A major question that comes up for any traveler is that of communication. For some, it is a need to stay in touch with those they love. Others have business needs that require constant connectivity. While email works just fine for most things, nothing is quite as good as having your own phone. A few post back, I had spoken about buying a used iPhone (ebay, $175) with the hopes of turning it into an unlocked, travel ready global phone. The phone arrived today and it is in one piece and works. Step number one accomplished, so lets all take a moment to celebrate this small victory. Used electronics are always a gamble.
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “well my carrier says that they provide service in (enter country name)”. This is frequently the case, but there are a few things that you should consider before heading in this direction. While going with your existing plan is probably the easier of the two options, I guarantee that you will pay out the ears for this method. Using your home service abroad can cost anywhere between one and four dollars a minute. Maintaining a relationship just got a whole lot more expensive. But fear not, long distance romantics! There is good news!
What your cell phone company doesn’t want you to know, especially if you are American, is that you don’t always need to rely on them to use your phone abroad. If you are a little bit adventurous and just a little bit tech savy, you can save yourself a bunch of money. In this case, I will be looking at the iphone and explaining the process by which you can turn it into a great world ready device.
Step number one, as mentioned above, is to find yourself a used iPhone. I suggest looking on ebay, but be careful that you buy one from someone with a good reputation. Phones are delicate things, and defects are not uncommon with used items. You will notice that searching for an iPhone brings forth a common usage of the words ‘unlocked’ and ‘Jailbroken’. For this project, I purchased a phone that had neither of these options applied, simply because I don’t trust electronics that have been tampered with by someone else. Instead, I have chosen to perform these manipulations on my own. You can do this as well!
Unlocking your iPhone is brilliant as it will allow you to use any SIM card that you would like. Because most countries use wireless networks that rely on prepaid SIM Cards, this means that if you are only traveling to a country for a week, you can have your own cell phone without committing to a year of service. Instead, you simply buy a SIM card with a low balance, plug it in to your phone and boom, ready to go. No contracts, no outrageous international surcharge.
But this only works with an unlocked phone, so in addition to buying a used phone, we must also purchase a software package that will help you to unlock the phone on your own. I used and recommend this website and their product.
While I won’t go into detail about the actual procedure for unlocking your phone (the site will help you with this), I will say that the directions were well written, and everything worked as it should. If you can read directions carefully and avoid the temptation to skip ahead, you can manage this on your own. The whole process took about an hour, and cannot be rushed. As the program runs through stages, you will see the iPhone displaying loading screens, and flashing on and off.
The unlock and Jailbreak were succesful, but because I do not live in an area that has service, I haven’t been able to properly test everything just yet. Another post to come. The next step, however, is to pop out the SIM card tray that sits on the top of the phone. Make sure that your phone is off. Of all the steps you will take, this is the one with the highest probability of damaging your phone, so take your time! Insert a straightened paper clip into the small hole that sits just to the right of the headphone jack. Doing this should pop open the SIM card tray, allowing you to insert your own card. This is the process you will follow after purchasing a card in a different country. Cards are made to fit this slot in only one direction, so take a moment to see which way it goes. Once you have it sitting flush, slide the tray back in until is is flush with the outside of the phone. If it doesn’t want to go back in, I don’t suggest using force. Unless you want to buy a new phone, that is.
Now this step I haven’t tried just yet, so you are on your own, but you should now be able to turn your phone back on. It will then proceed to scan for service and authenticate your card. Like I said, haven’t made it to this step yet, but this is the overall idea behind an unlocked phone. Good luck!