How to Unlock AT&T iPhone 4, 4s and 5: Factory, IMEI Based Solution Without Jailbreaking
As the summer officially kicked in, many iPhone users are looking forward to their vacation trips which may take place abroad. The only problem: you still have to sort out how to use your iPhone abroad without having to pay exorbitant roaming charges. Or, are they really that exorbitant, after all? Let’s take a look at the prices and your options.
As Eric Taub researched in his article “Roam the World and Keep the Cellphone on a Budget”, the major U.S. carries have taken a few steps towards devising smarter solutions for their traveling customers. Basically, you will need to sign up for a reduced oversees calling plan with AT&T to use their discounted voice and data rates. For voice, AT&T’s rates start at $30 for 30 minutes of calls. Text packages start at $10 for 50 texts. As for data, AT&T has three levels priced by the month: 120 megabytes for $30, 300 megabytes for $60 and 800 megabytes for $120. If you are guessing that these rates vary widely depending on the country of your destination – you guessed right!
The $30/30 min plan only applies to calls made in the Europe region. For the rest of the world, the average charge is $30/15 min, that is $2/min (and even higher for a number of countries). The data is charged uniformly at the above rates and the list of countries includes most of the locations that most of us will travel to anyway.Data speeds will, of course, vary depending on the network used in each particular location. Most countries are still on 3G or lower.
Get AT&T to Unlock Your iPhone
As you are probably anticipating, it may be cheaper to use a local carrier to make calls and surf the web. First, you will need to get an official unlock for your iPhone if it is still in contract. And then, buy a local SIM card for the country of your destination. Here, you will have to do the research yourself, however. You may buy a SIM card of a local carrier right at the airport after touch-down, or, buy it online from one of the international SIM card vendors. Either way, trial and error and looking through forums and Yahoo! answers can fit best each particular situation since all countries and their wireless providers vary big time. Notice that the data speeds will vary too. Here is a quick example.
Choose a Foreign Carrier Wisely
If you got used to AT&T’s 4G LTE speeds here in U.S., be informed that in Great Britain, for instance, most carriers are still on 3G and 2G connections and the only provider that offers 4G in GB is EE.co.uk and only with a 30-day minimum plan costing £28/1Gb of data (still much less than what AT&T would charge you on their international data plan). There is a pay-as-you-go option for which one can order a free SIM right away but the provider of choice will be UK Orange that operates on a 3G network. Also, remember that 4G can only be used on iPhone 5 models. If you have iPhone 4 or 4s, 3G is your only option.
Useful Tip: To keep data costs down use Wi-Fi wherever possible.
Jargon Terms to Remember
iPhone unlock – a process by which a carrier releases an unlock on your iPhone for use with other carriers. Lock in is used to prevent users from switching to other service providers for in-contract iPhones.
Factory unlock – a factory unlock provides the official iPhone unlock performed in the Apple’s database directly by the carrier using only your device’s IMEI number.
IMEI code – International Mobile Equipment Identity number that is used to uniquely identify your iPhone in Apple’s official database. The number allows to quickly look up your device’s status such as whether it is carrier locked or unlocked, reported lost or stolen, etc.
iPhone (iOS) Jailbreaking – iPhone jailbreaking is a process by which one patches the iPhone’s operating System (iOS) in order to modify the kernel of the system which will then permit installing apps that have not been authorized by Apple. This process requires third party software to be executed on your computer and iPhone and may result in forfeited warranty for your handset. Check this popular Wiki article if you need more information on iPhone jailbreaking.