&T Mobile Transfer app like how their site describes the process here?
posted by nightrecordings at 7:15 AM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: Can you put the SIM card from your old iPhone into your new iPhone? Provided both are on AT&T, that should work.
posted by vitout at 7:18 AM on March 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't know the answer to your question, but I've had good success with using the Genius Bar at Apple stores. Note that some Apple stores are closed due to Covid, so you might have to use the remote support option. I've found that the Apple techs are knowledgeable and helpful.
posted by alex1965 at 7:30 AM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: If you can get on the AT&T network close to the border, your good - the phone doesn't care about political boundaries, only what towers it connects to. Its the same as "being in the US". (Source, live near the border here and noticed my phone switch over while still in Canada. Have known people getting charged roaming fees close to the border.). So you should be able to do whatever you can do in the states while still on Canadian soil.

But the easiest solution is to just pop out the sim card from the old phone and put it into the new one, assuming they are the same size (all iPhones since the 5 have been using the nano size) . You can do that regardless of where you are or what network you're using. I have been using the same (Canadian Rogers, roaming partner with AT&T) sim card since my iPhone 5, many many iPhones ago.
posted by cgg at 8:07 AM on March 25, 2021

I agree with cgg, your old SIM will probably work just fine. iPhones have been using "nano" SIMs for a long time, so unless your old phone is older than iPhone 5 (!), just pop it in the new one. It is true that sometimes you have to connect to the home network in order to activate a SIM (spits in the direction of Google's hapless Fi "support"). But your SIM is active. The phone will also need to "activate" with Apple but that's a different kind of activation and can be done over any network connection. If you are within reach of a US tower, you might also see if you can use the e-SIM. You might find that handy if you wanted to hae a local Canadian SIM in addition to your AT&T one.
posted by wnissen at 9:35 AM on March 25, 2021

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