iPhone data and tethering can cost you only $15 per month

iPhone data and tethering can cost you only $15 per month
Remember those news reports stating that the iPhone data plan could possibly be reduced by as much as $10? We're here now past the launch of the iPhone 3GS and still find the same old data plan offered with it and now, thanks to the iPhone 3.0 software, will allow tethering and MMS. Would you believe that there is a way to have an iPhone and only pay $15 per month for the data plan as opposed to the standard $30? And would you go as far as to believe us that you can enable tethering without having the need to jailbreak the device and go through all the hassle? Well, we're here to say that there is a way to do it. And if you consider yourself as a novice, you won't have to stress out about getting too technical to achieve these results. All you're going to need is some patience and some sweet talking over the phone. One of our fellow readers has shared how they were able to do it – and then we replicated the steps to confirm it.

Paying less is always good, right? We're not going to complain about saving some extra cash during these tough economic times. Instead, we're going to reap all the rewards and benefits of what our iPhone 3GS can potentially do for us. So here's what you're going to need to get this to go through without a niche. First and foremost, you'll obviously need to get an iPhone – either buying it with a contract or dishing out some heavy dough for a full priced one. Second, you're going to have to snag yourself some sort of AT&T handset that isn't deemed as a smart phone – let's say something like an LG Xenon or Motorola RAZR. Third, a phone call to AT&T's customer care will be needed to get some information put into their system. Finally, downloading an APN changer on the iPhone, like the one found here will be essential to the completion of the procedure.

Searching through various web sites, there are people asking in many forums if the iPhone will work with AT&T's unlimited data plan for non-smart phones (formerly Media Net). Surprisingly, many users out there would simply remove their SIM, which has the $15 per month unlimited data plan associated with it, and insert it into a friends iPhone without any problems. They're able to place phone calls and even surf the web without any problems. If you're thinking that the monthly bill will reflect some new charges, you'll be shocked to find out that there was no difference. They were still charged for the $15 data plan and nothing else. So here's where we start on our quest to save money and enable tethering in four simple steps.

We started out by upgrading an eligible line to an iPhone with a two year contract; so we dished out the usual $199.99 for an iPhone 3GS in black. The sales representative we dealt with showed us our contract that displayed clearly the $30 per month data plan we would be charged in addition to our regular plan. By the time we left the store, our iPhone 3GS was activated and ready for use. So here comes the fun part; calling up AT&T customer care.

In order to get this successfully completed, we had a spare LG Vu on hand to get the “switch” done. Now here's the thing with AT&T, it keeps track of what features are associated with each device thanks to the IMEI of the handset. Thanks to SIM cards, users can freely place their SIM into other devices without the need to call up their carrier to get it active. Our only fear with a Verizon iPhone incarnation is that users will always need to provide the carrier the ESN (Electronic Serial Number) to have it activated on their network. Whereas AT&T customers, or any GSM based carrier, are able to freely transfer service to other devices by just placing their SIM card into the new handset. After briefly chatting with the customer service representative, we told them how we wanted to use another phone we got from a friend and be able to access the internet on it. Eventually they asked for the IMEI of the LG Vu, so we provided it to them and then informed them to place the $15 per month unlimited data plan. And we asked to verify that the $30 iPhone data plan was removed and no longer being charged for it. After that was complete, we went to our online account and filled with excitement to see that the LG Vu was now showing as our device. We're more than halfway through completing this process, we only had one more thing to complete before we could start rejoicing in our victory.

Powering on the iPhone, we were able to make voice calls without a hitch. Launching Safari, we were greeted to this message displaying “Could not activate cellular data network: You are not subscribed to a cellular data service.” Most people would probably scratch their heads and throw in the book – it seems as though AT&T would have the last laugh. So this is where this nifty APN Changer comes into play. For all those not familiar with it, the APN is a setting that instructs your handset how to access data services. So we connected to the closest Wi-Fi network in our vicinity and typed in “unlockit.co.nz” into the browser. It directs you to a web site that looks like a settings menu that can be found on the iPhone. There is an option to select a “custom APN” which then asks you if tethering is an option you want enabled. At this point, why not? We made it this far and we're intent on getting the full rewards out of our hardships. Finally there is an option to select a carrier – we were told to select US – Cingular. From there all the settings are in place and we were given the option to install the new APN Carrier Settings to our device. We did a quick restart of the iPhone and then waited to see if all our work paid off. We clicked on Safari and waited in anticipation to see if it all worked. Success! We triumphed and opened multiple web pages with the aid of 3G connectivity. We played around the internet tethering options under the “Network” settings and enabled it. Soon we were sharing the 3G speed via Bluetooth to our netbook. The greatest thing about it is that it was simple and did not require having the iPhone being jailbroken.

So let's recap our adventure in obtaining a cheaper data plan and getting tethering capabilities. The only feature we were missing was Visual Voicemail. The reason behind it is that the $30 per month iPhone data plan needs to be associated with the account in order to get it. So now we're forced to retrieve messages using the old fashion way. It's not a bummer in our books – especially when we'll be saving half as much money during the life of the contract. After we connected the iPhone to iTunes on our computer, we noticed after logging into our AT&T account online that it showed the iPhone as our device. We assume that iTunes registers the IMEI with the SIM card number to AT&T; so in their system it'll say you have an iPhone (which we do now). Interestingly enough, the $15 unlimited data plan was still valid despite it showing us having the iPhone 3GS. The reader who provided us the information goes on to say that they were still charged the same $15 data plan while using the iPhone for six months. They were even able to place their SIM into a Samsung BlackJack II and a BlackBerry Curve – all the while still paying the same $15 plan; not the usual $30 data plan. We've verified this ourselves and continue to pay only $15 plus our normal voice plan. We're now enjoying the huge savings and tethering it to our computer – all the while paying less and without any major reduction in functionality. Undoubtedly, we'd assume that the big suits over at AT&T would not be pleased about this. But we believe that sharing this information will empower consumers out there. So happy web surfing on the iPhone!

If you have some interesting info that you'd like to share with us, feel free to Tip Us!



1. gba2000

Posts: 49; Member since: Dec 28, 2008

The problem with that is once the sim registers the iphone as an iphone, the data plan will be changed automatically.

6. PhoneArena Team

Posts: 258; Member since: Jun 27, 2006

That's not the case. The only time that AT&T can change the plan back to the $30 one is if you call them up or go into a store and provide them the IMEI of the device. Although it shows online that you are using an iPhone, it will continue to charge only the $15 unlimited data plan. We've confirmed this.

11. Quemical

Posts: 162; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

They cant change your data plan without your consent............right. Except for the part about violating the terms of service which in turn allows them to change it back. I agree with comment 9 azphonegeek, what was the point of this??? This site is about the farthest from an informative tech-savvy hackery blog as you can get.

17. jesushcop

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

That is incorrect. AT&T can and will update the data package without your consent. If you were to call customer care they would add the feature and tell you that due to your terms and conditions you are required to have it. They also do system sweeps which send you a text stating that they are adding the feature. Simple as that. When you activated the line you agreed to the terms and conditions. You sold your soul.

18. Quemical

Posts: 162; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

Exactly, Pa didnt know what they are talking about? Suprise suprise.

20. ruggedruffian

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

Dude how have you confirmed it? Read a real reputable site likewww.howardforums.com and you will see that the forums (both AT&T and Apple subforums) are filled with people who have TRIED this. This is old news because the 3G iPhone was out in 2008. People have tried this and AT&T WILL check you. If you read the Terms of the iPhone contract, you NEED the iPhone $30 plan. You got lucky and got a CSR dumb enough to follow through and cancel it. They should NOT do it. Ok, let's say you get through this part. AT&T performs sweeps based on IMEI or whatever and will see that you are using an iPhone on their $15 plan and you WILL get a text. Dozens of threads on MacForums, MacRumors, iLounge, HowardForums detail this and you will get screwed. AT&T has the right to cancel or modify your plan. I'm not saying this won't work 100%, but it has a high failure percentage. This isn't free cone day @ Ben & Jerrys. This is cheating the terms of the contract and hoping it will work. I have no shame and if this had a 95% success rate I would do it, but given that you can get caught and it's not worth it, at least get the fact straights. A HUGE thumbsdown to the Phone Arena team for discovering something a year late and jumping on it without a full investigation. Booo. False information ruins other people.

21. vasser7 unregistered

So the people who got checked by ATT doing this, did ATT cancel their contract or just changed everything back to normal??

22. jovel16

Posts: 59; Member since: Oct 05, 2008

I actually had a Samsung Eternity that I used 6 months ago and also paid for the $15 data plan for it...and then borrowed my dad's HTC tilt a few months after. I was never charged for the usual smart phone data plan for $30. But I kept on switching back and forth between the two phones. And to this day.....I've never got that text saying they are changing something.

2. trentsinmypants

Posts: 324; Member since: Jan 29, 2009

What about visual voicemail? Does that still work?

7. PhoneArena Team

Posts: 258; Member since: Jun 27, 2006

Nope, it's no longer available once we switched to the $15 unlimited data plan. It would only be available if the $30 iPhone data plan is associated with the account. So you have to manually retrieve messages the old fashion way.

31. PapaJay224

Posts: 866; Member since: Feb 08, 2009

in other words its 45 dollars right? data plan for the phone 15 for tether? Sounds right to me....But I agree upstairs we arent buying iPhones here whats the relevancy of the article?

3. DontHateOnS60

Posts: 872; Member since: Apr 20, 2009

And now that this is out, AT&T will figure out a way to crack down on this.

4. sinfulta

Posts: 279; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

I can care less about about most of which was mentioned. I just want MMS. I will pay the same price and could care less about tethering. I'm sure not much is needed to be done but visiting the website so it can be enabled.

15. theman10

Posts: 93; Member since: May 16, 2009

It's I couldn't care less. If you say I could care less, then you care and it defeats the purpose of what you are saying. Think about and save us all from being retarded

19. sinfulta

Posts: 279; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

If you read that again. I said that because I DO care about a portion of it which is the MMS portion. (Thus, why I said about most of which was mentioned) Maybe you should take your own advice.

26. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Theman10 is right and you might be a little confused (but that's okay because almost everyone makes this error). You meant to say that you couldn't care less about most of the stuff that was mentioned (excluding MMS), which would mean that on a scale of 0-10 of how much you care about most of the stuff mentioned, the score would be a "0" therefore you couldn't care less than zero (zero is the lowest level of caring). In another words, your level of caring for the stuff other than MMS is so low that it couldn't get any lower. that's what theman10 was trying to say (even though he was being just a little rude). If you say you could care less, then that means that your level of caring could be something like a "5," which means that you could care less. That means that you do care about it somewhat. You could be really excited and still make sense when you say that you could care less. If you won $100 and you say you couldn't care less, that means you don't care one bit. If you say that you could care less, then that means you care about it somewhat and that it is possible of caring less. And that's our lesson for day phonearena members. Come back again next year.

32. PapaJay224

Posts: 866; Member since: Feb 08, 2009

thanks TEACH! Go grade someone elses paper...I hate you grammer happy junkies coming into forums thinking you sound smart...if your not going to talk about the topic dont post...its not like they can come back and correct what they posted...Was that a fragment? oh i dont know...WHO CARES!!!!!!

34. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

You're welcome. And I didn't correct his grammar. His grammar is fine. And I wasn't trying to sound smart. I guess it just came out that way. I was just trying to help sinfulta understand what theman was saying. Sorry if I made you feel stupid

5. sinfulta

Posts: 279; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

Can someone tell me if this could be done if you don't have a second handset. I just want to activate the MMS.

8. jjgoode

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

So...is there a difference in performance? other than visual voicemail is one data plan better than another? faster?

13. PhoneArena Team

Posts: 258; Member since: Jun 27, 2006

No difference in speed performance. It still displays "3G" in the top left corner. Both data plans use the same network.

9. AZNphoneGeek

Posts: 200; Member since: May 15, 2009

i think it's screwed up that phone arena tells people how to rip off a company for a cheaper plan. this is the problem with a lot of america. People think they're entitled to a more than they are. what have you done where you deserve cheaper discounted rates. "my iphone is expensive and they're ripping me off" they say. well stupid idiot, don't get an iphone then. you knew how much it was going to cost when you signed your 2 year contract. articles like this make me sick. no doubt, this is yet one more thing contribuiting to a messed up economy and a lower IQ quotient in today's society. phone arena, you guys are tools. if you guys had any integrity at all, you would not have posted this. it undermines then entire industry. i am beyond disappointed. and no i don't work for ATT

12. linkz016

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

This is absolutely hilarious. First of all, how on earth does paying $15 less on your cell phone bill equate to having a lower IQ quotient? Secondly, you do know that paying or not paying those 15 extra dollars to AT&T has absolutely no direct effect to the economy. Actually it would be better for the economy if people did this since they would be using the extra savings to pay for other goods or services. Now lastly, after reading this it becomes really obvious how AT&T is actually ripping off their customers. For $15 a month you get the same features as $30 data plan except for Video Voicemail. So apparently in AT&T's eyes, video voicemail is worth an extra $15 a month. That is just plain stupid. It is true that people think they are entitled to more than they deserve but this has nothing to do with that.

14. Quemical

Posts: 162; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

The perceived value of the data plan and its cost are completely seperate issues. You could say every company is a ripoff that charges more for blackberry internet than dumbphone internet, using that logic. Your moral argument about the data plan costing too much sounds like the same logic used to justify stealing cable, not that I disagree.

27. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Both linkz016 and Quemical make very good points. But honestly the data and calling plan are overpriced. The phone only only costs about $200 dollars to make and yet the retail price is $599 to $699, which is a huge profit. The high plans are to make up for the money lost of the price was subsidized. That's about 500 dollar gain per phone. But I guess they need the money to pay all the people who helped design and develop the phone so I really don't know if I'm (and other people with high-end phones) are being ripped off.

10. AZNphoneGeek

Posts: 200; Member since: May 15, 2009

sweet typos huh. i was typing fast and was pissed

16. vasser7 unregistered

so does this activate mms on your iphone?

23. nalu808

Posts: 39; Member since: Jul 14, 2009

ok so aznphonegeek is arguing something moral and the other guy says at&t is just ripping people off. well the way i see it it may be phonearenas job to tell a story as any journalistic web publication can but they should at least have some integrity. if it shows that people are getting ripped off then hey hopefully stupid people will realize it and leave at&t. the fact of the matter is as a publication who reposrts on the industry you dont go around telling consumers hoe to screw a company, you point out how they are gettint screwed and you point out which plans are cheaper as any real consumer advocay publication would do(thats the excuse they use to release this info) and point out which are scrweing you. if i iwant something so bad and it is the shiz then i would be willing to pay for itas should anyone thats a choice. At&t is not to blame, the entitlement mentality comes in when you want the phone but are not willing to pay for it, then quite frankly letter of the law you are defrauding the company whether or not its services are over price(its called free market) the guys that are cheaper will eventually win, and that my friends is the problem with thge us when people arent willing to pay for what they feel they want.

24. AZNphoneGeek

Posts: 200; Member since: May 15, 2009

hey 808, thats what i mean. thanks for putting it into more scholarly words. and linkz you peckerwood, people are getting dumber every day. when you need a tip calculator in your phone, you're dumb. when you get a phone cause you think it's the best before you even touch it, you're dumb. when you can't afford a better job to pay that $15 a month, you're dumb. there are so many dumb people out there, they are making me dumber. if you can truthfully say that the american population is getting smarter and not dumber, you're dumb.

28. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

I think its dumb to overgeneralize people. I think its dumb to think someone is dumb just because they use a tip calculator (I don't use a tip calculator just in case you wanted to know). But you're right. You're dumb, the majority american population is getting dumber (I didn't think that could be possible), and I am also for taking time to write this dumb comment. But anyways I think its AT&T's problem. People found a loophole so now its their responsibility to close it. All your doing is switching to one phone and then switching back. Whatever happened or failed to happen is AT&T's fault.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.