More Affordable International Data

I just got back from a weeklong trip to Australia (more on that later). The last time I traveled internationally, I signed up for one of AT&T’s “affordable” international data plans and used my phone sparingly so as to not go over the data limits. Even with my conservative usage, I ended up with a several hundred dollar bill.

I don’t mind paying for a service that I feel is fairly priced and beneficial to me, but if I have the choice between spending $500 on checking my email outside of the states or buying a new iPad, I am pretty sure I am getting a new iPad.

Before I boarded my flight to Australia, I pulled the SIM out of my iPhone 4S so that AT&T couldn’t even consider saying I was using international data. My 4S is locked to its carrier so I had little hope that I could buy a prepaid plan when I arrived in the country. My plan, instead, was to just use my iPhone in WiFi mode whenever I could find a hotspot, and just survive without ubiquitous access until I returned from my trip.

That was, until I discovered the Gevey SIM unlocker, which our hosts gave us on arrival. The Gevey is a small electronics board that sits between the SIM and the iPhone itself. The Gevey does some sort of black magic to “trick” the iPhone into thinking it is unlocked and capable of working on any network.

Coupled with a prepaid SIM from Telstra I was able to have data and an Australia number for the entire time I was there. No worries about data overages. When I ran out, I just topped it off and was back on my way.

Having an Australian phone number wasn’t too useful other than to connect with a few non-iPhone contacts I have in the Melbourne area. Otherwise, I asked everyone to keep in touch using Apple’s iMessage service. I had my friends and family just send text messages to my iMessage e-mail address rather than phone number and was able to keep in touch just as if I was still back home. As a bonus, the messages were showing up on both my iPhone and iPad at the same time.

That I do this all with Apple products is inconsequential. All of this is possible on an Android device as well. What is amazing to me is how just a few years ago, it seemed like traveling abroad was an invitation to leave your cell phone behind unless you had a trust fund to pay the bills. Now that the devices are so ingrained in our culture and lifestyle, it’s good to see that it’s possible that usage can extend to wherever we go and that the mobile carriers aren’t the ones dictating those rules.

About Justin

Justin Williams is the Crew Chief of Second Gear, makers of Glassboard. He writes about consumer technology, running a bootstrapped software business, and more from Denver, Colorado.

Follow @justin on Twitter or get new articles via @carpeaqua.