An American iPhone in London

My friend is getting ready to buy an iPhone 4. She lives here in the states, but in January, she’ll be leaving for about four months to do some kind of doctor-y program in London.

What are her options for a phone while she’s there? I’m assuming that whatever else happens, she’s still stuck paying her AT&T bills here for those four months—it’s not like they’ll let her take a few months “off” from her contract.

That’s about all I know though. Does she have legitimate options for using an American iPhone 4 in London for about four months? Can she get a contract/service for that timeframe and just swap out a sim card? Are there lots of carriers to pick from, or is there just one like with AT&T here in the states? Is it more complicated? Less? Are there “gray-area” solutions like unlocking her phone or something?

I’m her go-to friend for technical answers and stuff, so obviously she’s in trouble! I’ve never even swapped out a sim card on a phone here in the states or anything. Any help is appreciated.

I don’t think there’s an easy solution. She’s probably better off renting a mobile phone there for four months. For example, I can’t imagine she’d ask all of her British friends/associates to dial 001+area code+phone number in an international call every time they want to chat her up to see if she wants to go to the local pub.

She can’t stop paying AT&T for four months. And using even an international data plan will get ridiculously expensive fast; there’s no point using the iPhone’s cellular data unless it’s a dire emergency. I’d even hold off on the iPhone 4 upgrade until she get’s back; there’s no real point to getting it if you can’t use it.

I brought my iPhone 3G to Hungary a couple of years ago and I used the data sparingly. Turned it on for about 10-15 minutes a day to check email and such. I was there for all of 3 days. I got home and there was a $70 data charge on top of my regular monthly charges. Never again.

No phones she could rent that she could just swap the SIM on?

You could do that with a jailbroken phone, but I don’t think the 4 is unlocked yet.

I think her best bet is renting a cheap phone in the UK and just keeping the iPhone 4 around in airplane mode for Wi-Fi/iPod touch use, because whatever happens she’ll be paying AT&T back home anyway. See what happens with jailbreaking in the next 6 months, but renting a phone and acquiring a UK SIM amount to the same thing in terms of effort.

I recommend grabbing a cheap O2 Pay and Go phone. Leave the iPhone at home.

International data roaming is insanely expensive, don’t even consider it. international calling from there isn’t as bad though. Have her call AT&T, they can give her the pricing to enable that just for that time period, and let her know the price per minute for calling.

Renting a phone might be cheaper, but if she doesn’t call much and already pays the AT&T bill for that time period, it’s worth asking about a temporary call plan for her travel.

Remember though, NO on data roaming. She will have to turn that off and only use wifi for things like email, etc. Here’s the info you need. She will need to call AT&T to arrange voice or data plans for that time period. If you need other countries included, let me know.

Word from the dev team is that the iPhone 4 has been jail broken and unlocked, they are just waiting on releasing for some reason. (most likely waiting for 4.1) It’s a fairly trivial process to jailbreak the phone too so it shouldn’t give that much trouble. I’ve jail broken and unlocked many an iPhone.

Have her call AT&T. We looked into this recently for a similar situation and the end result was we could suspend the account while we were gone.