traveler's report: first overseas trip with an unlocked iPhone 5
I was excited when I got my iPhone 5 to read that the Verizon version was unlocked for overseas use, though this isn't a fact that Verizon advertises or will even tell you about. It was noted on tech blogs. I was curious to see how this would work in practice.
So in case this info helps anyone, here is my experience when traveling to South Africa recently:
I took the iPhone 5, purchased last month, and a paperclip for removing the SIM card. I didn't do anything special to notify Verizon that I was traveling and I didn't activate their global plan. Instead, when I got to Cape Town, South Africa, I asked around for a cell phone store that would sell me a local prepaid SIM card. It had to be a nano chip since that is the new size the iPhone 5 uses. It took an hour or so, but I found a Vodaphone reseller that sold me the chip, with 250MB of data and a limited voice allotment. They took care of setting it up, basically just removing the Verizon SIM card and putting in theirs. I carried a small Ziploc bag to keep the Verizon SIM safe for replacing at the end of the trip. (Because the Verizon iPhone 5 uses the CDMA technology inside the United States, I am not sure the SIM card is necessary for use at home, but I didn't want to lose it anyway.)
The phone worked great! It clearly was unlocked or it would not have activated for service from a different company. I paid the equivalent of about $25 for the week's worth of service. It would have lasted up to a month but I wasn't staying that long. It was very convenient in keeping up with co-travelers to be able to use the maps, send texts and emails, and place and receive phone calls. This was cheaper than using the Verizon global plan, though if I had been traveling around to many different countries it may have been preferable to go with their plan rather than getting a new SIM for each country. Also, some places may not have nano SIM sizes available, particularly since the iPhone 5 has not been released everywhere yet. Cape Town may be a best-case example because they have so many international travelers.
To be clear, everything I have read says that the Verizon iPhone is only unlocked for use out of the United States.
Calling/Texting To The US
First let me say a great big Thank You for posting this. My daughter is headed off to Argentina for 5 months and while the program she is going with will provide her with a cell phone we really want her to have the use of her iPhone 5 while there. You answered so many of my questions and relieved a lot of my worries.
The questions I have for you are: 1) Did you call or receive calls from the US? If so, how expensive was it?
2) How about texts to/from the US? If you did text did you ever send picture texts?
I guess what I am really asking is if my daughter can use her iPhone to contact the US or if she should use her iPhone for communication in Argentina and use either the program's provided cell phone or Skype to contact friends and family in the US.