You might think using your iPhone in another country is an expensive luxury. High charges to make and receive calls – and often extortionate fees to use 3G data – make it tempting to leave your handset in the hotel safe. But by doing a few things before you set off, your iPhone can become the perfect travel companion. So we’ve put together some hints and tips to make sure you get the maximum enjoyment out of your phone while you’re travelling.
First, you’ll probably want some entertainment for the journey. In iTunes, load the music, films, books and podcasts you want on to the iPhone. You can’t use the communications elements of your phone on a plane, so flick the Airplane Mode switch in Settings to On before you turn off your handset for take-off. You’ll then be able to enjoy the media you’ve synced to your iPhone while the seat belt sign’s off.
If you’re planning to shoot holiday photos and video with the iPhone’s camera, make sure it’s got enough space to store them. To find out how much room is free, tap Settings > General > Usage, where you’ll be shown what’s taking up the most space. Don’t forget you can delete media on the go. Simply find the item to delete in the Music or Videos app, swipe from left to right across its name and tap Delete.
That’s the basics covered. But we’ve only just got started…
1. Check you can roam…
Using a phone abroad is known as ‘roaming’, and it’s important to check you’re going to be able to do this before you leave. Roaming is controlled by your mobile network provider, and not all networks enable roaming by default, so call them up a couple of days before setting off and ask them to switch it on.
It’s also a good idea to find out what it costs to use a phone in the area you’re going to, because this varies. Remember that calls and messages sent from abroad won’t come out of your monthly allowance: they’ll be billed separately. And you’ll also be charged for receiving calls abroad as well.
Some networks sell special overseas packages that provide lower overseas rates than you’d usually be charged, although these typically have to be taken out on a long-term basis and are designed for frequent travellers: they’re worth looking up, though.
2. …but switch off data roaming
While sending texts and making the odd call abroad generally won’t break the bank, 3G data use can be a killer. Networks typically charge between £1.50 and £3 per MB in Europe, and £6 in the USA and other countries. The average iPhone user gets through about 15MB per day, which could saddle you with a huge bill.
The good news is you can keep your wallet happy by altering a single setting. On your iPhone, tap Settings > General > Network. Next, turn Data Roaming to Off. This will prevent your phone from connecting to mobile data networks.
If you think you’ll need 3G web access, some networks offer special deals on overseas data use; check with your provider to see what they offer.
Disable Data Roaming before you leave to avoid a hefty bill by preventing your phone from connecting to foreign 3G networks
3. Do it like a local
A local pay-as-you-go SIM card is likely to offer better value than using your normal SIM. Wikipedia is a good place to discover what networks operate in the country you’re going to. Armed with a list of names, search for who offers the best deals. Look for packages that include mobile data, and note that bundled minutes and texts may only be valid within that country, so they’ll be no good for keeping in touch with those back home.
You may be able to order a SIM online, but otherwise note the network and plan you’re after and hunt down a newsagent or phone shop when you arrive. The iPhone 4 and 4S need a micro-SIM, and don’t forget your SIM-ejector.
You’ll only be able to use a foreign SIM if your iPhone isn’t locked to the mobile phone network. If you bought it directly from Apple, you’re fine. If you have a contract phone from a network you’ll need to ask them to unlock it (which may cost extra, and they may refuse to do so). Unlocking it yourself, or in an unofficial phone shop, will void your warranty.
4. Stay powered up
Your iPhone’s of little use with a dead battery, so make sure you’ve got the right kit to charge it. You won’t need a new power adapter, because the one it came with will deal with 100-240V, 50-60Hz power. You will, however, need an adapter with the correct pins. Apple sells a World Travel Adapter Kit for £31 with lots of bells and whistles included, but a standard adapter from a hardware store should suffice.
If you’re renting a car, get a charger to plug into the lighter socket. The Griffin PowerJolt Plus is a good bet at £9.
For those times you’ll be away from power sockets for longer, think about a battery pack. Case-style batteries that clip neatly round your iPhone are the most portable. The £30 Mophie Juice Pack Air is an excellent and slim option, and will recharge a dead iPhone 4 to around 70 per cent. The other option is a separate battery, such as the Proporta USB TurboCharger 5000. This £43 unit has a much higher capacity and will also charge the iPad and other USB devices, though it’s less portable.
5. Play it safe
The iPhone’s an expensive bit of kit, so take a few steps to protect it and its contents.
Set a Passcode Lock to hide your data from snooping eyes if you lose it. Tap Settings > General > Passcode Lock. Make sure the top button reads Turn Passcode Off, that Require Passcode is set to Immediately and Siri is Off. If you’re worried about data falling into the wrong hands, set Erase Data to On and your phone will wipe itself after 10 incorrect passcode attempts.
Also make sure you’ve set up Find My iPhone. While it isn’t a foolproof way of tracking a lost phone abroad (it requires a Wi-Fi or 3G data connection to tell the Apple servers where it is, and you’ll probably have switched Data Roaming off), it’s a useful tool to have available. Download the app, open it and tap Setup Instructions. If the worst does happen, go to www.icloud.com on any computer and sign in with your Apple ID to see if your phone shows up.
Finally, make sure any travel insurance covers loss or theft of your iPhone or, if you have phone insurance, whether it’s valid abroad.
Make sure you’ve locked down your iPhone before you go away, to keep its contents hidden if you misplace it