Keeping Connected on a Budget

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6 Weeks of Data and Phone for $50 in China!

I have an iPhone 4 with an US AT&T contract and data roaming charges are ridiculous!!! AT&T is not at all like T-Mobile who will happily unlock your device even when under contract, because you have a contract!! Without a data plan the cost is at least $15 per megabyte YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING. AT&T has International data plans that go up to $120 for a month for 800MB of data. In the past I have used a smaller plan when I needed to use data in Canada. This is a great deal especially when I need a few days of data. The monthly charge is prorated over the days used not the data consumed. 120 MB is only $30 or $1 a day so if I need for 2 or 3 days the total cost is only $3, a deal!

Here is my OLD Blackberry and my assorted SIM cards.

I recently traveled in China for 6 weeks and actually the last full month was going to be when I needed data. In China there is a pay as you go plan for data that was 1 month for 148 Yuan or $25 including 400 megabytes of data. My iPad as all iPads is unlocked so I choose to use my iPad for data (e-mail in particular) if needed whenever I could not find free Wi-Fi that can be found many places.

The iPhone 4s is the most popular mobile telephone in China and uses a mini SIM card that is  about 33% of the size of a normal SIM card. The same card required in an iPad. These cards are not readily available however the store we visited in Lijiang had a device that took the standard SIM card and punched out the contacts to the correct size to use in my iPad! The photo to the right is of the standard T-Mobile SIM and the AT&T iPad SIM cards. The photo below shows the standard China Mobile SIM card I used in my Blackberry that cost me about $25 for 6 weeks of text and talk throughout China. Incoming calls were free so if my wife needed to call, it was $0.05 a minute to call from Canada. We either used Skype to talk if I had wired Internet or Apple’s FaceTime if I had Wi-Fi connection for free international voice and or video calls!! Can’t beat that. On the right is the China Mobile SIM used in the Blackberry on the left the custom cut SIM for my iPAD.

My iPad worked like a charm for e-mail and Internet when I did not have a Wi-Fi connection. The connection was not 3G only E since I had a pay as you go plan. To add a level of security I added a VPN service to my iPad so I could securely access banking and other sites. I used Strong VPN simple and reasonably priced level of security and then some.

In the past I have used my Blackberry in China and several other countries with local SIM cards. Once my contract is fulfilled with AT&T they will allow me to unlock my iPhone to do the same.

The most important thing you need to do is make sure you have Data Roaming turned OFF in your SETTINGS so you are not surprised by a heart stopping mobile bill when you return home.

4 Replies to “Keeping Connected on a Budget”

  1. Good advise… I’ll be picking up a data only plan for my iPad the moment I arrive in Iceland. My ChinaMobile is good for my iPhone, as receiving texts is free, even internationally. For everything else, I’ll use Skype on the iPAd.

    Wonderful times to be alive, the world is smaller, but still easy to get lost 🙂

    1. Google Maps can help keep you from getting lost. However not sure when Apple will be dumping Maps for alternative. Good luck your adventure sounds amazing.

  2. Dude. This will not work for me and I have no idea why. Please tell me what I’m doing wrong? It worked fine with my old iPhone 3G with a trmimed down sim but when I got my new iPhone 4 it just stopped working. I really want to believe this works but it doesn’t for me.

    1. I cannot speak for my iPhone4, I left the original SIM in and used WiFi and left on US AT&T but never used for Data because of higher data prices. I could not put China SIM in iPhone because locked by carrier until my contract is up. The iPad worked with China Mobile data package but only “E” not 3G. I also cracked the iPad to use a VPN service for social media connectivity from China.

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