Using your Unlocked Phone in the USA. (Re-written 29th August 2012)
This article is aimed at people from other countries, who are wanting to save money on data costs abroad. This page does need you to have some technical grasp about the phone you have purchased, how to use it, and the ability to follow step by step instructions. If you’re unsure, ask someone who can help. I do not offer technical support, only the page of advice.
There are a number of assumptions taken into account, and they are the following
Step One: Getting a SIM Card.
eBay is one. I just did a quick search on ebay.co.uk for AT&T Go Phone and found a number of sellers that will ship to the UK, at varying prices. There are ones that ship to Australia, Canada, it’s easy enough to find. Just go with the cheapest, or what is available. If have an iPhone 4, then you must make sure you choose a microsim.
You could also look at Amazon. I’ve checked out amazon.com and there are a number of sellers there.
Most online sellers will give you full instructions on how to activate your SIM card.
If you’re on a limited timescale, then you can purchase a SIM at any AT&T Store. What you’ll need to ask for is an AT&T Go Phone Sim or Micro Sim. You don’t need to tell them what phone you’re using, or what you’re going to do with it. If you want to purchase some credit while you are there, you can do that as well.
You will probably find that the AT&T store will activate the SIM card for you.
Step Two: Topping Up
If you haven’t got credit from the AT&T Store, you’ll need to get some kind of voucher. For a first time user, the easiest way is to buy a voucher at various stores, AT&T, Duane Reade. 7-11, and virtually any corner deli. You get a voucher, call the number, scratch off the panel, enter the code, and you’re away. This is easiest method for a first time top up, but you obviously won’t be able to use your phone when you’re leaving the airport, and on the way to the hotel. I’m not entirely sure if any of the Hudson News in the Airport Terminals sell these cards either.
When you’re in the USA, you can take advantage of a website called PinZoo. This is where I buy my top ups from, mainly because then you get a slight discount on price. The first time you use them they normally want to call a USA number to confirm and authorise your payment, so whether you can do this while abroad is something for you to work out. Skype is a good option to get a temporary US number, but it will cost a bit of money, and are you really that desperate to have your phone working as you walk out of the airport.
Step Three: Choosing Data Package.
Now you have an activated SIM, you know where to get some top up for your phone, you need to work out how to get the data activated.
AT&T stipulate that you must have a monthly package, when you want a feature package of data. This means, you have to have at least the $25 plan on your account before you can add on data.
Firstly, you need to work out how much data you’re going to use. Your options are as follows
$5 / 50MB
$15 / 200MB
$25 / 1GB
Step Four: iPhone Only – Changing APN
Once you’ve slotted in your sim in, the iPhone itself recognises it as an AT&T sim, and like other SIM providers in the world, thinks it is a contract phone, and defaults the APN to the contract APN. Now, with AT&T and iPhone you then cannot change the APN manually. Normally there is no need, but because you have a GoPhone sim, and not a contract sim, the APN is incorrect, and needs amending for it to work.
This is easily done by installing a profile onto your phone. This profile contains the correct APN information. It is really easy to do this, and only takes seconds, and once done, will disable the current APN that the phone has active, including the one you use on your home network, so remember to remove the profile once you arrive back home!
When you’re in the USA, and you are on a wifi network, just browse to http://unlockit.co.nz , and then apply the profile directly. You must browse on your iPhone,
Alternatively, you can browse to this website before hand, and e-mail yourself the profile, which once downloaded on your phone, you can apply at any time. Just make sure you save the profile where you can remember, and access it.
The website is simple to use, as it looks like iPhone menus, Click Continue on the first page
Then on the second, choose Custom APN, on the third page, click where it says Carrier – Blank and scroll down the list until you get to US – AT&T. Click Done, Click Create Profile.
Your iPhone will then switch around and display an Install Profile screen, all you do is click Install
It also adds on a web link to the website, which you can keep or delete.
As soon as you install the profile, you need to switch off your iPhone, and back on again, to get data working. Press and hold the power button, Slide to turn off, wait. When off, turn the phone back on. Launch Safari, and browse to a website. Everything should work without issues, and you will be using data from your chosen feature package.
Step Five: Android - Changing APN
If you have an Android phone, you can still use this guide and, just remember to change your APN to wap.cingular and you should be up and running in no time. You should be able to google on how to change APN details for various phones, and in the next few weeks I will write it up on here.
One final point to note, that if you’re wishing to use this SIM again, and not go through the rigmarole of activating SIMs and getting credit onto them, then you need to ensure you change your plan to the basic 10¢ per minute plan. The only way you can do this is via the AT&T Automated Speech Recognition Free Number. I did it once within about 5 minutes, but it is boring, and frustrating. I’d do this just as you’re at the airport, and no longer require data, because until I’ve done this myself, I have no clue if it cuts data off at that moment when you change, or will wait til the end of the billing period (30 days). If it’s the latter, then it’s OK, if it is the former, then you’ll have a dumb phone with no data, as soon as you call up.
If you don’t want to use the SIM again, and it has $0 credit on it, you can do nothing, apart from cut up the SIM and bin it. I say cut up, because someone may attempt to use it, and you don’t want that.
Straight Talk SIM
Straight Talk are a Mobile Virtual Network Operator who use the AT&T and T-Mobile signals. Most of what I’ve said above will apply, so lets get into the detail on what they offer, and how much it costs.
Firstly, it is as simple as $45 per month for “Unlimited” Calls, Text and Data. I put “Unlimited” in quotes like that because their terms do not allow streaming of audio or video programming. It’s not unlimited then is it?!
Now the way it works is that you must choose what kind of phone you have to what sim card they give you. Confused? Yeah, me too. Basically, they’re 2 networks under one marketing banner. If you have a T-Mobile compatible phone, you’ll run on their network, if you have an AT&T Compatible phone, you’ll run under their network.
Sim Cards online are $14.99. Their $30 plan isn’t worth it for data, however their $45 is OK. The reason I’m giving it only an OK, and not a good, is that it costs $15 for the sim, making it $60 in total, and then you can’t reuse the sim as it will get cut off. For some it will work. For regular visitors to the USA, you’ll get a new phone number each time probably!
Please bear in mind that I accept no responsibility for lost money, broken sim cards, non working iPhones while abroad, non working pinzoo pins, nor do I offer any other technical support apart from this post on my web page. I know I have a Contact section at the top, but If you e-mail me asking me questions about how to get a certain phone working, I’m not going to have the time nor the inclination to reply. If you want to use the comments below, feel free, but e-mails will generally be ignored, just due to my busy life.
I’d love to write guides for every single phone, but it just isn’t possible. I offer this information for free.
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