Two years and 3 models into the iPhone line of smartphones, older iPhones are becoming available. They are being sold or in my case being given to family members. The one thorny issue with AT&T is the $30 monthly ($360 per year) cost of the data plan for individuals who really don't need to have continuous access to the internet while outside their home. On Windows Mobile smartphones it is easy to turn off cellular, however on the iPhone there is no user accessible option to turn off cellular data unless you are roaming.
The iPhone does have the concept of profiles to control network access. Profiles are intended to be used by network operators to control features. Apple defines how profiles are created and provides the information to developers. The GSM standard uses Access Point Names (APN) to control cellular data traffic. When you place an AT&T SIM card into an iPhone, the AT&T APN is automatically configured. Since there is no way to turn off cellular data on the iPhone, the only way to circumvent a connection to the AT&T cellular data network is to change the AT&T APN to a dummy APN. A developer in New Zealand has a web page which does this automatically for you.
To create and install the new profile:
- Place the AT&T SIM card in the iPhone (if it is not already there, if you can make calls on AT&T it is there).
- Connect to WIFI.
- Open the Safary Browser.
- Go to this URL http://www.unlockit.co.nz/.
- Tap Continue
- Tap Disable Data (FakeAPN)
- Tap Install to setup the new profile on your iPhone
- Tap Install Now to complete the setup
- When the iPhone now tries to connect to the cellular data it will fail, you will get this message and you will not get charged for data usage. This also means that you will not be able to use Visual Voicemail since that feature uses the data network. A small price to pay to use the iPhone with paying for a data plan.
If one day you choose to pay for the data plan, you can easily remove the Fake APN profile by going to settings/general/profiles, tap on the profile and tap on remove.
Many thanks to Craig Whitmore for developing the unlockit.co.nz web site.
Disclaimer: I am not sure what the AT&T policy is about not having a data plan associated with an iPhone that is not under contract, so use this tip at your own risk.