Back in July of 2011 I complained about our phone frustrations: Before leaving the US, Holly and I both owned iPhones. When we purchased them in the summer of 2009, AT&T was the only carrier offering them so we had no choice but to sign on for a two-year contract with AT&T. We quickly got used to having the world at our fingertips — being able to check email from anywhere, take and send pictures in a snap, pull up a map and use GPS to navigate, etc. Those all would have been useful features when traveling abroad. Really useful. But the phones were locked to AT&T even after our contracts ended so we were unable to use them with SIM cards from a carrier in the UK.
We could have just continued paying AT&T for our service while roaming abroad. I looked up our past usage history and determined that the amount of data we used each month (about 450MB) would have cost us almost $9,000 at roaming rates. Each! AT&T has a plan for world travelers, and if we’d signed up and paid the extra fee, that would drop to a mere $1,500 each for a month’s service. Yikes. So we purchased new non-smart phones here in the UK and signed up with the 3 network on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Word broke in early April that AT&T had changed their policy, and would unlock iPhones after their two-year contract ended (or the customer paid an early termination fee). I waited a week or two before calling about ours so they could get the kinks out of their unlocking process, gathered the required information, and used Skype to call AT&T’s customer service line. Twenty minutes later they’d approved the unlock without any grief or drama. And it only came nine months too late!
I swapped in the SIM card from my non-smart UK phone and was up and running. For £10 a month (about $16), I get 100 free minutes of calling time, 3000 text messages, and 500MB of data traffic. I’m too embarrassed to quote the monthly figure in the US for comparison, but suffice it to say that $16 is a lot less. I’ve been carrying my “old” phone for about a week now and it’s great to be connected again, but am definitely aware of the downside of being so connected. (Not to mention having to tote around a larger and heavier phone all the time.) Holly’s decided to stick with the un-smart phone for a while longer and I understand her point…
The proof: Here’s my trusty 3GS, showing that it’s connected to the 3 network!