As this post goes live on the blog, I’ll be on my way home from what should (hopefully) have been a great two weeks in France with my family (banned from the Internet – hence the need to set up some posts in advance and keep the site alive whilst I’m away).
My iPhone is a quad-band GSM phone so I can use it pretty much anywhere in the world (subject to coverage); however international roaming can get a bit pricey, so I checked out the best way to avoid excessive charges before I left the UK.
AT&T don’t allow US iPhone users to roam internationally unless they ask for it but UK iPhones are automatically enabled for O2’s International Traveller Service (ITS). Any calls are in addition to the monthly charge but the rates are not too bad – after all, I’m not going to be chatting for hours, this is really just for emergencies. There’s the usual overseas rules about having to pay to receive calls (which complicates the visual voicemail functionality and can result in additional charges, so O2 recommended I turned off voicemail divert before leaving the UK by dialling
1760 and then using
1750 to turn it back on again when I get home).
The real killer could have been data roaming. You see, whilst the EU has been putting pressure on mobile operators to reduce their charges for roaming across networks, very little has been done about data charges, which for O2 users are currently priced at Â£3 per MB in the EU (and Â£6 outside the EU).
I called O2 before I left the UK and their advice was to switch off data roaming (Settings, General, Network, Data Roaming, Off). They also recommended that I turn off automatic e-mail checking (Settings, Mail, Auto-Check, Manual) – although accessing Mail and Safari from a Wi-Fi network will not result in any charges (other than whatever wireless hotspot charges apply – there are no roaming arrangements between The Cloud – O2’s UK Wi-Fi partner – and overseas Wi-Fi providers). They also advised me that SMS is the most efficient method of communicating without extra charges as receiving a text costs nothing and, when sending, O2 take them from the normal allowance but at four times the rate (each text will count as 4 messages, so the 500 texts in my tariff become 125 for use overseas).
Hopefully, by following this advice, my next bill will just be for the standard Â£35… although if all I want is texts and the odd phone call, I could just put my SIM in another handset – as the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones found when he turned off data roaming on his iPhone:
“I turned off data roaming â€“ and immediately found that what I was left with was a not very smart phone.”