Part I: Things to Consider When Using the iPhone Outside the U.S.

Part I: Things to Consider When Using the iPhone Outside the U.S.

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Written By Eric Sandler

You can’t leave your iPhone behind when traveling overseas–perish the thought!–but how can you avoid hefty international roaming charges and other fees?

You’re addicted to your iPhone, so naturally, it’s going with you on your overseas vacation or business trip. But, using your iPhone outside the U.S. can be expensive; there are stories floating around about four figure bills.

AT&T offers domestic phone plans that include both voice and data services. Your plan probably gives you four hundred or more minutes talk time and unlimited data usage, and on the weekends and evenings, calls are virtually free.

But outside the U.S., voice and data are billed separately and charged by the minute or kilobyte. Keeping your phone bill under control involves understanding how the billing works and how to manage your phone’s use of data and voice services.

Overseas Voice Plans

AT&T has several plans for overseas travelers that reduce the per minute calling and receiving charges.

For travel to about 200 countries, there is the “World Traveler” plan. For a charge of $5.99 per month, per minute charges for making and receiving voice calls are reduced, usually by around .30 to .50. For instance, with the plan, making and receiving calls in France and England are $.99 per minute, compared to a usual rate of $1.29.

The plan is billed monthly – without a contract – but AT&T recommends that customers keep the plan for at least “a couple” of months even when traveling for just short trip, since overseas calls can sometimes takes several months to show up on your bill.

If the overseas plan is not in effect when the bill for your calls comes through, you’ll pay the regular overseas country rates. There are also special plans for Canada ($3.99/month) and Mexico ($4.99/month).

Data Do Da?

On the iPhone, you use data services when you check or send e-mails or when you are browsing the web. You also are using data every time you check the weather or stocks, watch YouTube, use maps, or even listen to your visual voice mail. In other words, just about everything on the phone – except calling – uses data services.

Data usage is calculated by adding up the number of kilobytes (kb) used to send and receive data. The iPhone can receive data from either AT&T’s EDGE network or from Wi-Fi, a wireless internet connection. In the U.S., unlimited EDGE service is included in your iPhone plan. Wi-fi access – like the kind available in cafes and airports – can either be free or paid through a daily or monthly subscription.

Data Plans

Overseas, however, EDGE data service is not unlimited and is not included in your domestic monthly plan.

AT&T offers two overseas data plans for the iPhone that work in about three dozen countries. One plan is $24.99/month for 20MB of data use. The other is $59.99 for 50MB. That’s not a lot of data. It’s easy to quickly max out your monthly limit since sending average e-mail with an attached photo uses about 1MB.

Additional data use – over the 20 or 50MB – is billed at a rate of $.0195kb, which works out to about $20.00 for 5MB.

If you are someone who gets 30, 40, or 100 e-mails a day, data costs will quickly add up.

You can use your iPhone for data service without subscribing to AT&T’s data plans, but you will be billed at a rate for sending and receiving data of $.02/kb, or $5.00/MB. The same rate applies if you are roaming in one of the 36 countries with which AT&T has a roaming agreement.

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