An American iPhone in Europe

By way of update on my earlier post after researching options for AT&T iPhone users in Europe (with an unlocked phone), I ended up not bothering with local SIM cards in either The Netherlands or France. A savvy user should be able to find a local pay as you go SIM plan that’s less expensive than AT&T’s data roaming packages, but I’m that user and know very little about the local operators (not even all their names). I decided at the start to pay $60 for AT&T’s 300MB international roaming package so that I could enjoy internet access while traveling through Germany and upon my arrival in The Netherlands. Thanks to WiFi and my short stay there, I used relatively little of that 300MB.

In London, however, I had both more time and big plans to explore the city, so with expectations of heavy mobile maps use and web searching I sought out a SIM. Several wireless operators have shops at Victoria Station, where I was able to quickly browse options. What I found was a plan from Three that offered unlimited data, 200 minutes of voice, and 5000 text messages for just £12.90 (£15 after tax, additional £1 for SIM card if you don’t already have one from Three). Even after currency conversion the plan is a steal, though I did later discover the carrier block some websites. The linked tweet is somebody else’s experience, I encountered blocking when trying to access Flickr at times, though not consistently and I was still able to post my photos.

The active wireless competition in London and wide variety of operators may have spoiled me for Paris. I found far fewer operators, and the plans less attractive. In an Orange store I was told their network was incompatible with my iPhone. I wish I’d gotten to the bottom of that, but the crowded store, my poor language skills, and anxious wife pushed me the other direction. They do offer iPhones, so whatever the misunderstanding was, it’s something that can probably be worked out. I looked elsewhere, but the need to find a local carrier diminished as time moved on. I was only in Paris for a few days, and with almost 200MB remaining in my AT&T international data package, the value of a local carrier versus continued parsimonious use of the AT&T package was shifting towards the later.

And now that I’ve received my AT&T bill, it alls seems to have worked out.

I was happy to have my old iPhone 4 back in my hands, now unlocked and ready to accept a local SIM. Three’s plan allowed me unlimited data, which I shared with other devices via my iPhone’s WiFi. My iPhone 5 is still locked on AT&T, but the international roaming package was convenient and met my needs — so long as I was careful. Unsurprisingly, my Verizon iPad 3 found no signal in Europe. I’m told it can accept a SIM card and connect to 3G networks, but I didn’t try that. My wife’s Verizon iPhone 4 was pretty much useless when not tethered to WiFi, except as a watch.