On Call: Getting ready for the iPhone 3G

The iPhone 3G is just over a week away, and readers are asking questions. CNET's Kent German tackles a few queries.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
3 min read
iPhone 3G Apple

Q: If I buy an iPhone 3G in one country, can we then terminate the contract and reactivate in in another country with a local carrier?

A: If you buy an iPhone 3G, no one will stop you from canceling the service and paying an early termination fee to AT&T. Yet it's unlikely that you'll be able to take the same phone to another country and reactivate there. If you were successful in unlocking it from AT&T, it would certainly be possible to use it abroad, but good luck on finding an operator what would be willing to give you service. Personally, I'm not optimistic that a carrier in any iPhone 3G country would activate a former AT&T handset, particularly when they can sell you one of their own. Of course, you could buy a prepaid SIM card, but not all carriers may support prepaid iPhone service (for example, AT&T won't). And don't forget that while all iPhone 3Gs around the world will have the same specifications, handsets will be "branded" for their country of use. In short, you could make this work but you'll spend a lot of time and money making it happen. Even if you buy a non-contract iPhone 3G from AT&T, you'll be spending a lot of money up front. Why not just buy the iPhone in your chosen country?

For more iPhone 3G questions, see our FAQ. And by the way, have you heard how Rogers' iPhone 3G plans don't include unlimited data? That's pretty outrageous, and I hope our Canadian friends get a better deal.

Q: I have the old iPhone, but I don't have a Wi-Fi connection and I can't receive EDGE where I live. Will the iPhone 3G give me a better chance of receiving EDGE?
- Mik

The original iPhone Apple

A: The iPhone 3G won't increase your chances of getting EDGE if you don't get it already. Though cell phones do play a big part in your call quality reception, they won't dramatically increase your data coverage. Also, while the new iPhone is offering 3G, it doesn't offer an improved EDGE capability over the current model.

Q: I am a satisfied Sprint "Simply Everything" customer, but I'm an iPhone fan as well. I've read about software that allows you to unlock your iPhone, however, I'm afraid that if I unlock an iPhone and use it on Sprint's network, I'll lose functionality. Do you have any experience with unlocked iPhones?

A: If you unlock an iPhone and use it on another carrier like T-Mobile, you will lose the visual voice mail feature and the 3G support but the handset will operate just fine otherwise. The main caveat is any software updates from Apple will "lock" the phone again to AT&T, so you'll have to download those at your discretion. But in your case, Sharon, I'm getting ahead of myself. Even if you unlock the iPhone it will not work on Sprint's network because Sprint uses an incompatible technology.

Q: I have a cell phone with AT&T that is $40 per month plus an extra $10 per months for a second line for my son. Can I cancel my service and take over his second line? And if so, can I transfer my contacts and phone number to his phone? Can I just replace his SIM card with mine?
- Joan

A: The beauty of GSM phones is that you can transfer your phone number and your contacts from one handset to another simply by switching your SIM card. So if you ever want to use your son's phone as your own, you won't have a problem. Yet you won't be able to cancel your service without canceling his as well. Because his phone is a "second line," it can exist only if your service is still in place. So don't get any ideas about getting cell phone service for only $10 a month. Conversely, you could cancel his second line anytime you'd like but you you may be liable for an early termination fee for that second line.

Kent German, CNET's cell phones guru, answers your questions about cell phones, services, and accessories and reports on the state of the industry. Send him a question!. For past columns, check out the columns in the On Call archive