Pre-Paid Data Plan on an Unlocked iPhone NOW possible in America


Update #2: As of October 2010 AT&T has a new Pre-Paid plan that works on all iPhones running iOS4.1 or higher

Update: Now you can have data on your Unlocked iPhone in America for $35 via AT&T all you need is a friend!

It took a good 10 hours in stores and on the phone with different support technicians to get it all sorted out. But I do finally have a data plan on my unlocked iPhone (completely legal from Thailand). It’s not the way I wanted it, and I’m completely frustrated but I’ll hit NECC with a fully functional phone and that was the goal. 🙂

So here’s the break down of what I learned. If any of this information is wrong I would appreciate someone correcting it for me. As I was told different things from different people at different wireless stores across the state of Washington.

Verizon Wireless:

http://www.mobilewhack.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/verizon_logo.jpgThere is no way to use a SIM Unlocked iPhone on Verizon. Verizon uses a different signal (CDMA) then what the iPhone is made for (GSM). Think of it as an AM and FM radio. Verizon is an AM radio signal and the iPhone can only pick up a FM signal. Because of this, and until / or if Apple ever creates a CDMA iPhone, you can not use it on the Verizon network.

T-Mobile:

http://dailymobile.se/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/t-mobile400x320_1-30-09.gifI was a T-mobile pre-paid customer since 2006. I never had any issues with their service and appreciated that I could buy enough pre-paid minutes to push the expiration date out a full year (can do the same with AT&T pre-paid). Meaning I could come back in the summer and use the same phone number. I had the same phone number for four years….until now.

T-mobile doesn’t have any data plans on their pre-paid accounts. If a data plan is not important to you on your iPhone while you’re in the States, then I would recommend T-mobiles service. You could still use the WiFi and make calls. But for me, I want my iPhone to do what it does best….keep you connected everywhere.

AT&T:

http://www1.btcbahamas.com/features/prepaid_roaming/images/att-logo.jpgIn steps AT&T. I’ll spare all the drama of actually being on three different plans, countless hours talking with people who didn’t understand their own system, their own options, and the iPhone…which they are suppose to support.

Although AT&T does allow a data plan on a pre-paid account. The data plan that they allow will not work with the iPhone. Why? Don’t ask me! This was the frustration as I was told by three different AT&T customer service representatives that the data plan on a pre-paid account would work with the iPhone. It wasn’t until three days into the saga of not having a phone that worked that I finally found a AT&T person who knew what they were talking about and took the time to get me all set up.

So what I ended up with:

So that brings me to where I ended up. It’s by far not what I wanted but it will have to do for this summer. AT&T put me on a Individual Cell Phone Plan without a contract which is good. It is a post paid plan which I didn’t want as the bill will come after I’m back in Thailand. It also will not allow me to keep my phone number from year to year. So when I cancel my account on August 1st when I leave the country my phone numbe will leave with it.

Hard to swallow:

It’s been a frustrating first couple of weeks back in the States for the summer. I know there are a lot of other people that live overseas that have unlocked iPhones and want to be able to use them in the States while they are here. There just isn’t a cell company that is willing to open up their network to allow short timers in the country to use their network. What’s hard for me to swallow is that last year I went to Prague, Vienna, Zurich, Bangkok, and Shanghai and was able to buy a SIM card for anywhere between $5-15 and use both voice and data while in the country. It’s not like I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t exist in America. What happens if I come back for say 1 week? What do I do? In Bangkok you can walk into any 7-11 and buy a SIM card and be up and running in 10 minutes.

Frustrated and tired at least I’ll have cell service and 3G for this summer. It comes at a cost to both my pocket book and vacation time spent in stores and on hold. Then again that’s the reason for the blog post. Hopefully I can save someone else the trouble.