iPhone 3G Global Roaming == Expensive

The global roaming bill

Okay so here we go. Aside from the regular personal stuff I do like go to LAN parties and eating Japanese food way too much, I’m going to start writing some more useful stuff in here too.

For starters, I figured I should cover how my mobile phone coverage while I was in Japan went. 🙂
I have an iPhone 3G on the Optus Yes $39 plan… something which I adore very much hehe. So before going to Japan, I did some research on how to set up my phone to work while I was over in Japan. Another blog I read really helped me on this… and if I remember it, I’ll post the address here. XP

Anyway, getting an Optus phone globally enabled isn’t hard. You simply call up customer service and request to have it enabled. At this point, if there are any hardware concerns that may arise (technology compatibilities etc), the operator will probably tell you about this. They’ll also probably put the spill on you to get your phone travel insured. I’m still not sure if this was a good idea or not, but I’ve signed up. XP

In my case, I was using a pre-paid plan SIM card from my previous plan to power my iPhone. The operator warned me about this and told me to go buy a ‘Universal Card’ from the shops.
Sadly, none of the attendents at the shop had actually heard of a ‘Universal Card’ before, so I was left scratching my head. Fortunately, after a bit of Googling, I found that the guy must have meant ‘3G Sim Card’, which my local Optus store was selling for around 25 bucks.

Okay, so when I arrived in Japan, I turned my phone on, and after a bit of confusion (it displayed the iTunes logo, so I rebooted it again) it connected to the SoftBank network. 🙂
At this point, I discovered that I couldn’t use data downloading (Call me a n00b. I didn’t know data roaming was disabled. XD), so the phone could basically do calls and SMS, and no more.

The phone worked great. It was easy to make calls and easy to receive them (IIRC, no country code was actually needed). Although I received SMS messages from Australian friends however, I couldn’t send or receive from Japanese mobiles. 🙁

Finally 2 days before going home… I discovered data roaming was off, and so I switched it on hahaha…… it presents you with a warning basically saying ‘This may cost you a lot of money’… which I clicked OK to. (I’ll get to this later hehe)
It was really great to have internet access again and since I was riding on a bullet train, I spent like the whole time playing on my iPhone hehehehe.

I probably should point out that the quality was pretty intermittent too, when I was walking around, there were several points where the data connection would drop.

And finally, when I got home to Perth, the phone switched back to good ol’ Optus with no troubles at all. 😀

…… I got the phone bill a few days ago. O_o

I normally pay roughly 100 bucks a month for the phone (40 for the plan, 60 to pay off the phone over 12 months)… but this time…. I got a bill for just over 250 dollars!! O_O
Just to be clear, that’s like 250% of what I normally pay haha.

I’m not reeeally surprised by it… I was expecting it to be around that much…
From the looks of it, the most expensive part was definitely the data roaming. So Apple’s warning message is quite justified.

What scares me a bit though, is if I knew of roaming at the start, and turned it on from the beginning, then it would have destroyed my bank account. O_O!!
So, I’m definitely taking this as a close call… and I’ll definitely keep it in mind for next time.

Just to emphasize… if you do go over, it’s probably best to turn data roaming off unless you reeeeally need it. Even if the phone is idling in your pocket, it does stuff like mail checking and the likes, so it’s best to just turn it off.
Also, if you use your phone, even moderately, odds are it’s going to be more expensive than normal.

So, there we go. Hopefully this information was useful to some people considering going overseas with their iPhones. 🙂


P.S I attached a pic of the bill (Hopefully I managed to tag and pull off the correct sensitive bits. XD) so you can have a look at what a roaming bill looks like.
I’m still not sure, but it appears ‘GPRS’ was the most expensive part haha.

  • Published February 20, 2009
  • Categories Tech