Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Can I live without an iPhone? F*ck No.


Those of you who know me know that I’m unhealthily attached to my iPhone.  So I have no idea why I thought I could manage seven months with only an iPod touch, relying on free WiFi.

Well, not everywhere in Bangkok has free WiFi.  You have to work to find it.  There’s the Green House on Rambutri, which usually has great free WiFi, and right now I’m at Thammasat University, which restricts WiFi for all departments except the law school.  (Score!)

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the other night, when a bunch of friends and I ended up missing each other for a dinner.  I told my friends I was going to be a bit late but to wait for me.  After an insane tuk-tuk ride during which the driver stopped to say hi to his family (!!!), I finally got there, sweaty and sooty and unable to find anyone.

I then ran around like a chicken with my head cut off looking for WiFi, since we mostly communicated by Twitter.  Not a chance.  No WiFi in the mall or any of the surrounding areas.  I knew that night that I had to make a change.

I tried jailbreaking my iPhone.  After many hours and many, many attempts, I was finally able to break it using Limera1n.

My ecstasy turned to terror when I realized that, though the phone had been jailbroken successfully, it could not be unlocked.  At all.  Ever.  Until some developer figures out how to unlock it.

It was time to buy a phone.

I ventured to Siam Square for the first time, home to several shopping malls.  I loved Siam Paragon, filled with designer shops, though I was a bit underwhelmed by the neighborhood in general.

MBK, a major mall, though, was where it was at.  They sell a LOT of iPhones there — many earlier generation iPhones — and they are ALL unlocked.  You can use them anywhere in the world.  YES.

I found a 3Gs, the same as the current model that I have.  And I paid a lot for it.  I’m not going to say how much, because I’ll weep, but my upcoming car insurance refund will thankfully more than cover it.

Having a phone has been amazing, and I’ve been as happy as a clam in a casino — not just calling and texting my friends here in Thailand, but also finding out information when I need it.  You can’t rely on free WiFi here.

The point of this story?  Times have changed.  You may not have needed a phone while you were abroad a few years ago, but now, in the age of the Smartphone, you do.

If you want to bring your iPhone abroad, jailbreak and unlock it before you arrive.  Have one of your techie friends help you.  But even then, you might not be able to unlock it.  It depends on the software.

I really wish I had known this before arriving in Thailand.  Don’t make the same mistake as me!  But if you do, MBK is where to go.


17 Responses to “Can I live without an iPhone? F*ck No.”
  1. Gillian says:

    I totally relate to the needing to stay connected feeling. I´ve been in Spain about a month and the unlocked and jail broken iPhone I brought over has been really great. I don´t have 3G so I still have a little bit of the endless quest for wifi going on, but the ability to use some of the features (maps and texting apps like pingchat! for example) make navigating and staying in touch with people back home much easier!

    • Jarrod says:

      Gillian – I’ll be in Spain in 2 months (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, etc) wondering what the access to WifFi is? What have you experienced?



  2. Nomadic Matt says:

    my iphone is like my third arm. i cant live without it either

  3. Great advice here! I don’t have an iPhone yet (getting one in a few months when they partner with Verizon). But when I was in the Middle East this past summer, I bought myself a basic cellphone. Even though it had limited options, being able to make calls and text was a real lifesaver. I agree–these days, you really need something and ideally, a smart phone.

  4. Ahimsa says:

    “Times have changed. You may not have needed a phone while you were abroad a few years ago, but now, in the age of the Smartphone, you do.”

    I absolutely disagree. If you are used to having one at home, it might be hard to learn not to have one. But you never need a phone in Asia…you can find everything you want quite easily. There will always be restaurants, guest houses, travel agents, and supermarkets that are easy to find.

  5. ehalvey says:

    I felt this way with just a crappy Nokia when I studied abroad 6 years ago. I was glad to be able to text since we had no land line and no internet in the dorm. And this was Ireland!

    Now, I have to say the iPad helps a lot since I’m still smart phone-less. You can only find so much on a map, and it’s so nice to have some way to communicate with friends to meet up. I can unplug for a weekend, not for an extended trip.

  6. Earl Squirrelson says:

    Thanks for the heads up Kate.

    I took a lap top last time I travelled and it was a pain in the ass!! This time I will be taking a 3g ipad which, except for making calls, will probably do more than what I need.

    I will be in the UK and Europe so there is plenty of free wifi there!!

    Have you decided where to next Kate???

  7. Michael says:

    Good advice, I don’t have a iphone either but I want one. ermm, I only got a cell phone about 2 years ago and before that I had a big orange phone with a chord that was on my wall haha. I’m actually very tech savy but lagging behind in some areas like communication, it’s fitting I guess.

  8. Jaime D. says:

    That is too funny! Im gonna have to rethink my “Im not bringing my smartphone or ipodtouch” idea again. I contemplate on taking it or not. I still have no clue… We’ll see what happens~

  9. Lois says:

    great advice. I had to do the same thing with my Nokia phone because it was tied to a network and had to be unlocked before I could use a Thai sim. It cost me 300 baht. But yes, a trip to MBK did the trick..

  10. Ant Stone says:

    This is why I don’t own an iPhone but really, really want one!

  11. Lissie says:

    I’ve never been inspired by Apple’s products – they are overpriced and restrictive -ie you can’t add storage to a iPhone I believe? I have been wondering about a smart phone for travel though and just bought a non-name android 2.2 on for a quarter of what an iPhone costs in my country.

    I can justify it as a tax deduction and I quite like the gmail on it – but I am yet to be convinced on the staying in contact thing – that’s why I travel for goodness sake – send me an email if its urgent 🙂

    Gonna try it out in the interest of research though. I was thinking about relying on WIFI I must admit – what does local data cost you on a Thai sim? I know its cheap in Malaysia – and cheapest to go international – the NZ sim may not even leave home!

  12. The Guy says:

    I’m always apprehensive of the expensive international roaming charges which is why I don’t bring my personal phone abroad, only my work one. You can of course get a local pay as you go sim card which means you can be contacted very cheaply by others in your destination country.

    Cheap sim cards for internet access are also now widely available in many places.

    Thanks for your great work Kate and Merry Christmas

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