Sunday, July 24, 2011

Getting a Canadian iPhone to work with an AT&T GoPhone SIM card, Part 2

This was SIM-cutting day !

I took out my Rogers MicroSIM, and laid it next to the GoPhone SIM. Cutting was required on all four sides. There are plenty of Youtube videos that will show you exactly how to do it. I would probably recommend a MicroSIM cutter available on Ebay, but for those that don't have the patience of waiting for shipping, you can basically get it done with scissors.

The name of the game here is : apply yourself. You are better off cutting less than needed at first, and then cutting hair-thin layers until you get the exact cut that is required. I found that aligning both chips along one side of my iPhone was a good way to make sure that my cuts were ok.

Once you're done, put both MicroSIMs on top of each other and make sure they are the same size. My Rogers SIM had its corners a bit rounded off, so I did the same to the GoPhone SIM.

The next step is to change your APN settings on your phone. Open up this post in your iPhone and click on the link. You'll get an easy-to-use iPhone app that lets you choose your provider, and will create a Profile in your General settings.

I made sure my 3G data was off before I inserted the SIM. I'm pretty sure that's useless, as I've read that there's no roaming available in Canada for GoPhone SIMs, but I didn't want to risk it anyway.

Finally, I inserted the AT&T MicroSIM in the tray, put the tray back into the iPhone.

If you are within reach of an AT&T cell tower, I imagine that the AT&T network would show up on the screen. My problem is that I'm doing all this in Montreal, and I'd have to drive to probably 5 km of the border to get some kind of AT&T signal.

My experience so far is that I'm getting a SIM failure popup right after I insert the MicroSIM.

My first conclusion was that either I have a bad SIM, or I cut it wrong. I haven't ruled out the bad SIM, but the bad cutting just doesn't make sense. When you look at the contacts, it's not as if having a contact point that's half a millimeter to either side would have any effect : each contact is at least 2-3 millimeters wide.

I googled a bit on the SIM failure thing. Some people talk about rebooting, others specify putting the phone in airplane mode before rebooting, which is what I did. Once rebooted, I turned off airplane mode, and I didn't get the SIM failure message. Then again, I don't get any network showing up on the screen, and there's only one bar showing.

I guess I'll have to drive down close to the border to really see if I've got a working SIM or not. I'll probably do that within the next 10 days or so.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting a Canadian iPhone to work with an AT&T GoPhone SIM card

First I want to mention that this post on was what started it all for me...

I'm planning my yearly vacation to Virginia Beach coming up in 2 weeks time, and I wanted a Data plan so that I could access the internet during the 13 hour drive down there.

There are a few sources of information for this project, and I wanted to share my own experience as of July 2011.

At the moment, I've found only one valid solution to having 3G data available in the US without paying the horrendous roaming data fee that Rogers (or any other carrier) charges : the GoPhone prepaid SIM card from AT&T.

If you're ok with Edge speed, then you could also go with Simple Mobile, which works on the T-Mobile network and thus only provides Edge data.

The first step is to get your hands on a GoPhone SIM card. If you search on Ebay, you'll see that there are SIM cards available from US sellers for anywhere from $5 to $10 shipped. As I was not willing to risk the SIM card not being shipped in time for my departure, I decided to drive down to Plattsburgh NY instead, which is about a 1-hour drive from where I live.

I first tried to get the SIM card at Walmart's, and then Radio-Shack, but they didn't sell the SIM card without an accompanying phone. I then went to the AT&T store on Smithfield road.

As I had read on a couple of sites beforehand, the staff first tried to convince me that the GoPhone SIM card wouldn't work in my iPhone. I told them politely that I looked it up and that I didn't expect them to support me in the process, and they agreed to sell me the SIM and a phone/text plan ($2/day unlimited, minimum purchase $15) as well as a Data plan ($25 for 500MB).

I then rode my car back to the canadian border, told the agent exactly what I had bought, and they let me through.

So I am back home, and later on this weekend I'll proceed with the next step, which will be to cut the SIM into a MicroSIM, then change the APN settings in the iPhone, and finally pop the SIM card in to test it, although I'll be in Canada... we'll see what happens.