How to use your US iPhone in Italy
This was originally posted on the forum by BluSky in response to this question:
"We both have an iPhone4 here in the US with AT&T. Are we going to have to buy new iPhones when we arrive in Italy? Or do we "jailbreak" our current phones so we can put in new SIM cards with a new provider when we arrive? "
You will have to both "Jailbreak" and "unlock" for your AT&T phones to work here. Unfortunately, you need to first jailbreak in order to reach your goal (unlocking)-- to be able to use a SIM from a provider here. Apple will not do this for you, nor will any providers here. Whatever you do, do not lose your ATT SIM cards, as you can continue to use them to "activate" the phones in iTunes after the jailbreak and before you unlock.
(otherwise you must use yet another hack to activate them in ITunes. The old "dead" ATT cards can still perform this activation task)
I've been using an ATT iPhone here in Europe for the past 2 years, and besides the inconvenience of rerunning the jailbreak/unlock codes when updates come out, it has been painless for me.
Check out the iClarified website for simple to follow tutorials on how to jailbreak and unlock your phones using tools like Sn0wbreeze and Ultrasn0w.
A popular solution here is to use a pay-as-you-go account (i.e. no contract). For example, I use WIND and pay 9 Euro per month for 200-something minutes plus an additional 9 Euro per month for their 1Gb "unlimited" data package. This is on a 3G network, and I have had pretty good luck with it in my travels in Italy so far. As mentioned earlier, once you have crossed the 1Gb limit for data, the connection speed is drastically reduced (to worse than Edge speed it seems). If you are a heavy data user, I would suggest making plans for having a Wifi connection available somewhere (home, work, public hotspot, etc.) that you can use to preserve and offset your data consumption. (I'm still waiting for my home connectivity, so my 3G speed lasts me about 2 weeks, then I'm suffering until the new month rolls around)
You can get prepaid service from a number of reputable providers -- WIND and TIM being most popular, and there are also the contract providers like 3 and Vodaphone if you choose to go that route (although I personally don't know why you would)
Before I moved here, I was traveling on weekends from Germany where I was living (also using my jailbroke iPhone and a German prepaid provider successfully). I went to a local Italian electronics superstore and purchased a 10 Euro "startup kit" from WIND and was up and running the next day after the line was activated. I was able to swap SIMS between my providers in both countries without any problems whatsoever.
In order to open an account with a local provider, they will need a copy of your Passport (or other acceptable ID) and also an Italian tax ID code (Codice Fiscale). You can apply for a genuine Codice Fiscale now at your local Italian Consulate in the U.S., or for purposes of getting the phone you can also search Google for a "codice fiscale generator" which can produce a code that fits the required format and should suffice for setting up a prepaid account. (Note that using a generated CF is only a shortcut -- you will need to obtain a real CF in order to reside here, but once in Italy there are other paperwork requirements to be met before they will issue you a Codice Fiscale) Naturally, they will also expect an Italian address on the application for the phone service, but you can likely use a hotel address if it comes to that. It will likely take a couple of days before your new number is working, so be prepared for a brief period where you'll have to roam with another account, or be without service while you are waiting. (This time may be shorter if you go directly into a retail outlet by your chosen provider, I can only comment based on my experience when I signed up at an electronics superstore)
Once you have service, you can purchase recharge cards to top-up your balance at any Tobacco shop (privately owned little shops that are the Italian version of 7-11-- there seems to be one on every block), many grocery stores, electronics stores, etc. (even in cigarette vending machines on the street) Of course you can also do this online if you want to set up automatic recharging, etc. (although using this method will likely require an Italian bank or credit card - which is a whole additional topic in itself)
If you can survive with your current hardware for a while, you can apply the cash you save towards getting a factory unlocked Italian iPhone 5 whenever it comes out next year. There's no need to double your investment when you can move to next-generation hardware.
The other thing you might consider is selling your ATT iPhones in the U.S, before you come. This might be a viable option if you can get a good price to help offset your reinvestment. This would eliminate the inconvenience of dealing with jailbreaks/unlocks and maintenance, but they you're still stuck with how to migrate your data and purchased apps to a new device in a foreign country. Don't forget to begin now to plan how you intend to use iTunes over here. You can continue to use your U.S. Account, but that requires a U.S. payment source. You can also set up an Italian iTunes account, but once again that requires local payment sources (which require residence, Codice Fiscale, etc.) There are also different apps available in the different stores as well. Myself, I use both a U.S. and an Italian iTunes account. I just have to frequently log in to each account to stay fresh on updates and make new purchases. You can use multiple accounts on the same device without issue.
I hope this is enough info to help you out. There's a lot to consider! One last thing - you can always wipe a jailbroken device and put it back to "normal" if needed (for Apple support or for resale).
Questions? Join the discussion here: http://expatsinitaly.com/phpbbforum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=14691