When Travelling Internationally, Pop Out The iPhone SIM Card To Check Email Without Huge Roaming Charges

By using a paperclip to pop out the SIM card, reader John can check his email on his iPhone while traveling internationally without racking up ridiculous roaming/data transfer charges, as shown in this video he made us. The result is basically a WiFi enabled PDA / iPod.

A handy tip that could’ve saved a couple people a few thousand dollars *cough* And This Is Your $4190.76 iPhone Bill *cough* iPhone/AT&T $3,000 International Roaming Bill Serves As Cruel Warning…or you can always just get a prepaid local SIM card, providing you’ve already unlocked your iPhone, of course.


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  1. forwarddeployed says:

    This of course doesn’t help if you need to keep the SIM in your phone for normal overseas (voice) related use. . .

  2. Maurs says:

    Yeah, but you could always add a third party VOIP appli- whoops, right, nevermind.

  3. Rob C says:

    “The result is basically a WiFi enabled PDA / iPod.”

    -you mean like an iPod Touch?? …

  4. Parting says:


    It’s better be left at home, while traveling.

    You’ll save a lot of money, and will not run the risk of getting it stolen.

    (I’ve seen people their smart phones stolen, even when the thief knows that he’ll never be able to use it as a phone)

  5. lafond66 says:


  6. erockO says:

    can’t you switch between wi-fi and gsm anyway? or is this just acting as a failsafe in case it doesn’t pick up wifi?

  7. darex says:

    You mean like what I do, and have done, for years with all my unlocked GSM smartphones when traveling in Europe?

    Oh…with the exception of the fact that I don’t need to pop out my sim card to enter wifi mode. :-P

    Pre-paid local sims are always the better way to go.

    How innovative! Welcome to the wonderful world of old-school GSM phone life.

  8. itsgene says:

    The problem with this is that even without checking mail, the iPhone accesses EDGE on its own all the time. I turned off mail checking, and turned on Wifi, and didn’t do anything but let the phone sit for a few minutes… and when I picked it up again, the usage screen told the tale: it had downloaded 200k of data while idle. So as soon as you put that SIM back in, it starts using edge even if there’s no app open to do so. I have no idea what is causing it but if I go travelling internationally, I won’t be taking the phone at all.

  9. davere says:

    I really don’t understand why Apple doesn’t allow you to turn data off. Like “Airplane mode” but still letting voice services work. That’d be perfect because you can still make/receive calls as needed, but you do not get stuck with ridiculously high data rates where it costs over $10 to open a single web page.

  10. girly says:

    This whole thing with the excessive charges reminds me of that story where the Duke campus network was being flooded by connection requests from iphones.

    Now they’re blaming Cisco, but really should the iPhone be acting like that even if the “fault” is somewhere else?

    I wonder if his phone was doing more checking than it needed to.

  11. girly says:

    Kind of ironic that apple has a user-friendly, intuitive reputation and the iphone requires all these techie work-arounds.

  12. Karl says:

    Of course, you’ll need to unlock your iPhone before it’ll allow you to use a local prepaid SIM. The cheapest way to do this involves opening up your iPhone and shorting out a data line. Thank you, AT&T!

  13. maevro says:

    Yeah, a phone that runs EDGE is worth all of this.

  14. umonster says:

    I thought Apple was all about simplicity.

  15. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Be careful! If you don’t use the official iPaperclip (sold separately), you’ll void your warranty! ;-)

  16. uricmu says:

    I thought that AT&T had changed the phone so that you can’t use it in Wifi mode without a SIM card.

    But anyway, I would be careful about using iPhone with a simcard because visual voice mail probably polls the server every few minutes.

  17. dix99 says:

    Well, this is how I see it. You live in Michigan (let’s say this is AT&T), pay you auto taxes & plate fees & it covers the costs of you driving on the roads. Then you make a trip to Ohio (lets say this is BT/British Telecom) & hit a Toll Road, you know, the ones you have to pay extra for. You may complain, because you shouldn’t have to pay again, but AT&T doesn’t own that road, just like the Network in Britain, BT does. This is why they can raise that Toll Fee to what ever they want. You may not like the AT&T Bill you get at the end of the month, but they had no say in these Roaming prices, BT did. So please, let’s quit bashing AT&T & Apple & take you problems up with the foreign company’s who set those prices.

  18. TVarmy says:

    @dix99: But AT&T sets the roaming prices! There’s a much cheaper roaming data plan arbitrarily only available for Blackberries, but they won’t bring it to the iPhone. I’d understand if AT&T wanted to charge a premium for the iPhone international roaming, since it would be using more data as it is a more multimedia oriented device. However, AT&T only has one roaming plan for the iPhone and it isn’t affordable.

  19. catita says:

    I just returned from a trip to Ireland, and I had a SIM-free iPhone with me for the duration. Obviously I couldn’t make calls with it, but since the iPhone is still locked to Cingular, I couldn’t have made calls even with a foreign SIM. Despite all that, the PDA and iPod features were invaluable.

  20. that’s needlessly complex. just go into Settings -> Phone -> SIM PIN and turn it on. Restart your phone (power completely off and back on), and no data will go through the cell connection without you entering your SIM PIN. Viola.

  21. Canadian Impostor says:

    @dix99: You do not understand international roaming.

  22. olegna says:

    PDAs. Blech. I had a Palm for a few months and found that I spent a lot more time editing my to-dos and calendar than scribbling these things on paper. Sounds like the iPhone is crap for people who travel a lot and simply want a phone to make phone calls (and maybe check email and text message).

  23. Johnie says:

    Apple really needs to allow the iPhone to disable EDGE functionality. I don’t need the phone to go on the EDGE network when I’m abroad.

  24. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m hanging this here since it’s handy. But there were some misinformed people saying Jobs dropped the price of the iPhone to boost sales b/c they were nowhere near hitting their target of 1m iPhones w/in the first year.

    Not so.

    Apple Hot News:

    Yesterday, just 74 days after its introduction on June 29, Apple sold the one millionth iPhone. “One million iPhones in 74 days-it took almost two years to achieve this milestone with iPod,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We can’t wait to get this revolutionary product into the hands of even more customers this holiday season.

    74 DAYS. Jeezus.

    So yeah, they want even more insane sales, and they cleverly recognize that with iPod Touch, part of their iPhone market will veer in that direction.

  25. Charles Duffy says:

    @Rob C: But with a microphone, which the Touch doesn’t have… meaning it might be possible to run VoIP software through the iPhone’s browser (or outside the browser, once the folks working on developing 3rd-party software for it get their way) — whereas with the Touch, there’s no mic, so all voice communications is outgoing only.

  26. Mr. Gunn says:

    This might be a repeat…

    Nokia phones have made quad-band GSM a design standard, all never ones have 3G and support third-party apps like VOIP, can be unlocked by simply entering a code via the keypad, and cost hundreds of dollars less.

    They don’t need a special article on how to use them overseas.