NEW! AT&T will now unlock your iPhone! Details below
A Traveler’s Guide to the iPhone in Germany
Planning to take your US iPhone to Germany and other European countries? This is the guide for you! We’ll tell you how to manage that without problems and nasty surprises. The iPhone is perfect for Europe, but there are some things you do need to know.
The first thing you need to know is that only GSM iPhones sold by AT&T and Apple in the USA use the mobile phone technology found in Europe and many countries around the globe. Verizon’s CDMA version of the iPhone 4 will not work in Europe or anywhere else that uses the GSM mobile system. (The new iPhone 5 or 4S does not have this problem.) All GSM mobile phones around the world, including the AT&T iPhone, use a SIM card that the Verizon CDMA iPhone does not have. Although there are many more technical reasons why the Verizon iPhone won’t work in Europe, all you really need to know is that it won’t. If you have a Verizon iPhone 4, please see our main cell phone page for more information about your options in Europe. (Note: The new iPhone 5 or 4S solves this problem. It is both a CDMA and a GSM phone.)
If you have an iPhone with AT&T or a new iPhone 5 or 4S with any carrier, read on.
|Already have an iPhone?
Then just continue to read the information on this page.
Do you still need to buy an iPhone?
Then go to this page: Buying an iPhone for Germany
Taking Care of Business Before You Leave
AT&T Contract iPhones
If you already have an iPhone purchased in North America through AT&T, and you are visiting Europe for only a few weeks or months, you can get a special international roaming rate from AT&T. (The Verizon iPhone 4 does not work on the GSM networks in Europe! The new iPhone 5 and the 4S do.) At the same time, be sure to add a prepaid international data plan that allows you a quota of 20 ($24.99), 50 ($59.99), 100 ($119.99) or 200 MB ($199.99), or it could get really expensive to check your mail, browse the web, etc. Remember: Anything that isn’t a voice call is data! AT&T’s international pay-per-use price (without a data plan) is $0.0195/KB. That’s per kilobyte!
- Planning a long-term stay in Germany?
See Converting a US iPhone to a German
Rate Plan below.
If you don’t want to pay for any data roaming charges at all, you can turn “Data Roaming” off and use only Wi-Fi (called WLAN [vay-lahn] in Germany). That means you will only be able to view your email, text messages, web pages or other data via Wi-Fi. To turn off Data Roaming, go to Settings > General > Network > Data Roaming. Beneath this setting option you can read this notice: “Turn data roaming off when abroad to avoid substantial roaming charges when using email, web browsing and other data services.” That is why you need to prepay an international data plan if you don’t want to be limited only to Wi-Fi during your European stay.
|Will a US iPhone power adapter work in Europe?
Yes. All Apple products (laptops, iPods, iPads, iPhones, etc.) will work with either 120 or 240-volt power. You only need a plug adapter to convert the US flat-pronged plug to the European round prongs.
AT&T International Calling Plans
If your stay in Europe is short or temporary, you can get better international roaming rates by signing up for one of AT&T's international calling plans. For Europe the monthly cost varies from $30 to $120 with a corresponding number of minutes. The $30 plan gets you 30 minutes at $1.00 per minute. The $120 plan cuts your per-minute charges to 60 cents. Per-minute overage charges are $1.00/minute for all plans. Similar plans are available for Canda, Mexico and other regions. For details see the AT&T links below.
Note: AT&T recently "retired" their $5.99-per-month “World Traveler” plan. Their rates (below) have also changed, so we will revise the chart soon. If you already have the old plan, you're grandfathered in, but it is no longer available to add. The chart below is now for historical purposes only. To see AT&T's current international plans, see these links: AT&T International - Wireless and AT&T Call International App
|AT&T World Traveler Plan • Cost per Minute|
Other European countries - higher rates in bold!
|Source: AT&T International - Wireless|
AT&T International Text Messages
The Germans call text messages SMS (“short message service”). There are two different AT&T text messaging international plans, starting at $10 per month for 50 text messages from outside the US. See World Packages from AT&T for details.
Converting a US iPhone to a German Rate Plan
Using a US iPhone for a Long-Term Stay
If you are an expat living and working in Austria, Germany, Switzerland or another European country, you need a long-term solution. You’ll want to set up your iPhone with a local prepaid plan or a rate plan with T-Mobile Germany, O2 or Vodafone (or other European carriers). If you have an unlocked iPhone this is no problem. If you have a carrier-subsidized (two-year contract) GSM-capable iPhone (from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint), things get a little more complicated.
Unlocking a US AT&T iPhone
One reason AT&T is very unpopular with a lot of people has been their policy on unlocking iPhones – or rather NOT unlocking iPhones. Until recently, the AT&T Wireless support website stated simply: “The iPhone cannot be unlocked, even if you are out of contract.” But in April 2012, AT&T suddenly changed this policy, now making it possible to unlock an AT&T iPhone under certain conditions – mainly having an iPhone that is past its initial two-year contract.
AT&T’s iPhone “no unlock” policy was an outrage, especially since many countries around the world have laws making such a policy illegal! (But not the US!) There were ways around it, but most of them were a royal pain in the butt and/or cost money (for the jailbreak/unlock software). NOTE: Jailbreaking an iPhone (making it independent of Apple and iTunes) is legal, but it's not something for non-techies. Such “jailbreak” unlocks are not always permanent either.
|Want to buy an unlocked iPhone?
Try to buy it in the US from Apple! An unlocked iPhone is much more expensive in Europe. See Buying an iPhone for Germany for more.
How to unlock your AT&T iPhone
If you have an AT&T iPhone 3GS, 4 or 4S, and have fulfilled your two-year contract, you can now get it unlocked by AT&T and Apple. All you need is your phone’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, which you can find on your phone under Settings > General > About (scroll down to find the IMEI). Then you ask AT&T to approve the unlock (online or in person). Once that is done, you have to wait for Apple to actually unlock the phone, which is done via iTunes. The process normally takes only an hour or so, although Apple says to allow up to 72 hours.
Canada: Five of the eight iPhone partner carriers in Canada now offer iPhone unlocking services. Bell and Virgin joined the existing providers Fido, Rogers and Telus on Nov. 26, 2012 in offering that option. As with AT&T in the U.S., you must own the phone outright and have no time left on your contract. Unlike AT&T, Bell and Virgin charge a $75 (CDN) fee for unlocking your iPhone. Contact your Canadian carrier for details.
If you are in Germany, you can do this online or through T-Mobile (a German company) or some other cell-phone provider in Germany. A T-Mobile sales person in Germany can tell you how and sell you a SIM card for Germany. (Many sales people in Germany also speak English.) T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone are all iPhone providers in Germany. Also see “iPhones Without a Contract” below for even more options in Germany/Europe.
|Taking your iPhone to France, Italy, Spain, the UK or some other European country?
All the above info on using an unlocked iPhone in Germany applies to other countries. The only difference is the carrier.
Have you done this? If you are an expat in Austria, Germany or Switzerland who has managed to convert an AT&T iPhone plan to a T-Mobile Germany, O2 or Vodafone plan, I’d love to hear from you: Contact me.
If You Have an Unlocked iPhone
iPhones Without a Contract
If you already have an unlocked iPhone that you purchased without a contract (or an iPhone that is now unlocked), you have lots of options in Germany and Europe!
Germans and other Europeans have many more mobile phone choices than Americans. They are used to picking and choosing among a great variety of Handy (cell phone) providers. Besides the three major German iPhone service providers (T-Mobile, O2, Vodafone), there are many prepaid options and smaller service providers. Not all of them will work with the iPhone, but many will.
You can discover your many iPhone options online or by visiting one of the many mobile phone retailers in Germany. See Part 1 (Apple Stores and other options in Germany) for more.
BACK > Buying an iPhone for Germany
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