When traveling to China, should I unlock my iPhone and get a SIM card there or get an international AT&T data plan?

Episode 876 (28:34)

Kevin from Beaumont, CA

When Leo went to China, he bought an international data plan from AT&T and his phone worked great everywhere. Leo doesn't recommend getting a SIM card in China. If Kevin wants to unlock the phone, he should ask Apple and AT&T. They will do it, but it's non trivial. Even though AT&T's plans may be expensive, there are a couple of reasons not to get a data plan in China:

  • Data rates may still be expensive.
  • Kevin should check AT&T's international data rates first. The maximum amount of data he could buy is 800 MB for $200. It's expensive, but would likely work for the three weeks that he plans to stay.

  • Kevin would get a Chinese phone number instead of his own.
  • It would be good for Kevin to keep his regular phone number in case people need to reach him.

Kevin should get international roaming for the phone, which makes it a little cheaper for phone calls. He should also get an international text package because international texts cost a lot of money otherwise. Most importantly, he needs to get an international data plan as well. Kevin also wanted to know if he would be able to use Skype or Face Time while there. Often services like Skype, Facebook or Twitter are blocked in China. There's a wikipedia page called "What's Blocked Right Now". The good news is if one or more of those services are blocked, he could try getting around it using another app to post to Twitter or Facebook, such as Path. If Kevin gets access to wifi at the hotel, though, he can use Skype to make free or nearly free calls that way (provided it isn't blocked, although when Leo was in China he was able to use Skype just fine).