iPhone work in Italy?

How I can best use my iPhone 3GS while I'm in Italy for two weeks? I've been hearing about getting a SIM card locally. Will that work in my iPhone? I would love to be able to use my data/internet and GPS as well. Any experience and estimate of costs?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

James, the "short answer" is that your iPhone 3GS WILL work in Italy, however it's VERY important to note a few details. ¶ First of all, you WON'T be able to use your iPhone with local SIM cards unless it's "unlocked" (if you get the phone unlocked, it will normally RE-LOCK each time the firmware is uppgraded). If you're only going to be making occasional voice calls and using text, you might want to speak with AT&T regarding a "travel pack". That will reduce your costs somewhat, and you can cancel it when you get home. ¶ Using data / Internet is a different matter entirely. I believe AT&T have travel packs for data also, and others here can provide info on how that method worked for them (I don't deal with AT&T). Data roaming can be VERY expensive, so it's wise to make sure you consider this CAREFULLY, so that you don't come home and find a $3000 bill in your mailbox! ¶ One more point regarding a local SIM card - you will be able to buy a SIM card to provide voice and text service, but you likely WON'T be able to buy a PAYG SIM for data, as these are usually only offered to local residents, and on a contract plan. Since you don't have a local address and probably don't want to sign onto a term plan, this won't be an option for you AFAIK. ¶ I'd suggest switching OFF your data roaming before arriving in Italy, and checking the usage meter every so often to make sure it hasn't inadvertently switched back on. You'll still be able to use the Wi-Fi portion for data access (where this is available), but of course that won't allow web uses while you're out touring. Happy travels!

Posted by Cliff
Aiken, SC, United States
37 posts

I agree with Ken I am planning to take my iPhone as well. I've bought the Italy sim from brightroam.com and will make sure my phone is completely backed up before I leave then Jailbreak it (unlock it) so I can use the italy sim with it. I'll turn data roaming off so it can only be used in wifi hot spot. Once home I'll do a restore and all back to normal. I've tried this before and it works well. If you have not jailbroke an Phone before there are very good instructions on line, but do beware this is not supported by apple and if done wrong you can brick your phone. I suggest using and older 3G then if if bricks who care you upgrade to iPhone4

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

CLIFF, "you upgrade to iPhone4". Although I'm a big fan of Apple products, I've been reluctant to buy an iPhone so far. Basically, it doesn't communicate any better than my present phone if using voice or text, so the main additional benefits are E-mail and web surfing. ¶ However, when the iPhone 4 was introduced I started to become somewhat interested. Unfortunately, after researching it on the net, it appears that model has a few "problems" so I'll probably wait until the "experts" at Apple get those sorted. Some of the issues that I've seen so far are the well known "Antennagate" problem (the free case offer expires at the end of September so phones bought after that date will likely still have the problem, since re-engineering would likely mean new FCC certification); Faulty proximity sensor, which fails to disable the screen when the phone is held close to the user's face (that may be "fixable" by a firmware upgrade?); and finally numerous users have reported "yellow blotches" on the fancy new Retina display (perhaps the quality control on the displays needs a bit of a "tune-up"). ¶ If they can get these problems corrected, I'll consider upgrading my old "flip phone" to an iPhone 4. Cheers!

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

I have used my iPhone extensively in Italy and have never had a problem using it, except for the rather large bill when I got home. I have never jail-broken my phone and don't ever intend to. I'd rather just use my phone as intended and eat the charges. I won't risk turning my iPhone into an expensive paper weight. First of all, you will need to sign up for an "AT&T International Data Package". It is a flat rate plan where you purchase a certain number of Mb for a fixed price. I usually buy the 50 Mb ($59.99/mo.) plan. You will need to estimate how much data you will use and purchase accordingly. Second, you will need to sign up for the "AT&T World Traveler" voice package ($5.99/mo.) which will discount roaming charges from the usual $1.29/min. to $0.99/min. for both incoming and outgoing calls. This plan will also give you a text rate of $0.50 for each message sent and $1.30 for each photo or video message sent. Standard home rates apply for receiving texts. Both of these plans need to remain active on your account for two billing cycles as some charges will not necessarily show up right away. If you cancel too soon, any charges that show up late will be billed at the normal rates (ouch!). It has been my experience that with fairly modest use of my phone, I will usually end up with a bill for $500 to $600 spread out over two billing cycles when you figure in all the plan charges, roaming charges, fees, taxes, etc. http://www.wireless.att.com:80/learn/international/roaming/iphone-travel-tips.jsp

Posted by michelle
boston, ma, usa
134 posts

Hi James, We used my husbands iPhone 3GS in Italy w/no problems. Before you leave, contact ATT and discuss the best plan for your needs abroad. Cancel when you return. Obviously price will vary greatly depending on how much data you need. My son, while playing with the phone...., downloaded all the new "free" apps which put us way over the data plan we purchased! Lesson learned the hard way :)! We found it much easier than trying to purchase a "cheap" phone and then have to provide info to anyone who needs to reach you.

Posted by Webdweeb
SoCal
20 posts

I've got 3 iPhones (2G original, unlocked, FW 3.13), 3G (also unlocked, FW 4.01) and the iPhone 4 (FW 4.02, not yet unlocked-NA for my firmware). My experience in England with my 2G iPhone was very positive-I got a PAYG SIM card with 100 minutes and unlim data for about £20, which made the iPhone very useful as a map and app device (even with its slower EDGE data rates). I am hoping to find a similar deal in Italy-Vodafone, TIM and WIND all offer PAYG SIMs with various voice, data and message options that are available in many stores there, most of which are moderately to significantly cheaper than the international plans offered by AT&T. BTW, not all 3GS iPhones can be unlocked at this time-there are numerous forums that discuss this, but it depends on your current firmware and modem baseband firmware versions as to the ability to unlock it. Also, jailbreaking is NOT the same as unlocking-you need the former to do the latter, but jailbreaking does not always guarantee that you can unlock. A cardinal rule if you plan to unlock your iPhone is to NEVER do it before you confirm the availability of an unlock and/or jailbreak for that software version-otherwise, you may end up having to wait awhile for the next firmware update (and the jailbreak that is developed for it). If you want more info or advice, feel free to contact me via PM. If any of this is a rehash of previous posts, my apologies in advance. Good luck.

Posted by Webdweeb
SoCal
20 posts

Ken, FWIW, I have not experienced any of the published problems with my iPhone 4 (display issues, signal strength issues, etc). In fact, it is superior to my other two in every conceivable way-better reception, MUCH faster response time, much better quality display. It may be my luck of the draw, but I have several friends with iPhone 4s that have the same experience as me, ie, no issues. I use mine for email and voice, it really shines as a texting device, and the travel apps I have for it for our upcoming Italy trip make it an indispensible travel companion. THe 2G iPhone made our England trip much easier to manage and I expect that will also be the case with the iPhone 4. Good luck with your decision.

Posted by Nadine
Austin, TX, USA
492 posts

Neither hubby or myself has had any problems with our iPhone 4s either. You can't unlock a US iPhone 4 yet, so its best to turn off the data roaming, sign up for an international plan and use the wifi only when possible to reduce roaming charges. We've had each version of the iPhone and used them in Italy, no problems and never had the outrageous bills some people have had.