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« iPhone - AT&T, Apple & international roaming | Main | iPhone enabled websites »

November 05, 2008


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The AT&T international roaming plan is predatory and rife with hidden fees and "gotchas". No matter what users try to do they will get nailed - badly. Having used this in Europe I would add that even if you have a data roaming plan ($59.99 for 50MB, for example) you will still be charged $0.50 for each outgoing text message you send (receiving them is "free"). If you also subscribe to the $5.99 "World Traveller" feature this gives you the privilege of paying $0.99 per minute for your voice calls (placed & received) in addition to the call set-up charge. But wait, there's more. If someone calls you and you don't answer your phone (say you're in the shower) you still get charged $0.99/min because you occupy the roaming partner's airtime on the tower - even if you don't answer.

Good luck deciphering what AT&T's rates will actually translate to in terms of billing at the end of the month. Best I can figure an average user has about 250MB of data traffic per month (business people much more). If you go abroad with the iPhone and don't sign up to a roaming data plan and continue to use your iPhone as you do in the US you will pay about $20 per MB, or $5000 (five thousand dollars) for a month of typical usage. If you have one of AT&T's plans (offered up to 200MB for $200 you will pay $5 per MB for overage, or roughly $200 + (50MB*$5=$250) or $450 on top of your normal plan. Plus $5.99 for the telephony roaming + your voice minutes + $0.50 per text message and you're probably near a grand. Raw deal -$250 per week (if you're lucky)

AT&T suggests turning off all the features that make the iPhone an iPhone (web access, mail push (fetch), and use Wi-Fi (when available) not GSM (which is ubiquitous).

Solution: get a GSM phone and buy a local SIM card which can be refilled as necessary. Or get a Blackberry because the int'l roaming rates are a fraction of the iPhone. Back when it was Cingular you could upgrade/downgrade you Blackberry account on the fly, and the most you could spend was $70/month for full international roaming. Since AT&T took over Cingular they did away with that plan and now they screw everyone with a 1 year minimum subscription period for international Blackberry service. But there are other good options, like T-Mobile.

Alternatively, get Skype on the iPhone and use it to make calls when you're connected to a local Wi-Fi network, just like if you were using your laptop. This is, after all, what AT&T is encouraging everyone to do.

Judge Green must be turning over in his grave.

Stephen Skarlatos

Although you make some valid comments, I did make the international data plan work for me. Here were my results:

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