Business and personal travel takes me to the US multiple times each year. As you probably know, the data, phone, and SMS rates for roaming in the US are astonishing (almost criminal).
For a few years I’ve been trying to patch together a system/solution that allows me to have 3G data on my factory unlocked iPhone. This is what I now use.
Step 1 – Acquire an AT&T sim card that fits your phone (micro sim for an iphone). It doesn’t seem to matter what type of card you get. Where do you get such things? Ebay, Any Apple store in the US, AT&T stores, Walmart (buy the AT&T go phone for $10, throw out the cheap phone and keep the sim). For micro sim users it may be easiest to buy one through Ebay or get one at an AT&T store or Apple store once you’re stateside.
Step 2 – Activate your sim card. The easiest way is to do this online. If you are using an iPhone then when you are asked to enter an IMEI number just use one, or find one, on the internet that is not an iPhone’s. They don’t allow iPhone IMEIs. It doesn’t seem to matter which IMEI you enter other than that. This one, 490154203237518, which is from this wikipedia page, will probably work.
Step 3 – Add your personal information. Pick a zip code you want to use (i.e. 90210) and give yourself an American address. I prefer to use a hotel, Apple Store, or AT&T store address. Use your real email address.
Step 4 – Pick your plan. I pick the 10 cents a minute option. I add data on later. Once you are done this step you’ll be given your phone number. I usually do this before my trip so I can forward my local numbers appropriately.
Step 5 – Add credit to your account. You can do this via AT&T’s web system but you’ll most likely run into issues with having to use an american credit card. There are three solutions to this:
- Buy a Visa/MasterCard gift card at a pharmacy or grocery store. Use it. Again, use an American address of a hotel, etc. For “name on card” i always write what is written on the card for extra hilarity (i.e. Gift Card Recipient).
- Buy physical top-up cards in pharmacies/grocery stores. Add those to your account with the web tools or through your phone.
- Use pinzoo.com (my preferred method). Simply check how much you want in credit for which carrier (AT&T Go phone) and checkout using a credit card or paypal. They will then give you a pin and you can enter that pin into AT&T’s system. It’s important to note that they are very particular with how much you buy. If you buy too much (like three 50.00 cards) they will have to call you to verify your purchase.
Step 6 – Change your APNt settings. Using Unlockit.co.nz set your APN to US - ATT Cingular.
Once you have money in your pre-paid account you can add plans and packages onto your account.
Data packages are currently as follows:
- $5 for 10 MB
- $15 for 100 MB
- $25 for 500 MB
You have 30 days to use what you buy.
Major Annoyance. - Sim cards de-activate in 60 days unless you keep adding money to your account. They can not be reactivated.