Update: This same process works for iOS 4.2.1 the latest version for the iPhone

Finally….after 3 years of searching for a good plan that short timers that come to the US for business or pleasure can use with their iPhone and take advantage of all it has to offer is here.

Now…of course they don’t make it straight forward as in purchase a SIM Card, drop it in the phone and you’re good to go. No, that would be to easy for the good old phone companies of the USA. They need to make it a little more difficult than that, but it’s not too bad.

First let’s talk about the Pre-Paid Plan.

In October of this year (2010) AT&T launched a new GoPhone service that finally makes sense for short time visitors to use their service while in the US. Their new $2 a day plan for unlimited talk and text is a great deal. Basically as soon as you make or receive a call you are charged $2. But then the rest of the day you can call or text as much as you want for that $2. There is also a Pre-Paid monthly plan for $60 ($2×30)…which is basically the same. But if there is a day you don’t use your phone on the $2 plan then you come out ahead.

Here’s the break down in the new Pre-Paid plans as of October 2010 (download full brochure here):

Now, for those traveling for a short time in the states like I do this works out great. Not the cheapest in the world…but after crunching some numbers it is actually going to be cheaper than my wife’s Pre-Paid plan with T-Mobile that she pays per-minute on.

So Step 1 is to walk into a AT&T store and ask for a GoPhone Plan. You can put money on your account based on how long you plan to stay in the US. Here are the different options:

Now I chose to put $100 on my phone and push it out to a year so that I can keep the same phone number year after year…which is what I’ve been looking for. So I have $100 to spend between now and Oct. of 2012….on the $2/day plan that’s basically 50 days in the next year I have to be in the States. Seeing that I spend a minimum of 60 days in the summer (June/July) in the states this made sense for me and for my family and friends that I’ll have the same phone number year after year.

Step 2: If you want 3G data on your phone so you can be connected when away from WiFi areas then you will also need to add the $19.99 100MB data plan to your account or pay the 1cent per kb used option. (You’ll have to do your own number crunching on this one based on your own use of data)

This again comes by the month. So you can pay for it the month you are in the states. If you are only in the States for a week and you choose to add data then you have 100MB of data to use in a week. For a heavy iPhone user that’s pretty easy to do. For your everyday average user this should be enough data to get you through a month. Just don’t stream to many YouTube videos and you’ll be fine.

Now once you get your SIM Card and you get all connected up I wish I could write and say you were done….but you’re not. AT&T does not technically support unlocked iPhones on their network. It’s not that you can’t set it up to work on their network, their system just won’t auto configure the iPhone for you like most systems do. But thanks to Apple and some resources I found on the Internet you can have this set up and working in about 10 minutes.

Getting AT&T GoPhone Data to work on iPhone/iPad OS4.1

1. Download this iPhone Configuration Utility from Apple’s website. Yes…this is a legit Apple product! PC or Mac

2. Next head over to the blog Blancer.com and follow the steps for creating a new configuration profile for your iPhone.

3. When you get to the point where you need to enter the APN information (Step 4 on the Blancer.com blog) use the information below:

APN: wap.cingular
Password: CINGULAR1

(Thanks to unlock-tmobile blog for this info)

and leave everything else blank and proceed with the instructions on the Blancer.com blog above.

Now you’re done! On your phone under Settings – General you will now see a new option that says Profile that has the AT&T information you need. When you return to your home country just go to Settings – General – Profile and click Remove. That will remove the profile from your phone and allow you to use other SIM Cards from other countries.

I hope this helps you out….as I know many people who have been frustrated with American carriers and there non-support for True Unlocked iPhones worldwide.

Update: As of October 2010 AT&T has a new Pre-Paid Plan that works with iPhones OS4.1

OK….so I’ve done my research over two years now and I think I’ve finally found the simplest and cheapest way to get your Unlocked iPhone to work in the USA when you are visiting.

All you need is an AT&T friend!

1. Find a friend who has AT&T service

2. Go with them to an AT&T store and have them ask for an additional line on their account. It cost a one time fee of $10.

3. Next have them activate the new number/SIM card with an iPhone account. They’ll ask you what data plan you want. $15 for 200MB or $25 for 2GB a month. Choose your plan and hand the money over to your friend as it will come on their next bill.

4. That’s it! Of course check with your friend to see what plan they are on and how many minutes they have. My buddy has unlimited text messaging and unlimited nights and weekend minutes with a large amount of roll-over minutes so we’re good to go (I’ll buy him tickets to an M’s game and we’ll be good 🙂 )

$35 total cost and you have cell and 3G data on your iPhone for a month. Beats what I went through last summer!

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.


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.


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.