Pro Tip: The Data Only iPhone Smartphone

My iPhone bill is $30/month.

I’ve been running a data-only plan since the iPad (and it’s data plan) were released in 2010.

It’s ridiculous that every smartphone owner pays about half their bill (usually more than half, when you factor in text message plans, taxes, etc. My actual bill is $29.99) for a single App – making and receiving calls.

I’ve consistently used over 1GB/mo. from an iPhone handset, and haven’t been shut off, or even gotten the harassing “we see what you’re doing there” carrier text message.

Phonecalls: 

  • Google Hangouts app. No Google+ account required. Making calls works as you’d expect. Incoming calls come in as a Notification. There isn’t a way around this.
  • I’ve use the Skype app in the past, It works fine too. Skype iPhone calls are not free, but they are very cheap – I paid Skype $10 once, and haven’t refilled it. Skype rates are 0.23/min or $3/mo, and $5/mo for an actual phone number that people can call.
  • I’ve tested a dozen “Make free calls!” apps, and they all require the recipient to use that same app. I don’t find this solution acceptable.
  • Facetime Audio with other iOS owners. (iOS7+)

Voicemail:

  • Google Voice app includes Voicemail & transcription. I use this and love it.
  • Visual Voicemail does not work.

Text Messages:

  • iMessages with other iOS owners works great, using an email address as your primary. This covers 95% of my friends.
  • You can send/receive Text via the Google Voice app (terrible UI).

Google Summary:

  • Google Voice: non-iOS Text Messages, Voicemail.
  • Google Hangouts: Send/Receive calls.

Getting Started:

No Jailbreaking required.

No Unlocking is required if you’re inserting an ipad SIM from the same carrier. Carriers are very reluctant to Unlock if you don’t currently have an account with them.

Tested on every iPhone from the original 2G through 6/6+.

You don’t need to own an iPad, though activation & plan changes are a little tricky without one. I setup my Verizon iPad SIM at a Verizon store on a display model iPad. A free (or very cheap) iPad SIM can be had through your Carrier or the grey market.

You can still use your cellular iPad with a different SIM. iPad plans are tied to an email address, so use a different email address if both of your iPad SIMs are on the same carrier. You can use one iPad SIM and swap it back and forth.

I use a Grandfathered Unlimited Plan for $30/mo. While these are no longer for sale directly from carriers, they can usually be found on the grey market of ebay/craigslist/etc. An unlimited plan isn’t required. One caveat – you can’t Tether with an Unlimited Plan, though you can insert that SIM in a Puck. I currently use this model.

You can cut or file down a SIM to a different size, or use a SIM Tray to go up a size, though it’s an inelegant solution.

All of this should work with Android too (with better Google Voice integration), but I haven’t tested it. If you do, please comment!

iPhone carrier basics:

  • Recent iphones & ipads all use a NANO SIM. Refer to Apple’s handy chart for the SIM size in your device. There is no SIM slot in the Verizon & Sprint iphone 4, so none of this applies to those devices.
  • I haven’t tested a Sprint SIM. Do you have a Sprint data-only plan? Let’s test that out!
  • Tmobile: Still sells gives away that glorious 200MB/mo free data plan. Just walk into a Tmobile store and sign up! (you may be charged $10 for the SIM)
  • LTE is carrier-locked. A Verizon iPhone will only get Verizon’s LTE. Same for ATT, etc.
  • Buying a new iPhone: Buying a phone on a plan, then breaking contract is generally ~$100 cheaper than just buying the phone outright from Apple.

Troubleshooting:

  • Wait. Sometimes carrier changes will take 30 seconds to apply.
  • When in doubt, reboot.
  • Reset your network settings: Settings/General/Reset/Reset Network Settings.  This resets your network (carrier & wifi) settings back to their original state.
  • Change your APN (Access Point Name). Some iPhone models will “just work” with an iPad SIM, some will need an APN change to fake your device type to your carrier. This doesn’t require Jailbreaking or Unlocking, and can easily be reset. On your iPhone (over WiFi), go here in Safari. Create your APN. If you need to remove this APN setting later, it’s located under Settings/General/Profiles. (until you create an APN, “Profiles” will not show up). ATT is Country: US, Carrier: ATT Broadband.

This isn’t standard OverAttired fare, but I hope you’ll excuse the occasional foray into modern technology when I find a topic not covered elsewhere.

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