Moving to the U.K. — iPhone Headache

So, first question: I’ve had an iPhone for a year and a half, and am well-pleased with it. But I can’t simply hop over to Glasgow and keep using it, due to the onerous restrictions and back-breaking roaming charges that the telcos impose.
I know I can go to AT&T and ask that they cancel the remainder of my contract with htem, so long as I can prove that I’m actually moving out of AT&T’s empire. The quetsion is, What then do I do with the iPhone itself, and what do I do about mobile communications in Glasgow?
Option one might be to carry the iPhone around as an overequipped iPod Touch, useful in wifi-equipped locations (such as the University campus) but otherwise ust good for music, camera, and games. I’d then find a cheap mobile solution in the U.K. for phone and for texting with Margaret.
Option two would be to hand down the iPhone to someone else in the family, and start fresh in Glasgow. Although I’m an Apple enthusiast, I’m not opposed to experimenting with an Android phone, if there’s a plausible (and affordable) candidate.
I could also try to sell the iPhone, for that matter.
Option three would be just to start up a new iPhone contract with O2, using the same unit. Would I be able to swap SIMs in and out, so that I could use it with AT&T on a per-use basis here, and with O2 under contract there?
Option four is the one that I haven’t even thought up yet, but my savvy Net friends know right away.
I’m sure that someone out there has a better handle on this than I. We need to keep this solution affordable, because we have weighty expenses coming up; but Margaret and I also need to be able to keep in touch, and we’ve gotten accustomed to texting on our current plan. And mobile web use has become part of my daily life (I’d be embarrassed to admit this, except that it constitutes part of my vocation as a theo-technologian, so I can abashedly rationalize it.) But the experience of moving overseas underscores the absurdity of a telecommunications system where we pay so much to uphold barriers to useability.

8 thoughts on “Moving to the U.K. — iPhone Headache

  1. With the wi-fi capabilities you will have on the Glasgow campus, your cheapest solution would be to create an account with Skype (, and sign up for one of its low-cost plans that lets you make wireless calls to, and people call you from, either other computers with the Skype software on them, or even land-line phones. The former calls are actually free; the land-line calls cost a bit, but you can buy an inexpensive plan just for the UK. The iPhone Application Store has a free download of a special Skype application just for it. Also, for computers having built-in Webcams, Skype lets you do free video with voice calls.

    Happy Skyping!

  2. Here, via a request from @littlemee. I’m in much the same boat – had an iPhone on contract with AT&T stateside, don’t use it as a mobile over here. I looked into the switchable SIM option with O2, but they didn’t want to to touch it.

    There’s an angle for Skype you may not be aware of. The 3 network, have a deal on Pay-As-You-Go where, if you have a 3 SIM, you get free Skype-to-Skype calls, permanently. You don’t even have to top up the SIM. What does that mean? Get a cheap handset (I plumped for the INQ1, for about £70) and I have free Skype calls whenever I’m in coverage for the 3 network – which is 3G and widespread. It’s a sweet deal.

    Their prices for text packages are great, too. Top up with just £5 and you get cheap minutes and hundreds of free texts. Their mobile internet access (whether on the handset, using a 3G dongle, which they also give away free, or using a handset as modem, as I do with the INQ1) is the best value I could find.

    I had a Nokia N95 on contract with T-Mobile, and then moved it to Pay as You Go – at which point I realised that T-Mobile are rip-off merchants. So I’ve ported that to 3 as well. So yes, I lug three handsets around with me – but that’s just me! 🙂

    Hope this helps,


  3. Sister Dylan, your interest is noted. I’ll keep in touch as we work out a plan — but it’s a big family, too.

  4. Hi AKMA!
    Congratz on moving to Glasgow!
    As for the iPhone, just yesterday I read on the newspaper (USA Today, International Edition, front page article by Leslie Cauley: “Some iPhone owners chafing at links to AT&T”) that even when the 2 years contract had been fulfilled and the customer was moving to Australia, his request to AT&T to “unlock” his iPhone -so he could do what you suggest on option 3- was denied. Also, you won’t be able to use Skype on the iPhone since AT&T blocks it because it competes with them. Perhaps you will need to leave the iPhone behind and find some other solution in UK.
    Best luck over there! Enjoy!

  5. Well, it would seem to me that since AT&T are not the only service provider in the US, if they prove uncooperative about unlocking your phone, you could convince them by offering to post the story of your problems with them on your blog and your Facebook page. 🙂 Read your contract carefully and if it actually says that you can break it because you move overseas, you would also have legal options. In Australia, there is a government agency that is responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses comply with the competition, fair trading and consumer protection laws. All one needs to do is mention them and most businesses back down very quickly if you have the law on your side. I imagine there is something similar in the US.

    When my daughter went to Germany on exchange, we got her ordinary mobile phone network unlocked and then got a new SIM for her from a company that specialises in providing international calls for people who are travelling. They were based in the UK, but I can’t remember their name – found them using Google. We had no trouble switching SIMs, except that it is a pain because you have to turn the phone off and pull it apart. The problem will be if O2 wants you to have a plan that requires you to have your iPhone locked to their network for the first however many months. My experience is that the cheaper the plan, the longer the network lock needs to be.

    Note that when you send SMS messages internationally, most service providers don’t guarantee that they’ll be delivered, at least under certain circumstances. You should ask about this specifically, rather than assuming that you and Margaret will continue to be able to text one another, regardless of what you end up doing in the way of handsets.

    Skype is excellent for conversations. I used it when I was in Texas for five weeks and my husband was in Australia. Time zone differences are challenging, of course, but we found a time when we were both available.

    And finally, good luck. And congratulations on your new position.

  6. I cast my vote for Skype, too. It is totally free anywhere in the world as long as you’re Skyping computer-to-computer. When Sarah was in Japan a year ago we Skyped as easily as we do in the US.

    If you Skype to a landline phone (or cell phone) there is a small cost. My nephew is going to be in China next year, and my sister says it’ll be only $13 a month to pay for unlimited calls to any number there.

    Skype is available for iPhones now, but I haven’t seen a need to download it. My brother has an iTouch and put Skype on it. He can’t get video, of course, but he bought an earphone-microphone setup that works fine. (Also, with iTouch you do have to be within WiFi range, unlike an iPhone.) Maybe, just maybe you could use Skype on your iPhone???

    And, however you do it, you don’t have to use the video part of Skype.

    I was thinking that you could keep your iPhone and use the camera feature (so handy!) and upload to your computer for distribution.

    Good luck! (With Everything!!!)

  7. – Cancel AT&T.
    – Unlock your iPhone.
    – Pick up an O2 (or whichever is the best plan for your needs) SIM card in the UK. £30 is the cheapest O2 monthly tariff for iPhones with unlimited data.
    – Skype does Skype-to-Skype calls free on WiFi connected iPhones, text IM only on 3G.
    – Unlimited data gets you wall to wall email/browsing anywhere.

    I have a 2 yr old Nokia N95 (locked to Orange, but easily unlockable) you could have, it’s only had about 6 months use if you needed a phone for texting/basic mail etc.

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