2015 UPDATE HERE: iPhone 6 in India
A lot has changed since I first wrote about using an iPhone in India, back in December, 2009. The iPhone 3G and 3Gs have cycled through their lifespan. The iPhone 4 was introduced to much fanfare, and an equal amount of jeers regarding attennagate. In the past year, Apple added Verizon as an official wireless carrier in addition to AT&T for US customers. And just recently, a new iPhone 4 Unlocked was introduced. With all these changes surrounding the iPhone, and the official Apple sponsored Indian launch of the iPhone 4, it’s time to reexamine if an iPhone 4 is right for a trip to India.
Can I use my AT&T iPhone 4 in India?
Yes. AT&T iPhones connect using the GSM network, a wireless system supported in India.
Option 1 – Jailbreak: To have unlimited use of your iPhone as a tourist in India without AT&T’s outrageous international use charges, you’ll need to unlock* or jailbreak* your phone and replace the original micro-SIM care with a prepaid micro-SIM card from one of several Indian wireless carriers.
After the initial iPhone 4 launch in the USA, micro-SIM cards were not available in India. Tutorial videos sprouted on YouTube and other networks showing users how to trim a standard SIM card to fit within the micro-SIM card holder. This is no longer an issue as micro-SIM cards are now readily available throughout India in large metro markets with a variety of limited and unlimited browsing 3G packages.
*Unlocking or jailbreaking your iPhone will void any warranty coverage.
Option 2 – Non Jailbreak: Unlimited use of an iPhone 4 while traveling in India is possible but potentially very expensive. Your iPhone 4 will automatically connect to an available network upon start-up. There is a slight lag time as the handset attempts connectivity so be patient. In markets where several wireless carriers operate you will be given a choice of which network to use.
International roaming and data usage is not covered under your existing data plan, and international roaming can get expensive quickly.
Example provided by AT&T: Opening an email with a 5 megapixel picture in it, or downloading a 3-minute video on YouTube, each takes about 2 MB of data. The cost would be almost $40, based on pay-per-use international data rates of $0.0195/KB.
How do I minimize of avoid international data charges?
•Turn Data Roaming “OFF”:
By default the setting for international data roaming will be in the “OFF” position. To turn data roaming “ON/OFF” tap on, Settings>General>Network>Data Roaming
-Turning “OFF” data roaming blocks email, browsing and downloads, but it will not block text or picture/video messages.
-When in India, international roaming rates apply when you send text or picture/video messages.
•Utilize WiFi Instead of 3G/GPRS/EDGE:
WiFi is available in many international airports, hotels and restaurants to browse the web or check email.
•Turn Fetch New Data “Off”:
Check email and sync contacts and calendars manually instead of having the data pushed to your iPhone automatically. This way you can control the flow of data coming to your iPhone.
To turn off the Auto-Check functionality tap on, Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars>Fetch New Data, Change Push to “OFF” and Select to Fetch Manually.
•Reset the Usage Tracker to Zero:
When you arrive in India access the usage tracker in the general settings menu and select reset statistics. This will enable you to track your estimated data usage statistics.
To reset Usage Tracker to Zero tap on, Settings>General>Usage>Reset
How do I make a phone call?
•Turn on International Assist:
International assist automatically adds the correct prefix to US numbers when dialing from abroad. To turn on International Assist tap on, Settings>Phone, International Assist, Change to “On”.
Dial your desired number.
Can I use my Verizon iPhone 4 in India?
No. Verizon iPhones connect using their CDMA network, a connectivity not supported in India. Verizon offers a loan program for travelers; you get free use of a handset (not an iPhone 4) and only pay for service while abroad, all the time receiving calls on your regular number.
Can I use my iPhone 4 Unlocked in India?
Yes. Because the unlocked iPhone is sold without a contract commitment, you can establish service and use a micro-SIM card from a local wireless carrier within India.
What Do I need to Activate the iPhone?
You’ll need to purchase a micro-SIM card upon arrival in India; and you’ll also need a Mac or PC laptop with iTunes to activate the iPhone.
Which Wireless Carriers offer a Micro-SIM in India?
Vodafone: limited and unlimited browsing 3G packages available.
Tata Docomo: limited and unlimited browsing 3G packages available.
Airtel: limited and unlimited browsing 3G packages available.
Reliance Communications: limited and unlimited browsing 3G packages available.
BSNL: limited and unlimited browsing 3G packages available.
How Do I Buy a Micro-SIM Card in India?
Apply in person for a micro-SIM card at an authorized retailer or supported reseller. Bring a copy of your passport, India Visa, and at least 4 current passport size photos. You’ll be asked to complete a form, provide the supported documentation above, as well as the signature of an Indian national witness not associated with the retailer.
How Do I Activate the iPhone 4 Unlocked?
Insert the micro-SIM card into the slot on your iPhone, connect to your Mac or PC using the USB cable, and launch iTunes on your computer to complete the setup.