After hearing all the horror stories about smartphone users coming back from overseas with their Apple iPhone and being surprised (or shocked) by their iPhone bills (in the hundreds or maybe one thousand plus dollars), I thought I would do my homework and talk to the AT&T customer service, and get the real story.
After about a half-hour call, I did get the story, and not sure yet if it is the complete story, but at least it is a start. Here is what the story looked like, and I hope that this will help make my come back to the U.S. easier with no major surprises. So here are the pieces of information that I gathered:
a) It seem that adding an interntional package is the answer. The international package can range from $29.00 or so for a 20 MB data plan, to $60.00 or so for a 50 MB data plan.
b) The customer service rep recommended turning automatic retrieve of e-mail off, which can be done from the iPhone handset. I am not sure if that will help much, because once I retrieve e-mail manually, it is going to retrieve everything, and download the same amount of data. But maybe the automatic checking of e-mail has some cost associated with it. Still to be determined.
c) In terms of e-mail attachments, it doesn't seem to be possible to turn off the downloading of attachments. This is interesting because it means the 20 MB and 50 MB may be taking up pretty quickly.
d) It seems that voice mail (the more sophisticated "visual" voice mail in the Apple iPhone) could also be very costly overseas. Voice mail messages seem to be downloaded as data, and therefore a long message translates to lots of data (i.e. lots of megabytes). This can eat up the 20 MB or 50 MB very quickly. The suggested solution here was to disable voice mail during my trip. This is not something I can do myself from the iPhone handset. I need to call the AT&T customer service to do that.
e) How about phone usage? The per minute charge in Germany for instance is $1.29, but with the international package, the cost per minute drops to $0.99. Sending text messages and picture messages cost $0.5 and $1.30 respectively. Receiving text messages and picture messages depends on your home plan, and doesn't seem to incur extra charnges.
So what is the conclusion so far?
- Get one of the international packages before you travel
- Tell everyone you know to refrain from sending you big attachments (let us see if I will be able to find a more elegant solution)
- Disable voice mail before you go by calling AT&T and then re-enable it when you get back
- Remember that every minute on the phone while overseas will cost you at leat $1, so be concise, precise, and talk fast.
There will more on the topic as I continue to gather information, and then the final and important report will take place when I get back.
Happy overseas traveling and iPhoning!