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I've travelled to Europe and Asia quite a bit with iPhones with no problems (I live in the US), except for the fact that making calls anywhere outside the US is crazy expensive and of course I wouldn't dare turn on data roaming for fear of the thousand-dollar bill.

These days, though, is there not a better way? Can I not go into a shop in the UK and buy a pay-as-you-go micro-sim for 30GBP and call/data away? Is my iPhone (3GS and 4) permanently and forever locked to AT&T unless I jailbreak it, even with a different sim card?

I'm willing to jailbreak my 3GS to accomplish this mission, but I'd like to hear from someone with real-world experience before doing so.

Thanks!

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4 Answers 4

If you are looking for a truly global answer - this article is updated to let you know which carriers allow an authorized unlock.

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1937

If your phone is locked on a carrier that will unlock it, simply see what the price and procedure is to get it unlocked. Only you and apple will know the status of your phone. If you have a used phone, any service rep can look up your serial number and let you know the status of that device in the iPhone device activation database.

If you can't or won't unlock a locked device - then it's a cat and mouse game to get it unlocked. The details depend on the exact version of iOS software and modem firmware on your phone. If you restore your phone - the unlock can get undone. It's not impossible to do, but it's technically tricky and you'll need to get someone to help you or learn the ropes. Do consider if the phone has a problem on the road - you may need a computer to re-unlock it so be prepared to rent a handset if you don't travel with the tools and knowledge to perform another unlock yourself.

Only you can determine if the hassle factor of unlocking your phone outweighs the price of buying one that is authorized to be unlocked.

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I traveled to South America last summer and just for that trip, signed up to an AT&T International calling plan that included both phone calls and text messaging. I didn't use my phone a lot (in 2 weeks in Peru and Ecuador) so I only spent about $25, but the text messaging turned out to be critical during a two-day medical emergency involving a family member. I turned the plan off as soon as I got home.

Recently I went to Asia and just set up the texting plan for $10/month and used it for just one month. (No phone calls.)

Will something like that work for your for Europe and Asia? (That is: buy something temporary from US AT&T, focusing just on your upcoming trip, and then shut it off when you get home.)

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As you've pointed out, US iPhones are locked to AT&T. Fundamentally, that's your only real issue here. If you can unlock your iPhone, then your suggesting of just picking up a micro-sim and using it for data and calls works perfectly. In the UK, we can buy iPhones unlocked, and get our network operators to unlock them.

What you described is exactly what I've done when travelling abroad, but it's entirely reliant on having an unlocked device to start with. From there, you should be good to go. In the UK, there's a massive range of low-cost, pay as you SIM only options to choose from. O2 do a big range of SIM only deals, including micro-sim plans (see here).

The other option to consider is, if you're looking to upgrade to an iPhone 4 anytime soon, buy it abroad, from the UK, unlocked, and then you won't have to jailbreak it in the future. UK and European iPhone models will work perfectly well in the US, and they come with a global warranty as well.

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not all European iPhone is unlocked. German iPhones are locked as well. –  nanda Sep 8 '10 at 9:56
    
Yeah, that's true. Although Germany is the only country in Europe where that's the case. –  pauldunlop Sep 9 '10 at 15:45
    
Danish and Austrian iPhones are also SIM-locked. I think UK is one of the rare exceptions... –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Dec 23 '10 at 7:10

Yes your iPhone is locked on AT&T, you must jailbreak & unlock it if you want to use another sim. If you only travel to UK, you might take a pay-as-you-go sim. If you travel in many country in europe you might be interested by http://www.callineurope.com/. It might even be interesting if you only go to UK has there is a special UK pass.

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The phone doesn't need to be jailbroken, just unlocked. –  g . Aug 27 '10 at 22:13

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