For some reason, despite countless Australian travelers to the US taking their iPhones with them, I found it hard to find decent information on how to get a US prepaid SIM with data and use it successfully. A friend of mine had used T-Mobile when he was here, but the iPhone works only on 2G with their network. Being a bit of a fusspot, I wanted 3G and therefore AT&T was the obvious choice. Unfortunately, AT&T are a big fat pain in the arse.
I won’t bore you with the tedious 2 day ordeal that was trying to get the whole thing going. Instead, here is a recipe so that you needn’t suffer the same annoyance.
You’ll need a carrier unlocked iPhone.
1. Go to an AT&T outlet and buy a GoPhone prepaid SIM. (iPhones are not normally allowed on prepaid, but the shop assistant was able to put some other phone’s IMEI in to the system when activating my SIM. It’s possible the store you go to will refuse to sell you a prepaid SIM for an iPhone- in that case, either try another store or bring some other handset for the IMEI.)
2. Add credit, and a data pack. I chose the $2 per day unlimited talk and text plan. $28 for 2 weeks isn’t too horrible. The SIM itself is $20. 500 MB is $25.
3. Go somewhere with free wifi (Starbucks, McDonalds, Borders, many others).
4. Go to unlockit.co.nz in mobile Safari.
5. Select “Custom APN”, then US – AT&T (should be wap.cingular)
6. Install the certificate.
7. Restart the phone, then hooray- data should be working!
I found data craps out a couple of times a day in NYC- just switch briefly to airplane mode to get it going again.