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Thread: traveler's report: first overseas trip with an unlocked iPhone 5

  1. #1
    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    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.
    Last edited by bchaplin; 12-16-2012 at 06:40 AM.

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    Do you know if that could be done with an iPad?

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    This will work with the iPad, although you may have trouble getting your hands on a SIM card without a local address/credit card (the prepaid visa gift cards will usually work, just set the billing address as your hotels address when registering it) and also the LTE might not work if you have one of the latest generations of iPad, but it will switch to 3G service automatically.

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    Registered User jannilee's Avatar
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    As was mentioned in an earlier thread you can also get a SIM trimmer to cut the SIM down to micro size. I have been using my ipad abroad for several years now. It is worth some research ahead of time to figure out the best provider to use. Vodaphone has been pretty good for me in Europe.

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    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    I've never used my iPad overseas, but I'd have to agree with the previous posts.
    One other point, just in case there is confusion: While I mentioned previously that the Verizon iPhone 5 is "world-capable" and works in most countries, because it has both CDMA and GSM bands, this is NOT TRUE of the Verizon Ipad, which as far as I know, is only CDMA. The AT&T iPad, however, should work overseas, if you're able to find a SIM card for it. If anyone knows differently please post...
    Last edited by bchaplin; 01-24-2013 at 10:23 AM.

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    Thank you! I'm a Verizon customer and when I called, they said I needed an international plan, but most of the 4G phones would work. I'm going to upgrade to the iPhone soon. The plan they offer is $4.99 a month and about a dollar a minute voice and fifty cents outgoing text, five cents incoming text. The sim seems like a better deal.

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    this is fantastic to know...do you know if this is true of AT&T phones?! I have a 4GS

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    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    Are you asking if the AT&T 4GS is unlocked for use with a foreign SIM? It isn't, unless you are out of contract and request AT&T to do it. However, they will sell you an overseas plan so that you can use it outside of the United States.

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    bchaplin - Really appreciate your post. Have decided I'm going to follow your experience and take my Verizon iPhone 5 to South Africa in July. I do have a couple follow up questions for you since you have experience using your iPhone in South Africa. I apologize for my novice inquiry, but I can't seem to find an answer anywhere. Once I pick a nano SIM card from Vodacom, how exactly do I make a local call, and international call back to the US, and how does someone call me in South Africa from the US. Is my phone with the Vodacom nano SIM now a local South African phone and I dial local numbers as normal +##-###-#### (or do you use 0 instead of +, or either)? In advising folks in the US previously to call me in South Africa, they'd have to dial 011 + country code (27) + 2 digit cidy code + the number (011-27-##-###-####). How do folks in the US now call me on my iPhone in South Africa? 011 + 27 + my normal area code and phone number? This is the one I'm really not sure of and I need to know before I leave. And lastly, how do I call the US from South Africa? Still dial 001 - US area code and number? Any input you can provide on these questions would be MUCH appreciated!

    Jim

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    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    Hey, SafarJim, I can't remember all the technicalities right now of the prefixes I used when making calls (I know it was only a few months ago, but I have forgotten already), but I'm happy to look it up for you to remind myself and let you know.
    The short answer is that yes, it will be as if you have a local S. African phone. I did not have anyone call my number FROM the U.S., though I called the U.S. with no problem. I believe if someone wanted to reach you they would need an international plan to do so, and I don't really know what it would cost. Maybe have people text you and you ring them back, as a solution?
    Beth

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    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    Sorry for being slow to answer.

    First, to call internationally from a cell phone, (not a landline), you generally hit the 'plus' button, rather than '00'. This is done various ways depending on which phone you have, but the iPhone is easy: just press and hold the zero.
    How to call international with a mobile phone
    Then you dial the country code of the country you are calling. To call the U.S. it is '1'. And then the phone number.
    United States Country Code 1 Country Code US
    I don't remember exactly what I did for calling locally in South Africa. To tell the truth most of the people I was traveling with had out-of-country phones, so I believe I was calling the U.S., Tanzania and Nigeria more than I was locally.
    I also texted a lot. It was cheap, and in the places where we had wifi, like the hotel, I believe it was free.
    Let me know if this answers your questions!

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    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    Also, when you get the SIM they should tell you how to make calls, and hopefully provide a printed card with that information.

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    Smile 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.
    Thanks, again.

  14. #14
    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    Hi -

    Sorry, I just noticed this. It's probably too late, and I'm sure you've figured out the answers elsewhere by now.
    Anyway, when I was in South Africa, I did call the U.S. I do not remember it being very expensive. I basically bought a one month package of data, phone calls and text. I couldn't get the store to really explain how many calls I was allowed to make (since the price varied depending on which calls I made, local or international), but in the end, I didn't go over the package limits. However every mobile company is different in what they offer. In contrast, when I go to Nigeria I get a local SIM and it is all charged by the minute. Even there we find that calls to the U.S. are reasonable if we don't talk too long.

    Another thing I did was take advantage of wifi whenever it was available. Sending texts on wifi was free, and I could skype without using cellular data.

    Is the program providing a cell phone for free or at low cost? If so she could use that, and then utilize the iPhone when she is in wifi areas.

    Beth

    Quote Originally Posted by jumps101 View Post
    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.
    Thanks, again.

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    Also, if they are providing her a GSM phone in Argentina she could pull the SIM out of it and put it in her iPhone5.

    This would give her a local number she would be using with her existing phone.

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