One of the most perplexing details of planning a long (or short) trip to Paris is figuring-out how you're going to use your cell phone while there. And there are many possible scenarios available. This piece is specifically about using an iPhone in Paris - and for just pennies.
Most people who want to use their iPhone in Paris think they have to do two things: unlock their iPhone and then purchase a SIM card from a local provider (such as Orange) in order to get up and running. And you certainly can go that route. But unlocking your iPhone can be tricky - and SIM charges with Orange (or whoever) can be pricey.
There also is the option of continuing your AT&T (or Verizon) service while in Paris and opting for their International Plan. This allows you to use your iPhone as normal while in France - but the charges you'll incur are pretty hefty. Much higher than you pay at home for the same features.
Be aware though that the so-called "Free Wi-Fi" offered in many public places by the city of Paris is not free. To utilize this service you must connect through the Orange network and pay an hourly fee - a very hefty fee, I might add. The word "free" only means anyone is free to pay to use the service - without contractual obligations. But it isn't gratuit.
So - if you only need to use your iPhone to make phone calls and surf the web - and you're willing to do this primarily in your free Wi-Fi equipped apartment (or wherever you have
wi-fi access) - then you can accomplish both for pennies - and have essentially no cell phone bill when you return home.
The first thing to do (for US/Canada residents) is contact AT&T before your departure and notify them that you will be out of the country and that you wish to put your cell phone on vacation suspend status. What this does is disable your current SIM card so you can not access AT&T cell phone towers in Europe to make calls or connect to the internet. But most importantly for you, it also removes the charges for those services from your bill. No data, phone use, nor roaming charges. In fact - no bill. The only thing you pay is a $10 'account maintenance fee'. So if you're gone for three months - your bill will be $30 when you return. This program is available for up to 6 months.
You can purchase Skype credit in any amount and make calls on Skype (I'll explain how in a minute) at a rate of approximately .02 US cents a minute to any phone - anywhere - regardless of whether the person you're calling has Skype or not; or, call someone who also has Skype - in which case your call is free; or, purchase a Skype phone number (approx. $60 a year) allowing friends and family in the US/Canada to call a local number (for them) that then rings your phone in Paris. And, of course, you can still call them too, as explained above.
Visit the Skype web-site for the details on each option.
After you do this, go to the Apple APP Store on your iPhone and add Skype as an application. It's free.
The next step is to switch your phone to airplane mode when you leave. Simply go to settings on your screen menu and move the button for this selection to on. Your phone is now completely disconnected from the AT&T (or Verizon) network. But you will notice that it still "works". It still turns-on, the menus are still there, etc. This is because you now have a little computer in your hand instead of a phone.
When you arrive at your apartment in Paris and have received the free Wi-Fi login information from the landlord - you are now ready to bring your phone back to full functionality - and doing so is simple.
To make a phone call you need only open the Skype application from your screen menu - login to your account - press the Call button - type in the number you wish to call (anywhere) and press Call again- exactly as you would were you at home. You will be connected (to any number - regardless of whether they have Skype or not) via VOIP. If you're calling a non-Skype number in the US/Canada, you will be charged .02 US cents a minute.
It's that easy - and that cheap!
So if you really only need your iPhone while in your apartment and/or any other free Hotspot you can find, this is an option that will save you a lot of money - and allow you the full use of your gadget while away.
Good luck and Bon Voyage!