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Travelling with your iPhone

Tips to save money while using your smart phone abroad

While the prospect of sending your friends photos or checking your email might seem like a great idea before your trip, coming home to find a bill of sky high data roaming charges is highly likely. But there are steps you can take to avoid these unwelcome charges and still enjoy using the applications.

1. Ditch data roaming for Wi-Fi

iPhones, and most other smart phones, include a Wi-Fi option that lets you piggyback on local wireless connections. The trick is finding a free hotspot, which is where the brilliant Global Wi-Fi Finder application comes in handy. This nifty utility maps the locations of free Wi-Fi locations in 140 countries around the world. All the data is stored locally on your iPhone, or can be accessed online via JiWire’s website, meaning that you'll never be far from free internet access. Don’t forget to deactivate data roaming first, though: turn it off at Settings > General > Network.

2. Turn off automatic updates

For those of you who steadfastly refuse to switch off data roaming, streamlining your iPhone’s update facility is an absolute must. Go to Settings > Fetch New Data and switch off "Push". Then change "Fetch" to "Manually" – this stops your handset from checking your emails every few minutes, which would otherwise run up a hefty bill over the course of any holiday.

3. Travel prepared with virtual backups

Make sure you set off on your holiday as well prepared as possible. With the smart phone’s camera you can back up vital documents such as your passport, credit card statements and even luggage tag.

Another prudent measure for iPhone users is to make use of the built-in screen capture facility by saving relevant images from Google Maps and other online resources. Simply navigate to your desired image, hold down the "Home" button, and then hit "Power/Sleep". The screen will flash, and a screenshot will be instantly saved in your Photos app for later reference.

4. Pack light with eBooks

Here’s a novel idea that will save holidaymakers money on excess baggage charges. Ditch those bulky paperbacks for an eBook. In fact with the excellent Stanza app, developed by Lexcycle, you won’t even have to pay for your book. The programme’s online catalogue features more than 100,000 titles – all of which can be downloaded free of charge and then read on the iPhone’s generously proportioned screen. Avid bookworms will also appreciate Amazon’s Kindle, which sells all the bestsellers.

5. Check your network provider’s tariffs

O2 users have a choice of two Data Abroad Bolt Ons - the first tariff gives you 50Mb of data to use overseas for £40 per month, the other is the Heavy User Option. This is £120 per month for 200MB of data to use abroad. (Well worth the investment if you’re anticipating some heavy-duty surfing.)

Vodafone customers may sign up to Passport, a free service that allows users to take their UK price plan (for calls and texts) to more than 35 countries (covers Albania to Vatican City, via the European holiday spots and Australia and New Zealand).

Vodafone's standard data costs abroad (if you haven’t opted in to Vodafone Data Traveller - £2 per day for 25MB in selected European countries, and 5MB elsewhere in Europe) are £1 per MB for the first 5MB, and £5 per 5MB thereafter in the European Union. For the rest of the world it's £3 per MB up to 5MB and £15 for every 5MB after that. Vodafone will send free text messages to customers to let them know that they are nearing the end of their data allowance. Once you exceed your allowance, standard data rates kick in.

Orange customers can use their iPhones abroad, however, their Wi-Fi allowance is not available overseas and the local network operator will charge.

Tesco Phone Shop notes that data roaming isn't included in customers' unlimited Web and Wi-Fi package.

6. Explore offline alternatives

Between work and leisure, sometimes the prevalence of technology can make us feel not empowered, but enslaved. Stepping away from work emails for a couple of weeks can allow the harrassed technophile to rediscover the fun of having an iPhone. There are tons of fantastic apps for travellers on the go - maps, guides, blogs, tours, coupons and vouchers. Arm yourself with the information you need to make the most of your day and then go roaming.

7. Make the most of flight apps

Remember that you don’t have to be online to check your flight info. TripIt is a useful app for the iPhone, Blackberry, Android and other smart phones that generates an itinerary of your upcoming trips. All you have to do is forward your booking confirmation email to the TripIt website, which then filters the relevant information and sends a personalised itinerary to your phone.

For last-minute developments, such as flight delays and cancellations, look no further than iPhone’s FlightTrack. With this handy app you can check real-time flight info until the moment you board the plane. Just watch out for those data roaming charges once you’ve taken off...

8. Switch your SIM card for cheaper voice and data roaming

If you need to use your smartphone or tablet for calls and texting abroad, accessing the internet or downloading emails then consider switching your SIM card before you travel. You’ll need to make sure your handset or tablet is unlocked then simply buy a global SIM card from providers like 0044 or a data roaming SIM card from dataroam to replace your UK SIM. These SIMs are available as standard sized or micro-SIMs (for latest iphone models) and start from £14.99, some even include free credit. Further credit can be added online or via local retailers depending on the SIM card you choose. Some will cover you across multiple destinations while others are specific to a single country. Voice SIMs from 0044.co.uk offer local calls from as little at 10p/min, even in long haul destinations, and also you’ll benefit from free incoming calls in many countries. With data SIMs from dataroam.co.uk you can opt for pay-as-you-go solutions with data at less then £0.20/MB or, for heavy users who absolutely need to stay connected, there are even unlimited one month plans with huge 10GB bundles of data included.

Updated May 2012

 
 
Oonagh Shiel
Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!