newbie iPhone user question for Europe

I searched but did not find the answer, so here goes: What is the best way to set up our ATT iPhone so that we can use the wi-fi feature in Europe, but turn off any incoming calls? ATT has told me there is not way to turn off the phone in Settings. ATT can block all calls, but we do want to be able to use the phone in case of emergency. The manual says Airplane mode turns off wifi as well. All I can think of is to keep the phone powered off, just turn it on when we want to use wifi, and hope no one calls us during this time. Is there a better way? Thanks!

Posted by Warren
Castlegar, BC, Canada
214 posts

If you put it into airplane mode, it will turn off both phone and WIFI. However, if you go into WIFI settings (just below the airplane mode button) you can turn it back on.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21458 posts

Barbara, It might be worthwhile to have a chat with AT&T regarding your options and costs when travelling in Europe. Regarding Voice Mail, their website states: "If your device is turned off or in flight mode and the wireless network is off: > When someone tries to call you, the call will go directly to your personal voicemail greeting. > Since the network does not try to deliver the call to you in a foreign country, there are no international roaming charges." However, if you've enabled the phone section to make a call (or whatever) and an incoming call is directed to Voice Mail at that time, this will occur: "When your device is on: > Calls that you do not answer that are routed to the AT&T voicemail system will be charged as an international roaming incoming call to your device. > In addition, the foreign carrier's routing of that call to the AT&T voicemail system may generate an outgoing call charge from your device's location to the U.S.
> These charges apply even if the caller disconnects from the voicemail system without leaving a message." It may be worthwhile to buy one of their Travel Packs? If you do enable your phone for calls, you'll also have to make absolutely sure that the data roaming is "OFF". Happy travels!

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
884 posts

Barbara, you should also be able to forward unconditionally all incoming calls to voicemail. There should be a way to do that through the phone's settings, but customer support can probably set it for you, too. If you're technically adept, you can even dial a string of GSM codes to do this. Because all incoming calls get sent straight to voicemail, there is no charge for a call bouncing overseas and then back to the U.S. voicemail service. I advise getting a google voice number and forwarding to that (google explains how to do this and I think will do it for you). Incoming messages are then transcribed (sometimes well, sometimes not) and you can get a text message or email, or both, to notify you of missed calls. Two big advantages to this approach: First, you can leave your phone on and incoming text messages will reach you. I'd sign up for an AT&T international plan for whatever advantages you get on the cost of text messages. Second, you can use your phone to make outgoing calls should you need to do so.

Posted by Barbara
Seattle, WA
128 posts

Thank you all so much. Ken, I spoke with AT&T. You are right. If I turn on my phone while in Europe I will be charged international rates for any voice mails left on my phone while it was off, whether or not I listen to them. Not great. Which brings me to Paul - I will check into forwarding calls and especially google voice mail. Clearly I have a lot to learn about the world of cell phones!

Posted by Daniel
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
74 posts

Barb, Just got back from Ireland and Scotland. Used my iPhone numerous times for wifi. I used the airplane mode only for the transatlantic flights. Otherwise, before we left US soil, I went into "Settings" then choose "general" then click on "network" At this point you can turn "cellular data" to the off position. Next "roaming" At this point you can turn off data roaming. Now you are all set to use wifi. I used mostly free wifi, but did purchase a 24 hour plan from a hotel for 3 Euros which also worked great. Now however, your iPhone is unusable as a phone, and I wouldn't risk turning it on unless of course there was an emergency, because you can accumulate huge voice and data roaming charges when you are out of the USA. For cell phone use, I had purchased a cheap Ireland cell phone from Tesco, and got a Tesco sim card which I topped up with 10 Euros time. This lasts forever, as it only costs about 5 cents per minute within Ireland, and only 2 cents per minute on calls to the USA. This option was much more economical than trying to get set up with an iPhone from Verizon for European use...they have a totally different system over there, and US cell phone are just not compatible. I have taken the above steps on 2 trips to Ireland in the past 18 months and have incurred no extra charges on my bill. Hope this helps...Rvflyer

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8335 posts

I don't see any advantage to going through several menus to shut off the same things that just clicking on "airplane mode" and turning on wifi would. Just remember, airplane mode shuts everything off, then you just turn on wifi. Simple. I carried my regular phone this way in Spain in May, and I had an unlocked GSM phone with a local SIM for calls, including calls to the US.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21458 posts

@Daniel, "they have a totally different system over there, and US cell phone are just not compatible." Just to clarify, that may be true for some Verizon iPhone models. The 4S models are compatible and should work fine in Europe, but I believe GSM roaming has to be enabled by Verizon. All versions of AT&T iPhone models should work in Europe. Cheers!