iphones in Europe

Dec 2nd, 2013, 07:13 AM
Original Poster
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iphones in Europe

Our cell phone provider in the States is ATT. When i inquired about international coverage for a one month period, the rates they quoted were ABSURD!! $70 per line!!

A cousin who travels to Italy quite a bit said he purchases sim cards in Italy for the amount of coverage he wants, then swaps out the cards until he gets back home. He said cost was about 30e for quite a bit of coverage.

Mainly, my 24 y/o daughter would like phone, text and internet access for the iphone. Does anyone have experience with buying sim cards in Europe? are there any other economical routes for us to use? None of us will be bringing laptops, just the phones.

Thanks everyone!
lorijv is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 07:14 AM
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They are very easy to find but I think your phone needs to be unlocked so it can be connected to another network...
jamikins is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 07:22 AM
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Actually that doesn't sound a bad price to me if it is for the whole month. I pay €2 a day roaming in Europe. It would be a lot more if I were visiting the States.

You need to find out if your phones are Sim-locked or not, and if they are if you can legally unlock them, before you can use a different Dim in them.
hetismij2 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 07:23 AM
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"Mainly, my 24 y/o daughter would like phone, text and internet access for the iphone. are there any other economical routes for us to use?" Yes, disconnect your daughter from the phone, texting and the internet so she can enjoy her time abroad.

Or change her service to T-Mobile.
Robert2533 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 08:13 AM
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The more recent models of iPhones can be unlocked for use with foreign SIM cards. I don't know much about iPhones, but I live in Italy and know a lot about SIM cards here.

If your daughter's first stop is Italy, she could get an Italian SIM card and use it for the rest of her trip in Europe. Inter-Europe roaming is not very expensive. There are many cheap plans with combinations of talk/text/internet services.

You would need to tell us where your daughter will first enter Europe, which countries she'll visit, and approximately how long she'll stay in each country.
bvlenci is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 08:31 AM
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I just returned from Europe for Thanksgiving. I paid 25.oo from Verizon for 100 mb for the kids iphones. just in case someone was disconnected from us. That was for Internet and telephone. Texting can cost you .50 to send .05 to receive. We traveled with 2 teens and they knew there would be no textin. I am just asking, but why does she need to text? Calls were .99-1.29/min. I don't know about the sims cards. We were there for 8 dys and it was fine.

Hope this is helpful!
tfrank is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 09:11 AM
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I agree - $70 per line is not unreasonable. We have AT&T for our iphones and get the one-month international data plan every time we go to Europe.

What is outrageous is if you do nothing and pay data roaming charges for a month - easily thousands of dollars for each phone for a month abroad (or hundreds if you only go for a week).
bardo1 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 09:16 AM
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T-Mobile has made travel a lot simpler and less expensive for Americans with their iPhones and other smartphones. Texting and the internet are free and currently unlimited when traveling to Europe and a few other places, and phone calls are dirt cheap. For most people there is no need to buy a local sim card unless you're planning on staying in one place for a month or so.
Robert2533 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 10:17 AM
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If you have internet use Whatsapp instead of texting. It's free and very easy. You can make a family group and keep everyone informed with one message. We use it alot in our family, with kids travelling and studying in different countries.
Tulips is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 10:31 AM
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70 bucks is cheap. I bought the 40 dollar/40 MB Sprint plan and had my data turned off most of the time, the for one week - and still went over by a few MB.
flygirl is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 03:54 AM
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$70 may be cheap compared to other roaming plans, but it's not cheap in terms of what's available in Italy. Both TIM and Vodafone, the largest providers in Italy, have monthly plans that give you 200 minutes of talk time, 200 text messages, and 1 gb of internet for around €10. Both also have plans that let you call to a country outside of Italy for very low prices. These plans are free to activate. I have a TIM plan, called TIM International (available only to non-Italian citizens) that allows me to call the US for 20 cents a minute, with a 16-cent connection charge, which is little more than a domestic call. When I travel outside Italy, I have TIM in Viaggio Full (also free to activate), which lets me make calls between any European countries (and also the US) for 16 cents a minute, again with a 16-cent connection charge. This free plan also gives me 25 mb of internet traffic per day for €3, which is charged only on days when I actually use the internet. This is sufficient for my purposes if I keep data services turned off unless I need them, and try to use wifi whenever it's available.

Vodafone has similar plans, but their provisions for international calling are more restricted. On the other hand, Vodafone has waived their activation charge for the basic plan if you're a new customer. TIM charges 19 euros to activate the basic talk/text/navigate plan. Still, that would be about €30 for a full month's use in Italy, plus some additional amount if you travel in other European countries.

Depending on how long you'd spend in Italy and how long in other countries, there may be other options that would cost less.

T-Mobile has taken a big step towards making travel easier, so if you can live with their service in the US, it makes sense to use it abroad. (Their Italian partners are TIM, which have great service.) The problem is that their US service is terrible in many areas, and if you get a pay-as-you-go (no contract) plan, it's worse than terrible, because they use different cell towers than for their contract customers, at least for the internet.

I got a T-Mobile SIM card for a trip to the US a few months ago, mainly so that American family members I was traveling with could reach me without spending a fortune calling my Italian number. The service was so bad that I never really was able to use the internet which was only 2G almost everywhere, even though I had paid a fairly hefty amount extra for internet. For some reason, half-way through my two-week visit, I could no longer send text messages, either. I had spent over an hour on the phone with T-Mobile trying to figure out why I couldn't get service in the Washington DC area, and I basically decided to forget about using T-Mobile rather than call them again, so I just put my Italian SIM card back in the phone.
bvlenci is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 04:39 AM
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Call AT&T and ask to have your phones unlocked then take the advice above re European SIMs.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 07:31 AM
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I think it is a little difficult to get AT&T to unlock your iPhone to use it with a different sim card. I believe they will only do it if you are not under a current contract, or have paid an early termination fee. You will have to check with AT&T to find out, but lets face it...its not in their interests to let you buy another country's sim card, they want you to pay them $70, so they are going to make it difficult.

When we were traveling to Europe last year I had a new iphone 4s, and I had an old not-in-use iphone 3. I believe I could have gotten the old iphone unlocked but not the new one under their rules at the time.

how much data, if any, does that $70 include? its hard to judge if that's outrageous without that info. Its usually the data plans which cost, my impression is that calling plans are less.
china_cat is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 07:35 AM
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We happily paid the money to AT&T knowing that if we hadn't I would screw up and have a $20,000 phone bill when I returned. I called it "Tom 'You Idiot' Insurance."

maitaitom is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 09:51 AM
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AT&T's data roaming service is fine. They automatically add more data if you exceed you allowance, which does take much if you happen to check your emails and use the mapping feature from time to time. No need to surf the web in order to eat up 120MB in no time.

AT&T will unlock your iPhone after 3 months so that you can use another sim card when traveling. That's not an issue. But T-Mobile's service plan, which includes unlimited talk, text and data, is a bit less expensive then AT&Ts. And coverage isn't all that bad. Both T-Mobile and AT&T have spotty or no coverage if you're traveling outside of the major population centers, but the one major advantage to T-Mobile is that you do not encounter roaming charges if you happen to be in Canada or running around parts of Mexico. And of course traveling in the EU is a lot less expensive since it costs only $0.20/minute to make or receive calls versus $1.49/minute with AT&T and text and data are free.

One big advantage of using an iPhone is that messaging (to another iPhone or iPad) is free if done from within a WiFi zone.
Robert2533 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 10:37 AM
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Robert, I haven't tried to do this, so maybe I misunderstood. But I thought AT&T required you to have no service commitment in order to unlock your phone. So rather than 3 months, I have to wait until my 2 year contract is up, or I have to pay an early termination fee. Also, if one unlocks a current iPhone, do you need to re-pay the activation fee, or get a new contract when you come back? either of these might make this an untenable solution for the OP. I realize unlocking the phone is not the same as terminating the contract. But I'm reading this on the AT&T site:

Your account must be in good standing (i.e., it has no past due amount or unpaid balance owed AT&T).
You've satisfied all contract obligations, including any Service Commitment associated with the device to be unlocked, in one of the following ways:
Fulfillment of the Service Commitment by expiration of any contractual term
Payment of any applicable Early Termination Fee
Upgrading to a new device under AT&T standard or early upgrade policies

this policy works great if you upgrade to a new phone and want to unlock the old one. Not so sure about unlocking an active phone. But I really may be misinterpreting this, so I'm interested to hear if I'm wrong.
china_cat is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 10:56 AM
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Your cousin who travels to Italy can take advantage of a single-country solution. Your daughter, on the other hand, probably needs a multi-country solution. Their usage models are different.

The simplest, but not necessarily the cheapest nor convenient for all usage models, is the AT&T route. Mobile phone, like other technology products, are very usage model dependent. You have not posted sufficient details to provide better recommendations.

For voice and text, do you know how much volume is involved? Between what kind of parties are you talking about - two US based phones in Europe, between US based phone in Europe to US, between US based phone in Europe of local numbers? What is the direction of calls/text? (If she has a local SIM, all inbound voice calls in the country of the SIM are paid by the callers, not her.)

For data traffic, does she even know the amount of MB involved?

It is difficult to find a more "economical" solution if one does not know where the cost would be incurred and which solution would address the high cost areas.

There is also an issue of roaming. I have bought SIMs in all the countries mentioned. I think whether one can continue to use the SIM bought in one country in another depends on the type of the SIM and the company.

A pre-paid Drei SIM with data I bought in Austria was completely non-functional outside Austria.

A pre-paid Lidl SIM I bought in Germany worked outside Germany, while a pre-paid Blau.de SIM with data I bought in Germany was completely non-functional outside Germany.

All pre-paid TIM SIM I bought in Italy worked both in and outside Italy for both voice and data.
greg is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2013, 01:50 PM
Original Poster
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Thanks everyone! Your responses have been very helpful.
lorijv is offline  

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