A simple plea to AT&T: Texts ARE data!
With that said, my travels ended and I got my first AT&T invoice from my far-flung travels. I managed to stick to a lean 15 MB of data used (both downloaded and uploaded) on the iPhone. I called stateside a handful of times using the international roaming plan, which reduced the charge per minute to $1.29 from $1.69. I found myself becoming the master of keeping calls from rounding up to the next chargeable minute (my average call time to the States was 2:59). In the end, my invoice was only $30 more than it usually is, but I'm not sure if all the calls and charges have come through.
The International data plan did prove useful.
I checked my email on the road every now and then (not as frequently as the auto-check would have). Using email, I managed to send a few pictures of koalas and kangaroos I took from the iPhone's Camera Roll. It was nice to access Google Maps, which primarily worked well with one notable exception (A search for a Hungry Jack's - the local name for Burger King - led us to a dark part of Cairns and a "Hungry Joe's," we didn't stick around long enough to find out what that was). It was nice to access the weather (which, as per usual, was woefully wrong). The international data plan is advisable in Australia as our experience showed that there were not a lot of WiFi networks around (in fact, we kept finding people's mobile phones as being WiFi access points).
What the data plan did not cover was the cost of SMS text messages. I must admit, I am a SMS addict. That said, I never really thought SMS texts were considered separate from data. Okay, I may have known on some level, but somehow I fooled myself into thinking of AT&T benevolence. Well, at $.50 a message, I won't make that mistake again. Lucky for me, I didn't send that many messages, but it still cost me a good chunk of change that could have otherwise been spent on a pint or five.
Last, I still don't know if I can take these international features off of my AT&T plan. The irony is that AT&T switched from itemized paper billing invoices to simplified consolidated invoices - but this actually leaves customers like me in the dark. I still have no idea if all my calls placed have posted to my account yet.
I guess sometimes you have to be careful for what you wish for as you may get it.