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iPhone international data charge warning: Data access can occur involuntarily

iPhone international data charge warning: Data access can occur involuntarily

Taking your iPhone overseas can be a costly proposition, and you may not even know that you're racking up a huge data transfer cost until you get your AT&T bill. The problem is a combination of the following two facts:

  • 1. The iPhone is capable of using international data roaming, which is billed at $5/MB in select countries ("DataConnect Global" countries), and nearly $20/MB in other countries (you must activate a per-use international roaming data plan)
  • 2. The iPhone will automatically download data over available data networks without notifying the user for applications like Stocks, Weather, etc and other purposes which we can't yet identify. Even if a user deletes all companies from the Stocks application, and cities from Weather application, data transfer may still take place. (You can check data transfer stats in the in the Usage section of the Settings application.) In other words, even if you have turned off off all options you think could result in data access and don't directly access any data functions, you could still find transfers of several hundred KB on your bill.

So some users who have taken their iPhones overseas and used only voice functionality, or thought they were using only WiFi-based network access are receiving significant bills for international data roaming. There a few ways to obviate these charges:

  • Take the SIM card out of your iPhone. This will allow you to use the device to access WiFi services, but will disallow any EDGE/GPRS based data access, eliminating the potential for unwanted charges. You won't be able to make calls, however.
  • Call AT&T and ask them to temporarily disable EDGE access capabilities on your account while you are traveling. Use this number: 916-843-3685. Unfortunately, we haven't found a way to manually disable EDGE data access on the iPhone.