August 17th, 2010


Using a US AT&T iPhone in Australia

Here's some advice for US AT&T iPhone users bringing their phones to Australia.

The iPhone is a GSM quad band with EDGE, plus UTMS (type of 3G, aka W-CDMA or FOMA) and should work in Australia on the Hutchison, Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone networks. When roaming, the phone will act like a local phone where you are. From some countries, absence of 1 or +1 might mean your speed-dials don't work. To contact AT&T Customer service from outside the US, dial+1-916-843-4685 (free from your wireless phone). Press and hold 0 to dial the "+".

Standard rates for using the iPhone in Australia:
  • $1.69 per minute for voice calls
  • 20¢ per received text message
  • 50¢ per sent text message
  • $1.30 per sent picture/video message
  • $19.50 per MB of data

To minimize iPhone VOICE charges:
  • Keep in mind that if you are outside the US, you are roaming: none of your free included minutes apply. Everything is pay-as-you-go.
  • You can sign up for the "World Traveler" package ($6/month) to lower the per-minute charge from $1.69 to $1.29.
  • Leave phone fully off (not asleep) when you aren't available to answer calls. Messages left while ON will cost you, messages left while OFF won't. (Listening to a voice mail message will always cost you.)
To minimize iPhone DATA charges:
  • Turn Data Roaming "OFF": Settings>General>Network>Data Roaming.
  • Turn Fetch New Data "OFF":
    Settings>Fetch New data; change Push to "OFF" and select Fetch manually.
  • Use Wi-Fi Instead of 3G/GPRS/EDGE (i.e. do not ask for data unless you have Wi-Fi bars)
  • Zero out the Usage Tracker before you travel: Settings>General>Usage>Reset.
To reduce the data charge for using Internet services on your phone, you can sign up for an "International Data Package":
  • 20 MB = $25 per month ($1.25/MB)
  • 50 MB = $60 per month ($1.20 ea)
  • 100 MB = $120 per month ($1.20 ea)
  • 200 MB = $200 per month ($1 ea)
Note that both MB and $$ are PRORATED if you turn the package on or off during the month. Keep the package turned on for a bit after returning, because charges may not post immediately.

You can turn the "World Traveler" and "International Data Package" features on and off online (log into My Account, go to "My Services" tab, click on "Manage Features").

To help you figure out which data plan you want, you can view a graph of your data usage for the last few months (log into My Account, go to "Bill & Payments" tab, click on "Create a Billing Report").

Personally I am signing up for the 200MB data plan. It's expensive, but cheaper than AT&T's a-la-carte data charges and provides the full Internet functionality of the iPhone (invaluable when traveling). A cheapie local phone would cost a lot less but wouldn't give me that. I will definitely keep an eye on my data usage (on the phone: Settings>General>Usage) and use wi-fi instead of 3G whenever possible.