I use my iPhone for everything--including Google Maps--while in France and use many of the tips in this article to minimize expense. So I'm pleased to pass these tips on to Caussi visitors:
The article is by Tom Meyers, published on April 22, 2015 here:
So, you’re planning to use your American smartphone during your upcoming trip to Europe. Great. But how can you ensure that you’re not going to accidentally blow through all of your data and come home to a $800 bill from your carrier?
Using data? Get a plan.
If you’re an AT&T, Verizon or Sprint iPhone customer and are planning, at any point during your trip, to use a data network to access the web or use emails, you are strongly advised to get some sort of plan. Otherwise, it will cost you. (AT&T, for example, charges a hefty $0.0195 per KB without a plan. Sure, that sounds like pennies, but it gets ugly quickly!)
Sprint customers should first call the carrier to activate your phones for international roaming (and to make sure that your specific device will even work in the countries you’re visiting). You could then sign up for Sprint’s underwhelming international options, including their “Worldwide Voice” package that lowers per-minute charges for phone calls from $1.99 (without a plan) to $.99. Data packages run $40 (40 MB) or $80 (85 MB), and texts cost $.50 each to send.
T-Mobile customers who have signed up for one of the carrier’s “Simple Choice” plans are in much better shape, as the carrier offers free text messaging and data use throughout Europe, and much less expensive phone calls than its rivals (only $.20 per minute). Note that other T-Mobile plans are much less generous, so confirm that you’re on a “Simple Choice” plan before you fire up your iPhone and start Instagramming from Istanbul.
If you are a T-Mobile customer with a Simple Choice plan, congrats. You don’t really need to follow the rest of this article or change the way that your phone is set up. Just know that those phone calls will be billed at an additional $.20 per minute.
How much data do you need?
Let’s imagine that you’ve signed up for AT&T’s $30 passport plan, which comes with 120 MB of data transfer, unlimited texting, and “discounted” phone calls (still a steep $1 per minute). What exactly does 120 MB represent?
As I mention in this post, here are some data use estimates:
• Sending or receiving an email (without attachment): Approx. 20 KB per email; (with attachment) Approx. 300 KB per email
• Loading 1 webpage: 1 MB per page
• Streaming music: 500 KB / minute (30 MB / hour)
• Streaming video (standard quality): 2 MB / minute
I’m going to assume that we’re all steering clear of streaming music and video while traveling (when not connected to Wi-Fi), and that your data use primarily consists of checking emails, using Google maps and pulling up an occasional web page.
If you just stick to emails (and don’t open any large attachments), you could download or send more than 6,000 normal-sized emails with AT&T’s $30 120 MB plan! That’s, um, quite enough for me (especially while on vacation!).
But hey, everyone’s data needs are different. Check out AT&Ts handy data calculator to estimate how much data you require. This is especially handy if you plan to browse the web or (heaven forbid!) fire up your apps.
How to set up your iPhone for international travel
Okay, you’re ready to configure your phone. The following is how I set up my iPhone 5. Note that new phone models may have different locations for some of the settings listed below. A bit of detective work may be required to find them.
1. Turn off data roaming.
First things first. Turn off your data roaming to stop your phone from hooking up with a data network while traveling.
Chances are your carrier doesn’t operate cell towers in the country you’re visiting. Thus, if you need to access a data network, your phone will need to roam around and find a network with which it can work. By turning this off, you’re effectively blocking your phone from joining these partner networks.
Note: When you do want to use your data plan and access these data networks, you’ll flip this button back on. But remember, as a default, it’s best to keep this off.
Go to: Settings > Cellular > Data Roaming. Turn off.
(To make it easy, the iPhone even says “Turn data roaming off when traveling to avoid charges when web browsing and using email and other data services.”)
2. Turn off Cellular Data.
When I’m traveling in Europe, I usually turn off my cellular data, as well. Even if I’ve been assured many times by AT&T that I only need to turn off Data Roaming, I still turn off cellular data, just to make sure that my phone is blocked from using data until I want it to use data. (Apple also suggests turning both off when traveling abroad.)
By turning off your cellular data, you effectively block your phone from accessing all data networks, restricting its use to placing calls and sending SMS text messages, although you can use all of your other features (apps, email, Internet, iMessage) when you connect it to a Wi-Fi network.
Note that if you flip the order of #1 and #2 here, turning off your cellular data first, your data roaming will also turn off. You can’t roam for data if you’ve already turned off your phone’s access to data.
As with data roaming, if you want to use your data package, you’ll need to turn cellular data back on, then turn on data roaming.
Go to: Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data. Turn off. (Note that “Enable LTE” will also disappear as soon as you turn off Cellular Data.)
3. Cut off your apps’ cellular data connection.
Your apps can’t work without a data connection or a Wi-Fi network. Even so, you should go in through your cellular settings and manually turn your apps off to prevent them from hogging your data plan.
But wait, if you’re planning to already turn off your cellular data (by following the two previous steps), isn’t this a bit redundant? Not necessarily.
Don’t forget that many of us allow our apps to send us push notifications and to run on their own in the background. If you keep all of them activated, the moment that you turn on your data roaming in Paris to check your emails, they could kick into gear, tearing through your data allotment.
To prevent this, take a moment to scroll through your list of apps and turn off their data connection, one by one. (Note that you’ll need to do this prior to turning off your cellular data, as turning off your cellular data makes these buttons inaccessible.)
Once these apps have had their cellular data access turned off, they will still be usable over a Wi-Fi network. If you wish to use cellular data for these apps (for example, using Google Maps over cellular data, which I do all the time from abroad), simply turn them back on when you need them!
Go to: Settings > Cellular > Use Cellular Data For. Turn off apps, one by one.
4. Reset your statistics and monitor your data usage.
This one is fun and essential. At the very bottom of the “Cellular” page is a simple little link that states, “Reset Statistics”. Once you’ve arrived abroad, click this link and start tracking your international data usage. You’ll see your total data usage and your telephone usage at the top of the “Cellular” page (under “Cellular Data Usage”).
Keep track of your usage here and you shouldn’t come home to any unpleasant billing surprises, especially if you’ve purchased the right data package for your trip.
The only hiccup with this, unfortunately, is that the stats aren’t always totally up-to-date. It turns out that AT&T can have delays in reporting international data usage (as international carriers are actually providing you with the network and then, later, reporting it back to AT&T). I’d suggest erring on the side of caution here.
Go to: Settings > Cellular > Reset Statistics. Click it.
5. Turn “Fetch New Data” to “Manual” to stop automatic email downloads.
When I’m traveling, I also turn off my phone’s ability to automatically check and download emails. Even if my data roaming is almost always set to “off” (preventing me from accessing emails), I still don’t like my phone automatically fetching anything the moment I turn the data roaming to “on”.
Go to: Setting > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data. Switch “Push” to “Off” and click “Manually” at the bottom of the screen under “Fetch”.
Once switched to “Manually”, you’ll be able to check and send emails by turning on your data roaming and cellular data, then opening your mail program. Simple.