I am the Burgerfan!

Chris Christou's Weblog. Everyone has a story — What's yours?

December 1st, 2013: 10:29 pm

I have an iPhone 5 on the Telus network. Before taking a vacation to Buenos Aires, I found out that pay as you go plans – including data – were quite cheap. This would be handy for several reasons:

  • Access to Google Maps on the go
  • Access to Google Translate on the go
  • Ability to look up bus routes and other information while out and about each day
  • local calls if necessary
  • Ability to message my in-laws (who were also on the trip) when we weren’t all together
  • The first two were the main motivation, and were the biggest benefit to a successful adventure. For the duration of our trip, I think I spent about $10 Canadian, which got me a sim card, and all the 3G Data and Calling I needed for two weeks (I didn’t make many calls though). What surprised me was that the internet access was one peso (under 25 cents) a day!

    Here is a rundown of my overall experience:

    I phoned Telus to unlock my phone (a $35 service they offer to existing clients). They then told me to connect my phone to iTunes and Restore it. I figured Telus would simply push an update to my phone containing an unlock code, so a Restore seemed unnecessary, but I figured it was better to follow the steps than to find out the hard way that it was necessary. It turns out Telus sends a request to Apple, who in turn unlock your phone via iTunes during the restore process. I made a backup, and once the Restore completed, iTunes showed a message indicating my phone is now unlocked. Nice! If iTunes does not tell you your phone is unlocked, assume it isn’t. After restoring a backup, everything was back to normal on my phone (or so I thought), with the addition of that liberating feeling knowing I can shed my local SIM for another, anywhere! I did have one data casualty during this process: the restore claimed to copy my music onto the phone, but it wasn’t until I was mid-flight (and fully disconnected) that I realized only a tiny portion of my music was actually available on my phone! Once I was back, I had to explicitly remove all music from the phone (even the songs that iTunes claimed were on the phone but weren’t), and re-add all songs in order to fix that. Minor inconvenience really.

    In Buenos Aires, SIM cards are available from the telephone companies themselves, also I’m assuming at most stores that sell cellphones and accessories. These were common enough that a short stroll through a neighbourhood should turn up at least one place to get a card from, saving a trip to one of the main telco stores. At this time, it seemed like only Micro sim cards were available, but my phone requires a nano-sim. Thankfully the place I picked up a card from had a sim card cutter, and they clipped the card to size for free.

    Its funny, a scan on the Edmonton kijiji site shows people offering to cut sim cards for $5-$10, meanwhile you can buy a clipper off eBay for a couple bucks. Its also likely you can just get it done where you are travelling to for free. Its probably a good idea to get one if you’re going to travel anyways and just bring it with you. Its also a good idea to bring (or buy) a little nail file. The clipped card was still a little too big and thick for the phone, but a couple of minutes doing some nano-filing and I was in business.

    I wanted to get a Movistar card since they were the most popular, but wasn’t able to find one in a limited timespan. I got a card for the Personal network. I was able to make calls and texts, but the data access was not functioning. The sim card menu had an option for what I imagine is iPhone service, so I called that. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, and the representative on the other end did not speak English. At any rate, she said “cinco minutos”, I said “gracias”, and in five minutes, it was working. Information mobility!

    "iPhone Attention".  Sounds promising...

    “iPhone Attention”. Sounds promising…

    The mobile internet worked great. I think their coverage isn’t as solid as it is in Canada and the US, sometimes there would be no service in stores until I was back out on the sidewalks, but it was great to keep maps and a translator on hand. It might not be economical or practical to get sim cards everywhere, but if is certainly convenient to have the option.