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I-Phone Help for Data Roaming

Greetings all --

I'm looking for a very simple layman's explanation for using my Iphone 5 on my upcoming trip. I've previously taken it abroad, and maybe just lucked out or guessed on the fly about data usage. But I'd like to be more knowledgeable this time. I signed up for an international plan with my carrier (Verizon) during my trip for a monthly fee.

So here's a hypothetical. I'm out and about the city and there is no Wi-Fi hotspot. And I have turned off "Cellular Data" under Settings or switched on "airplane mode." (By the way, what's the difference? * ) I now need to go online and make a reservation for tomorrow's visit to a museum for a timed entrance and let's say I don't want to wait until I am back at my hotel. What do I do?

Let's then say I need to call someone right away while I am out. Can I just use the phone as a phone by doing something?

*Airplane mode turns off cellular data roaming, but doesn't it also turn off wi-fi right? So then, what?

I'm a bright guy, and can't be the only one who finds this technology confusing. I understand using wi-fi in a hotel (with password and network) but using in on the go is what I don't quite get.

Thanks!

Posted by
247 posts

Check with T-Mobile and see if your phone is compatible with their network. T-Mobile has plans with unlimited text and data in Europe with very solid coverage. There's no contract so you can cancel after your trip is over.

Note: Phone calls are fairly expensive though so I'd use Skype's app to make/receive calls without any annoying per-minute charges.

Posted by
901 posts

For those of us with questions similar to Todd's who do not happen to have service through T-Mobile with its international coverage, I also would appreciate answers to these questions.

Posted by
215 posts

Just. Heads up....I have 2 friends that went to Verizon (their usual cell carrier) to get phones that would work in Europe. Both were assured the phone would work. One went to Italy with my hubby and I, the other to Ireland just recently. The friend that went to Italy with us, the phone worked only sporadically. The friend that went to Ireland, the phone did not work at all.
I have phones on ATT and TMobile, so far they have worked everywhere we've been. We call and text, don't bother with data and use wifi where available.
If you turn off cellular data you can call, text and use wifi, in airplane mode you can't text, call, use data or wifi unless you turn on wifi in settings.
I have a 4s.
With no wifi, you'll need to turn data on to access the Internet to make the reservation.
When I travel abroad, I turn my cellular data off at my home airport and don't turn it on again until I get home. Wifi is always on, I typically turn my phone off during flights so I don't usually bother to put it in airplane mode. My iPad I do put in airplane mode.

Posted by
1761 posts

You are better off conserving data by turning off "Data Roaming" instead of using "Airplane Mode". Most people use Airplane mode because they don't know where or what "data roaming" is. Airplane mode turns off the cellphone, bluetooth,messaging, Wifi and data roaming. There is no need to turn all those off if you just want to conserve data.

I would be surprised if your Verizon phone works in Europe for data related functions unless you have what they refer to as a "World Phone".

How many GB does your International plan allow for data and how much talk and text? What does it cost?

How many countries do you plan to visit and for how long? You may be better off with an unlocked phone and local sim card.

Do you carry an Ipad? Using your phone as a hotspot to while it is on data and tethering your tablet is the easiest way to make online reservations on the fly when wifi isn't available. It is also much more secure for anything requireing credit cards or passwords.

Posted by
506 posts

Just returned 17 days in Italy with an Iphone 5, we are Verizon customers, we signed up for an international plan that cost $40.00, 100 minutes of talk and free incoming text, 100 out going text. Had no problem using it all over Italy. We turned off Data while we were out for the day and turned it back on when we could hook into WiFi at the hotel. But we made calls back to the US and sent and received text and even had to make a call to the hotel in the Cinque Terre and had no problems what so ever.

Posted by
1761 posts

We turned off Data while we were out for the day and turned it back on
when we could hook into WiFi at the hotel.

Are you referring to "Data Roaming"? If you only accessed the Internet when on a WiFi connection you probably never used any of the data available through the $40 plan. How much data were you allowed on the plan?

Posted by
30971 posts

Judy,

"We turned off Data while we were out for the day and turned it back on when we could hook into WiFi at the hotel."

That doesn't make sense? Turning data "off" while you're out for the day will avoid expensive data roaming charges, but it's not necessary to turn data "on" to access Wi-Fi.

Todd,

To begin with, some information on "Airplane Mode". When airplane mode is activated, ALL transmitting functions are disabled, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You will of course need to use that during flights, but it's not necessary when touring cities. With the phone in "Airplane Mode" on flights, I can still listen to music, videos or use any of the apps that don't require access to the internet.

In order to limit usage of cellular data, I normally leave Cellular Data switched "OFF" when out touring, and only turn it on if I need access to the internet for a brief time. I leave Bluetooth turned "off" all the time, as I don't use it and doing so minimizes battery drain.

I don't use Verizon so don't know how well their roaming arrangements work in Europe. Your phone will probably automatically select the strongest network in each area, but if you find that you have erratic service you could try changing the network.

I like to reset the usage meter at the beginning of trips, and then check periodically to see how much data I've used. There have been a few reports here that if the phone is completely turned off, the "Cellular Data" switch may turn on when the phone is turned on. You'll have to monitor that if you turn the phone off for any reason.

Posted by
4500 posts

Ken has a thorough answer and I'll just add a few more things.

Do not use airplane mode when not on the airplane. It disables all transmissions and you won't be able to use the phone for calls, texts, wifi or Bluetooth. If you use just airplane mode off and on, you'll turn on data once you turn off the airplane mode.

Instead, turn off cellular data and that will still allow you to make calls and texts and connect with wifi networks. To use wifi, you will need to go into that setting and search for the wifi network. Tap on the network you want to use and it will connect you (with or without a password depending on the network).

With an international plan, you SHOULD be able to make calls and texts - but sometimes not. Depends on local service and cellular networks. Check carefully if that plan has a data usage provision and limit (note that data usage, calls and texts are all separate things). Be VERY aware that data usage not covered is VERY expensive. Even turning on data for a few minutes can mean a lot of data usage. Most people have phones with automatic updates, emails and such. All of those apps will "get busy" once you turn on data, even if you aren't using them. I would never turn on data unless it was an emergency. Not even at the hotel or when you have wifi. The wifi network is a separate connection, there is never a need to turn on data.

Posted by
1761 posts

Google maps is a great reason to turn on your "Roaming Data" feature. Just make sure you have a local sim or a data allowance in your International plan.

Posted by
193 posts

Thanks everyone. Very helpful!

I tend to be pretty traditional when out and about, using paper maps and the like, but it is good to know the options. I have the same international plan as Judy.

Posted by
193 posts

Thanks everyone. Very helpful!

I tend to be pretty traditional when out and about, using paper maps and the like, but it is good to know the options. I have the same international plan as Judy.

Posted by
506 posts

Yes we used a small amount of Data while we were out. Some map usage and looking at email a couple of times. There is a meter that shows you how much you have used. So it is easy to make sure you are not going over the allowed amount on the plan. My girlfriend has an Iphone 6 and her setting are a bit different so you might want to test drive all your feature before you go. Just paid the Verizon bill and it was exactly $40.00, nothing extra. Sorry that I made a mistake on the data, I thought my husband turned it back on, but that does not make sense. So we probably just turned it back on when out and wanted to look up something.

Posted by
516 posts

I have an iPhone 4s with AT&T Wireless and whenever I travel I purchase one of their global/international plans. These international packages have changed somewhat over the years to respond to changing needs of travelers but for the most part they offer you a package consisting of talk time, text messages, and data, while you are overseas at a more affordable rate than if you were simply "roaming."

The alternative to not purchasing such a package and still wanting to you use your phone while overseas would be "roaming." This is where you just show up in a foreign country, take out your phone, and start calling, texting, surfing the net, as you would back home and your service provider will charge you roaming rates for those same calls, texts, and data used to surf the net. I've never done it this way (and I'm not sure anyone would if they knew better), but the costs are astronomical if you truly are using your phone to the same extent as you do back home. I just checked AT&T's website and here are their global package plans: http://www.att.com/shop/wireless/international/roaming.html

There's a lot of talk here about turning off the data on your phone or going into airplane mode while overseas to prevent being charged for data. However, one interesting thing that I like to do is actually leave data on (because I've purchased an overseas packaged as described above) and also turn on the "location services" feature for my phone camera. This feature will allow every photo you take to have it's location recorded by your phone's GPS. Now when you go to review your photos later on you'll never have to wonder where a certain photo was taken.

Posted by
823 posts

What I am about to say applies to iPhones beginning with the fourth generation. Whether or not it applies to android or windows phones, I can't say...

Airplane mode turns off the cellular transmission but leaves the WIFI available (if active). Whether or not is disables the Bluetooth, I couldn't say..

If you're friends and family have iPhones, Facetime seems much more reliable than Skype over WIFI. Just my experience...

The BEST option is to take an UNLOCKED GSM phone and get a local SIM card. If your ATT/T-Mobile phone is unlocked, you can insert a local SIM and use it. If you have a Sprint or Verizon iPhone 5s or 6, you might be able to get those companies to unlock the GSM radio for the time you're in Europe but don't count on it. (The internet is littered with blogs full of complaints that Spring and Verizon refuse to unlock their phones.)

If you want to use your phone for web surfing, calling local or home, and texting, the best option is an unlocked phone and a local SIM. While in London, I paid GBP20.00 for a prepaid SIM with GBP0.03 per minute calling to USA and 2GB of cellular data (plus free access to the telecom's WIFI metropolitan area network). It looks like I'll be spending about 20.00 euro for the same service in Italy...

Just my 2 cents worth...

Todd

Posted by
823 posts

What I am about to say applies to iPhones beginning with the fourth generation. Whether or not it applies to android or windows phones, I can't say...

Airplane mode turns off the cellular transmission but leaves the WIFI available (if active). Whether or not is disables the Bluetooth, I couldn't say..

If you're friends and family have iPhones, Facetime seems much more reliable than Skype over WIFI. Just my experience...

The BEST option is to take an UNLOCKED GSM phone and get a local SIM card. If your ATT/T-Mobile phone is unlocked, you can insert a local SIM and use it. If you have a Sprint or Verizon iPhone 5s or 6, you might be able to get those companies to unlock the GSM radio for the time you're in Europe but don't count on it. (The internet is littered with blogs full of complaints that Spring and Verizon refuse to unlock their phones.)

If you want to use your phone for web surfing, calling local or home, and texting, the best option is an unlocked phone and a local SIM. While in London, I paid GBP20.00 for a prepaid SIM with GBP0.03 per minute calling to USA and 2GB of cellular data (plus free access to the telecom's WIFI metropolitan area network). It looks like I'll be spending about 20.00 euro for the same service in Italy...

Just my 2 cents worth...

Todd

Posted by
925 posts

The Verizon plan is 100 minutes voice (that includes incoming calls!), you can send 100 texts (if you text a group of three people that counts as three texts), receive unlimited texts. 40 bucks. Oh, and you only get 100 mb of data for the whole month. Todd, just turn cellular data OFF and leave it off unless emergency. 100 mb flies like the wind.

Posted by
30971 posts

Just to clarify, Airplane mode switches off all transmitter functions, including cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, the latter two can be switched back on individually if desired (although not advisable on a commercial flight, unless that offers Wi-Fi service).

Posted by
350 posts

I have an older iphone and only know the simplest laymans way to use it. I can turn on airplane mode, then go right under that and turn wifi back on. This means no phone calls and no texting until you go back out of airplane mode - only wifi. To make a call or use data when you have no wifi, cancel airplane mode - it's quick and easy. When I did that, I also got voicemails loaded to my phone at $1 per minute with the AT&T global plan - Gee thanks. Anyway, it wasn't a huge deal, but know it can happen.

You can turn off cellular data while you are out of airplane mode to be able to still make or receive calls or texts, but ensure you don't accidentally use data and go over your limit. To get to turn off cellular data, I have to go into settings - general. Airplane mode, and wifi toggles are right at the top under settings.

To the best of my knowledge, while you are in airplane mode, cellular data is always off, but turning off cellular data while not in airplane mode will still allow calls and texts.

Posted by
1994 posts

I have used Verizon's international plan during several trips to Italy, as well as trips to other parts of Europe. I have had no trouble with cellular coverage on my iPhone 5, even in a very remote part of the Marche. I also found them to be very good at notifying me before charging me for another increment of data. Last trip I was in Italy for almost a month and I used less than $50 worth of data. As someone previously suggested – I kept cellular data turned off and turned it on only when I needed to look up something.

Of particular importance – make sure the set up is done by their global department, not the regular representatives. Twice – once in Italy and once in France – I had a dead phone upon arrival and had to call them on a land-line phone to correct the set up. In both those cases, the regular representatives did the set up.

In my experience with Verizon, you need to be extremely assertive to be put through to the global folks. The regular representatives almost seemed to be under pressure to not transfer callers to global. I have had no trouble when the global representatives did the set up.