Singing the Praises of T-Mobile
Some of you know that I frequently sing the praises of T-Mobile. No, their network isn’t as extensive as Verizon’s or AT&T’s, but it is so much cheaper, and never more so than when you’re traveling internationally.
It’s almost ridiculous, and it bailed us out more than once when we took a family vacation traveling to Israel recently. There were eight of us, so trying to all end up in once place at the same time was a whole lot easier when we could call and text each other.
Because Israel is one of T-Mobile’s covered countries when roaming internationally, there was no extra charge for any data, or any text messages. It’s just included in my basic domestic plan, which includes unlimited text and data. I felt like I’d won the lottery every time I used my phone. Voice calls were 20 cents a minute, which is much cheaper than any other carrier’s voice roaming. (And if you’re in Mexico or Canada, they don’t charge you for voice calls — it’s just like being in the US.)
Versus AT&T and Verizon
Compare this to AT&T, who require that you purchase an international calling plan for between $30 and $120, which, depending on which plan you get, gives you a data ceiling between 120 MB and 800 MB, and “lowers” your voice calls to between $0.35 and $1.00 per minute. Or Verizon, who for $40 extra give you a not terribly generous 100 outgoing text messages and 100 MB of data, and a not-bad 100 minutes of included voice calling. If you go over these limits, heaven help you, because you could come home to a bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. (Or your international service will just stop working.)
If you’re not on T-Mobile, there are still things you can do to keep your costs low while traveling. First, for the love of all things holy, on your iPhone go to Settings -> Cellular and turn off data roaming, and only turn it on when you need it. Try to use Wi-Fi whenever possible. When you’re on Wi-Fi, you can send iMessages (the blue ones, not the green ones) to other iPhone users who also have data connections.
When you’re on Wi-Fi, You can make calls using FaceTime Audio. Or, if the person you’re calling doesn’t have an iPhone, you can instead use Skype for outgoing calls, and you can even get an inexpensive Skype incoming number so people can call you easily.
Finally, if you have an unlocked iPhone and are staying in a single country, you could get a SIM card when you arrive in the country you’re traveling to, which will give you a foreign phone number until you get back (you won’t be able to receive calls or texts at your usual number). Your iPhone is unlocked if you purchased it full price from Apple, or it’s a Verizon iPhone 5 or later. If you purchased your phone from AT&T or T-Mobile, their customer service will usually unlock it if you have had the phone long enough, or, in T-Mobile’s case, if it’s fully paid.
New iPhones September 9th?
In other news, Apple is announcing something on September 9th. Rumors say it’s likely to be a new iPhone, and possibly a new iPad. If you’re considering either, you might want to hold off another week or two. We’ll bring you all the news after the announcement!