JUL 21, 2011

Visiting the US with an unlocked iPhone

So, you bought your iPhone unlocked. But every time you go abroad, it seems like a total waste of money. Going up to AT&T with “Give me a prepaid data package for my unlocked iPhone” will get you nowhere. You’ll need to play their game. Thanks to @havvac, I was able to give this a spin last June when I attended WWDC in San Francisco (and again in NYC in May 2012).

What you’ll need

How to get that 3G connection going

  1. Go to an AT&T store and ask for a prepaid pay-as-you-go micro SIM that fits your SMS and voice needs. In my case I didn’t care and just grabbed the least expensive (25$) one, which granted me unlimited SMS and voice throughout the US. Chances are, they’ll probably tell you this SIM card can’t be used with data. That’s ok, they just want to discourage people from doing what we’re about to do.
  2. Switch SIM cards (insert new one, put the old one somewhere safe).
  3. Hit AT&T’s GoPhone Payment Center (preferably using Wi-Fi or any other connection that won’t give you roaming fees) and create a new passcode (Pay as you go customer) using the new wireless phone number AT&T gave you. It’ll get sent to you by SMS.
  4. Use it to login to the GoPhone Payment Center. Fill out personal info form.
  5. From the GoPhone Payment Center, add a data package of your choosing (1GB is 25$).
  6. Hit from your phone (tap continue > Custom APN) and add a custom APN with carrier “AT&T”. That will make the 3G connection usable.

Important tidbits