International iPhoning Results in $3,000 Bill
It was only going to be a matter of time before something like this happened. Someone decided to take their iPhone on a little jaunt to Europe, where he says he underwent "sporadic AT&T EDGE network usage off and on mixed with wifi when available." The bill waiting for him when he got home: three grand. (And I bet it was 40 pages long, too.)
Dave Stolte is hardly alone in the annals of absurd, accidental overseas charges, but as more and more people start traveling abroad with their iPhones, cases like this are going to become a lot more common, and fast. The iPhone is a chatty little device, constantly checking the network and calling home to the mothership, and iPhone users quickly get spoiled on its nifty data features, using them constantly to check the web, watch videos, etc. (In fairness: You do have to call AT&T first and ask for international roaming to be unlocked for this to work at all.)
Those little charges add up fast. $0.02 per kilobyte sounds pretty cheap, right? WRONG. Do the math: A 1-megabyte web page (a very common size) costs almost twenty bucks to open. 20. Dollars. Whoa. Seriously. (Thanks to Portfolio for helping out with our collective multiplication, and noting that there are various rate plans available, going down to $.005 per KB, which would still be about $5 per megabyte.)
So what do you need to do if you're going abroad with your iPhone? Portfolio suggests the same thing I do: Sign up for an affordable international voice plan but disable the data plan altogether. You can still use data services over Wi-Fi, which is free. The inconvenience of not being able to check Google Maps when you're away from a hotspot is nothing compared to a multi-thousand dollar data bill. When you get home, just turn your data services back on.
Stolte's story has a happy ending. After wide online publicity, AT&T agreed to waive the charges. As the first to report such a problem, he's the lucky one. But I doubt the next 10,000 or so people to fall into this predicament will find AT&T so accommodating. Don't become one of them.