Using an unlocked iPhone in the US

Discussion in 'Travel Technology' started by JetSet, Feb 17, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    There are many various conflicting reports in regards to using an iPhone in the United States, so I thought I would set out a how-to that works for me.

    1. Get your phone unlocked
    This means unlocked from your carrier, or with an easily available 'unofficial' unlock. Not jailbroken, that's a separate thing. The goal here is to make your phone work with a SIM card from any available carrier.

    2. Acquire an AT&T pre-paid sim card.
    The iPhone uses the GSM network, so your choices for such in the US are AT&T and T-mobile. T-mobile does not support the iPhones 3G bands so you are going to be stuck on EDGE speeds on their data network.
    You have a few options to get a sim card: eBay before you arrive, or from an AT&T store/kiosk after you arrive (don't tell them you have an iPhone!)
    For the newer phones that use a micro-sim, there are tutorials online to cut down a regular one to fit, or you can buy a do-hickey off eBay.

    3. Buy pre-paid credit
    You can use the website if you have a US credit/debit card. Or if you got one off eBay, I hope you bought one with included credit. The easiest method, though, is going to be to buy a refill card at pretty much any gas station/Walgreens/bodega.

    4. Load carrier settings for AT&T.
    It's really important that you don't use your iPhones IMEI when activating the sim card. AT&T will detect it's an iPhone and you will bork it. I don't think there's any way to recover the sim and start fresh if that happens.
    So at this point you have a phone that will make and receive phone calls, but to access data services, you need to change a few settings in the phone.
    Step 1: Find a WiFi connection you can access on your iPhone
    Step 2: Visit http://www.unlockit.co.nz/ on your iPhone in Safari.
    Step 3: Select “Custom APN”.
    Step 4: Scroll down to “Carrier” and select “US – AT&T” or "US- Cingular"
    Step 5: Hit “Create Profile”
    Step 6: A screen will come up. Tap the blue “Install” button to install the profile. Confirm the next dialogue.
    Step 7: The profile will be installed. Re-start your iPhone and test the data connection.

    5. You should now have a fully featured iPhone in the USA.

    As I said, this method has worked for me for years. I hope this helps, and I welcome any input.

     
    HaveMilesWillTravel and pjoalfa like this.
  2. Bob Smolinsky
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    Bob Smolinsky Gold Member

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    Odd...I just bring mine over and it picks up whatever Network is strongest at the moment....with my current SIM card.
     
  3. pjoalfa
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    pjoalfa Silver Member

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    I'm a long time owner of various iterations of the iPhone, and it has been my understanding and experience that there is no unlock unless you jailbreak first (which I do). Unless you can get your carrier to unlock it for you as you mention, there is no "unofficial" unlock without a jailbreak.

    Mine is an AT&T phone unlocked for use elsewhere, nevertheless the process is the same. And IMHO it is a real PITA to keep it unlocked. Don't get me wrong, it works, but you have to invest time in getting it done, changing root passwords, etc., etc., and you have to wait for new jailbreaks and unlocks for every OS update.

    Your advice on the rest of the setup (especially the APN settings) is spot on and usually a pain to figure out on your own, so thanks!
     
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  4. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    Yes, absolutely you could just use your regular 'home' carrier. But, using a local sim will mean you don't have to worry about roaming charges. I would be interested to know how much you get charged for roaming data?
     
  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    How much do they charge nowadays for prepaid data service?
     
  6. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    I think we mean the same thing thing[​IMG] When I say 'unofficial', I mean the software unlock that the dev team puts out, which is what I think you use? I do agree, it is a major PITA having to re-jailbreak with every iOS update [​IMG] Which is why I've stopped jailbreaking, the latest update gives me all the functionality that I was jailbreaking for.

    Hmmm... I think I just hijacked my own thread[​IMG]
     
  7. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    It's 100 mb for $19.99, available on Unlimited Daily Talk & Text Plan and Simple Rate Plan.
    edited to add: I find that lasts me for checking email and using Google maps for weeks, providing I use wifi where available [​IMG]
     
  8. pjoalfa
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    pjoalfa Silver Member

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    Yes I use dev-team's tools, but all of them jailbreak first. I'm not understanding how you have achieved an unlock without jailbreaking it first (even if you don't end up using any jailbreak features or apps).

    Worse still is that Apple seems to be fighting back- jailbroken OS4.2.1 now apparently breaks iBook reader (I use Kindle anyway) and facetime (the latter problem only on non-home networks, still works for AT&T).
     
  9. pjoalfa
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    pjoalfa Silver Member

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    They're really such thieves, even at this "reduced" rate (as compared to roaming data charges for which I don't have a postable adjective).

    They get us these cool smart phones and iPads which really are quite handy as a tourist - and you really can't use them when you travel unless you are an oil barron. I can't wait until the day where net access is "free"(er). $20 for 100mb is a joke, try a GPS nav app out and see how fast you eat that up with maps; and $5 per Mb roaming is just stupid. I don't know how they get away with it.
     
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  10. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    I have my phone unlocked by my carrier here in Australia (Telstra), which is an official unlock.
     
  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I am tired of trying to keep up with the various methods and limitations, so my iPhone 4 is currently jailbroken at 4.0.1. I haven't SIM-unlocked it yet since I currently have a great international data plan on AT&T and lots of unlocked GSM phones (incl. iPhone 3 and Android) for voice with foreign SIMs. The main reason for me to j/b is MyWi for the occasional hotspot functionality.

    I think my next iPhone - if I get one - will be a factory-unlocked one, even if it means flying to Italy or HKG or wherever they may be sold unlocked.
     
  12. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    No argument from me, mate [​IMG]
     
  13. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    While I generally agree, for navigation there are options like CoPilot that I think don't consume (large amounts of) data because of locally stored maps.
     
  14. pjoalfa
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    pjoalfa Silver Member

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    Ahh, not possible with AT&T, sadly.
     
  15. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    Pretty much any country outside the US you can get an unlocked one. I really feel for you guys in the States, with AT&T's stranglehold. Too bad Verizon is CDMA, not GSM.
     
  16. pjoalfa
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    pjoalfa Silver Member

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    How do you have yours unlocked and not jailbroken on AT&T?

    I do use copilot, and you're right it uses less data than most, but it's only USA (and I have an AT&T unlimited plan anyhow). When you end up anywhere else you either have to buy more maps or use Google maps which is what I prefer to do (even in the US).

    To top it off you have to trust them to run the meter fairly.
    My first experience with this with AT&T was less than ideal.
    In Paris I turned data on to check Google maps one day in desperation, I had reset my counters to zero to verify. I used 700kb in less than a minute. They charged for 3 Mb. My wife turned her BB on for 1 min to get email headers only (no pics or full messages). They hit her for 12 Mb. Oh and I was wrong above, it's not $5/Mb roaming- it's $20!! We got a bill with $400 roaming charges for those two brief connections. I wrote and sent a screenshot of my data meter and they reversed the entire bill, no questions asked. All that leads me to believe convinces me that it's completely intentional and they make so much doing it on the people that don't complain that it's not worth a fuss from them when you do. :mad:
     
  17. pjoalfa
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    **Cough** for a thousand bucks! **Cough**
     
  18. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    I haven't... Sorry, I didn't have enough coffee yet. Fixed my post.

    There are CoPilot versions for Europe and other parts of the earth, but unfortunately they are a lot more expensive than the $4.99 US version. Might still get them as needed. But yes, Google maps has been quite helpful in many foreign places, especially on foot or when driving with a co pilot (my wife).

    I don't know if CoPilot USA is offered for the same low price in foreign App Stores stores. If so, I'd certainly recommend it for people getting the 100 Meg prepaid data when visiting the US.
     
  19. Gaucho
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    Gaucho Gold Member

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    OK, so I have a factory unlocked Canadian Iphone 4.... am I wrong to assume that I will be able to use all the features as long as I have a pre paid SIM card that supports the services I want..??

    Thanks,
    Alex / Gaucho
     
  20. Bob Smolinsky
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    Bob Smolinsky Gold Member

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    Ummm...many countries outside of US sell unlocked iPhones....
     
  21. JetSet
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    JetSet Silver Member

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    You are correct, you can have a fully functioning iPhone. Check my original post [​IMG]
     
  22. thetenken
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    thetenken Silver Member

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    Those from outside the U.S. who are obtaining phones should also watch out when trying to use the fastest networks in the U.S. The U.S. uses different bands for 3G+ data, so you may not get the fastest speeds with a foreign iPhone in the States.
     
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  23. Wurm
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    Wurm Silver Member

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    I could be wrong and correction welcome, but AFAIK all Iphone models support 1900 HSDPA (used by AT&T 3G Network in the U.S.) and 2100 HSDPA (used in much of the rest of the world).

    Again AFAIK, no Iphone model supports 1700 HSDPA (used by T-Mobile 3G in the U.S.).
     
  24. thetenken
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    According to the Apple website, the iPhone 4 supports UTMS bands of 850/900/1900/2100. Previously, it was my understanding that U.S. based iPhones had no support for the 900 band, which limited its effectiveness in certain regions of the world which had dual-band 900/2100, with 900 operating outside of the denser areas. You are also correct that the iPhone does not support the 1700 band of T-Mobile. So pretty much one is limited to the AT&T network if you want to have full use of an iPhone in the States (aside from smaller companies).
     

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