Monthly Archives: May 2012
Traveling with an iPhone outside of the United States should justifiably instill fear in most people. A simple search for ‘mobile bill horror stories’ will turn up tales of woe, costing consumers thousands of dollars. It doesn’t have to be that way, and there is an incredibly simple and foolproof work around that I’ll explain.
Will you have full functionality and free roaming ability? No. But what you will have is a dependable WiFi enabled phone that you can rest assured will not incur any charges that will take you by surprise.
First off, some key points:
- Using your iPhone in “Airplane Mode” basically turns it into an iPod, turning of the antenna and Wifi. With the iPhone 4 there is an important second step to assure no data transfer. We’ll cover that soon.
- Something many people don’t know: once you are in Airplane Mode you can return to your Wifi and flip it on. Thus, it turns your phone into an iPod Touch.
- Unless you specifically sign up for a wifi service that costs money, you will never be charged for data or roaming if you are using wifi only.
- Set up a Skype account if you do not already have one. Be sure to buy credits ($10.00) and set your credit card to automatically add funds if needed — this is what you’ll use for most communication and the funds are only to cover calls to regular phone numbers (i.e. non-Skype contacts) to the tune of pennies per minute.
- Into your Skype account add your most used contacts and see if they have Skype accounts as well. For loved ones back home, get them on Skype so you’ll have video calling ability.
- Set up a Google Voice account (during which you get to pick your own phone number … pretty cool). The verification process for Google Voice involves jumping through some hoops, but have patience and before you know it you’ll be done.
- Set up your new Google Voice voicemail with an “I’m on vacation and will have limited ability to check messages. Feel free to leave a voicemail but better for you to email me at …”. The goal is to get most people to hang up and send you an email. Be sure to write down your new Google voice number.
- Set up Call Forwarding on your iphone to send calls to your Google Voice Number. You can do this via Settings -> Phone -> Call Forwarding.
- Set your phone to Airplane Mode (which you will leave it in the WHOLE TIME on your trip). This will automatically take you off all electronic transmission, including Wifi. Additionally, if you have an iPhone 4 or 4s, to make sure you have cellular data completely turned off, proceed to Settings -> General -> Network and turn Enable 3G and Cellular Data to OFF.
- Turn your wifi on but leave your phone in Airplane Mode.
- Reset your data usage to zero, just for peace of mind and a way to check if something is not set right. You can do this via Settings -> General -> Usage -> Cellular Usage -> the “Reset Statistics”. During or at the end of the trip, you can check this again to make sure “Cellular Network Data” is still zero. With 3G off, Cellular Data off, and in Airplane Mode, you are covered (and then some).
By using this system, anybody calling your cell phone number gets secretly routed to your Google Voice number, where if they leave a message it will be converted to text and emailed to you (and is also accessible through Google Voice of course). Note that we are NOT using Google Voice to answer calls in another country (though you can do that if you wish), but rather using it as a ‘depository’ of sorts for incoming calls because you will get emails notifying you of missed calls, the phone numbers, and a text translation of a voice mail left. This is a GREAT way to do it because you can scan through emails quickly and see right away if there is an emergency you have to respond to.
Because you are using wifi as the ONLY method of connection you achieve two things. First, a guarantee of no added charges. Second, a more robust form of connection allowing you to use video Skype to talk to people back home. Also, because you have credits purchased through Skype you can use it as a regular phone for calling anybody worldwide. (Hint: find out the international calling codes before leaving to make calling easier.)
If you are going to Europe check out the services of TEP Wireless. They will mail to you, in America, a portable WiFi hotspot that you can activate upon landing, carry in your pocket, and be continuously connected through most of your trip (they even make mailing it back to Europe a snap). Given the spotty nature and odd laws surrounding European WiFi, this is a great service. Don’t assume your hotel’s WiFi will be working or dependable in Europe! Most connections are horrible, drop out, or are so password protected that you’ll go berserk trying to figure it out. (For instance, in Italy all guest WiFi accounts need their own username and password per device and per 24 hours. You’ll go nuts typing in obscure usernames and passwords over and over). Spend the money for a TEP hotspot and you’ll be happy.
Hint: leave this page open on your mobile browser so you can refer back to the directions during your trip. No need to print it out!
Of course, upon returning to the states, you can flip the switches back on for data and roaming, plus turn off Airplane Mode. Then watch your built up text messages come rolling in!