Using an iPhone in the United Kingdom is easy
Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:27 pm
Before going to England I had researched the all important matter of using mobile data abroad quite thoroughly. After my experience in the USA I was quite sceptical about my chances - and I was always going to feel this way until I could see it first hand working as I wanted on my iPhone. As it turned out, my fears were unfounded as the UK mobile networks are far superior to the United States and on par with - if not better than - Australia's.
My research had narrowed the choices down to two carriers; O2 and Vodafone. My understanding was that both carriers would offer data on a prepaid (or as they call it in England, pay as you go) SIM card. But while O2's data allowance would be more generous it would take several days to activate. So within a few hours of touching down at Heathrow I walked into the first Vodafone store I saw - there are many in London, but I'll recommend Kensington High Street as I received very good service and advice there. It is a very easy process, you can walk in and walk out within 5 or 10 minutes. No ID is required, so if you've left your passport or drivers license in the hotel room it's not a problem. The activation is very quick, and the staff are trained with unlocked iPhone's (if only the Americans would follow... I'm looking at you AT&T) so they will make the necessary Cellular Data Network settings (APN, username and password) on your phone for you.
The SIM card costs 5 pounds (which includes 5 pounds of credit). You can choose to put credit in on the spot as well. I decided to start off with an additional 15 pounds of credit, so all up it cost 20 pounds.
Data usage is very reasonable, for 50p a day (half a pound) Vodafone will give you 25mb of data. As long as you are not streaming music or watching excessive amounts of YouTube video, this is enough data to satisfy your web browsing needs (or map browsing as is often the case overseas!). So I recommend leaving the media content until you can find a Wi-Fi hotspot (which are generally fairly easy to find).
Phone call costs
It was extremely cheap to make phone calls. Local call costs (to a UK number) were virtually free, and even overseas phone calls (back to Australia) were no more than a few pounds.
According to the print out the Vodafone staff gave me, it cost:
- 5p/min to landlines and mobiles in Canada, China, USA
- 5p/min to landlines and 15p/min to mobiles in Australia, Hong Kond, Singapore, South Africa, most EU countries
- 10p/min to landlines and 20p/min to mobiles in Bermuda, Israel, Malaysia, Zimbabwe and most South American and West Indian countries.
- 30p/min to other countries
Using your UK sim in Europe, other European countries and abroad
I can only comment on Italy and Singapore as those are the only other countries I was able to test the sim card in - however, I believe the Italy pricing will be very similar or the same as the pricing of other countries in Europe. Also, the Singaporean pricing should be the same as other countries in South East Asia. Vodafone will send you an SMS as soon as you land in another country explaining the roaming costs - so no matter where you are you will never be left in the dark.
This is the SMS I received in Italy (all pricing is in pounds and pence):
"Welcome to ITALY. Calls cost 33ppm to make & 18ppm to receive. SMS 11p & max picture message 183p. Data is 0.5p per KB up to 1MB (4.99 pounds including VAT). The next 24MB is free, then 4.99 pounds per 25MB. Sessions reset at 00:00GMT. Call 4636 for free pricing info & 112 for emergency services".
As you can see, European pricing is very reasonable. I was able to browse the internet quite freely, 5 pounds per day for the convenience of using maps and staying up to date with email, Twitter and the web is fine. Likewise, call costs in Europe are good value.
Singapore was a completely different story. I had 8 pounds of credit remaining when I touched down, I was able to conserve it for a while by only using SMS, but a couple of minutes on the internet ate the rest away.
This is the SMS I received from Vodafone in Singapore:
"Welcome to SINGAPORE. Calls cost 99ppm to make & 75ppm to receive. SMS 49p & max picture message 183p. Data is 0.5p per KB up to 3MB (14.99 pounds including VAT). The next 22MB is free, then 14.99 pounds per 25MB. Sessions reset at 00:00GMT. Call *#123*4636# for free pricing info & 112 for emergency services".
15 pounds for 25MB is rather extortionate (3x the price of Italy, 30x the price of England). And as I said, it only took me browsing a few pages to eat up my remaining credit.
So in summary, using an iPhone in England / United Kingdom / Great Britain (whatever you want to call it!) is a piece of cake. And the beauty is once you have your English Vodafone sim, you can use it quite affordable in other European countries.
According to the staff member at the Vodafone store in Kensington High Street (and confirmed in an Australian store I went into, although I have yet to test refilling my credit in Australia) as Vodafone is an international company you can top-up at any Vodafone store in the world.
I strongly recommend using Vodafone if you are an iPhone user looking to use the internet in England and Europe.