How iPhone works in Mexico (and elsewhere overseas?) | iLounge Backstage


How iPhone works in Mexico (and elsewhere overseas?)

Since I’m on my honeymoon, I told myself, my wife, and Dennis that I wouldn’t be writing much until my return. But I wanted to share an interesting discovery with you now.


We’re honeymooning on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, and of course, we took a couple of iPhones along. So I now have some answers as to whether and how the iPhone works internationally—for AT&T customers. And I also better understand a few things about U.S. service for the iPhone.



You’ll notice on the screenshot above that iPhone comes up with the word “Movistar” rather than the AT&T name. That’s actually one of two different networks it’s been roaming on in Mexico. Within the very same hotel complex, we’ve seen the iPhone switch multiple times from the Movistar network to another one, called Mx Telcel GSM.



The interesting thing about iPhone’s display of the Mx Telcel GSM name is how it attempts to accommodate the carrier’s longer title. Certain screen refreshes lead to the name scrolling in the limited space of the upper left part of the screen, before becoming and remaining “Mx…” It looks like Apple has enough space up there to keep the full name Cingular (with variable-width letters) or its equivalent, but will shorten other names when they exceed a certain width limit.



Data services using EDGE on both networks are markedly slower than they are on AT&T’s recently upgraded EDGE network. In fact, I’d go so far as to guess that the reason David Pogue and others griped so much about the EDGE speeds of their pre-release iPhones was that they didn’t know or believe that AT&T’s data network upgrades were about to take place. Over here, web pages and e-mails take a lot longer to load, as does anything else that’s data dependent. We’ve also found the Google Maps feature to be pretty unreliable at serving map art, whether satellite or drawn, for local locations.



We’ve also more than occasionally encountered this “No Service” banner. In all the times I’ve used iPhone in the United States, I’ve never had this come up, thanks most likely to AT&T’s coverage. Obviously, when you lose service, the phone can’t do much more than play back stored content, and let you fool around with the interface.

Generally, though, the experience has been very similar to using iPhone in the States. Call quality has been basically unchanged, but with a super-cool added perk: “International Assist” mode. As found in the Settings > Phone menu, “International Assist automatically adds the correct prefix to US numbers when dialing from abroad.” My existing contacts can be called without any hassle—iPhone just dials them properly. At one point, I did see a message pop up about unavailability of Visual Voicemail, telling me that I needed to call into a standard voicemail box to retrieve messages, but the Visual version seems to be working now; I don’t know if I’ve missed any messages, though. SMS messages definitely work. And e-mail seems to be working flawlessly, though slow, everywhere I go.

Based on what I’ve experienced here, my feeling is that Apple’s deals with various international telecom partners may be complicated not only by its demands for certain profits, but also certain network performance guarantees that some companies might find hard to swallow. Visual Voicemail, speedier overall EDGE performance, and perhaps some tweaks to boost connections to Google and YouTube hosted services might all be required in order to make the iPhone experience special for customers. It’ll be interesting to see whether iPhone performance quality changes once it officially comes to Mexico, and other countries.

Back to my honeymoon. See y’all on the other side. :-)

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Say it with me: “EDGE is 2.75G, not 3G.”

Also say this with me: “_G_lobal _S_tandard for _M_obility.” GSM means buying a phone, buying service, and putting the two together (insert SIM card, turn phone one, done). It does NOT mean carrier-specific exclusivity that forces pricey, limited, and often annoying “services” from your carrier that any not-I-phone can do for free.

Posted by Doctor Mantis on July 10, 2007 at 10:10 AM (CDT)


GSM: (originally from Groupe Spécial Mobile) stands for Global System for Mobile communications…

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on July 10, 2007 at 10:39 AM (CDT)


I foresee a bitter end to the honeymoon when Jeremy gets back and realizes he’s been paying $20 per each megabyte received.

Say you receive a 16 kilobyte spam message.  That’s $0.32.  You receive 10 spams per day?  That’s $3.20.

The Mexico portion of your honeymoon is 10 days?  That’s $32.

Plus taxes.

Add your visual voicemails that are actually data downloads, and this stuff gets nasty pretty quickly.

AT&T offers unlimited global data roaming to Blackberry drones for $65/mo.  Why can’t we iPhoners get the same deal?

Posted by Xavier Itzmann on July 10, 2007 at 10:54 AM (CDT)


Isn’t this all stating the obvious? When roaming on another GSM network you’ll only be able to use the services offered by said network. It doesn’t matter if you have an iphone, motorola or nokia gsm phone.

Posted by Alberto on July 10, 2007 at 11:02 AM (CDT)


Congratulations on your marriage!! I’m getting married in about 3 1/2 weeks, so I’ll have to show my fiancé this to encourage her to let me get an iPhone for, um, research on our honeymoon!! :)

Posted by bluazul on July 10, 2007 at 4:20 PM (CDT)


> Obviously, when you lose service,
> the phone can’t do much more than play
> back stored content, and let you fool
> around with the interface.

Unless, of course, you have Wi-Fi access, which it seems you did sometimes, judging by the photographs. I have experienced a bit of “No service” in some hilly areas, but still got a lot of iPhone use from Wi-Fi…though no phone calls.

Posted by elliot on July 11, 2007 at 5:20 AM (CDT)


@Xavier: That’s good to know about the data pricing. I’m going to be in Mexico next week, so I’ll be sure to disable my email from auto checking and only use the web/internet features when I’m on a WiFi hotspot.

Posted by David on July 15, 2007 at 2:16 PM (CDT)


Its a good possibility you were not even on an Edge network much of the time. Most likely you were on a even slower GPRS connection for data. SOunds like most of your problems had nothing to do with the iPhone and more to do with the network and what services are provided by google.

Posted by Rand on July 15, 2007 at 9:33 PM (CDT)


I just back from a long trip to Ireland, the UK, Spain and Portugal, including a run with the Bulls in Pamplona.  The iPhone worked flawlessly on the trip, even though I spent much of it in tiny towns of as few as 1000 people.  I never once lost service on the phone, and had greater than 95% data coverage.  The only thing I fear is the bill!

Posted by Stephen Easley on July 19, 2007 at 8:11 AM (CDT)


As a note: AT&T has a “World Traveller” subscription which I think is $5 per month, but cuts roaming rates significantly. In Mexico if you do not have it the price is .99/min, with it the price is .59/min. The same in EU.
My Visual VM did not work at all in Mexico City and EDGE was useless, but what do you expect. Voice calls were perfectly clear!

Posted by James Kahan on July 25, 2007 at 2:04 PM (CDT)


Telcel is actually Mexico’s largest cell phone provider, to the point of having up to 80% of the market. Both Telcel and Movistar use GSM, while the other providers (basically Iusacell, Unefon and Nextel) use other technologies (CDMA for the first two). As for the inability to use google maps in Mexico, it’s because Mexico isn’t mapped yet; all you can hope for is using satellite mode to get pretty aerial pictures.

Posted by Roadmr on August 2, 2007 at 8:42 PM (CDT)


Jeremy, The Edge network roaming will kill you!!!

Posted by MIguel on September 27, 2007 at 2:27 AM (CDT)


Acutally, recently I discovered that Mexico is indeed mapped on Google maps, but oddly, not so on maps app on my iPhone. Maybe they are two diffferent services (and servers), but I hope it will come avaliable soon.

Posted by Gabriel Yáñez on November 9, 2007 at 12:04 PM (CST)


Hello, I was in Mexico City for two weeks and used my phone only to check my Ebay listings maybe twice a day. I opted for the “Unlimited” internet (keep in mind that internet is world wide. hence www = world wide web) So I use my Iphone in mexico maybe twice a day for about 5 minutes each…..I come home and GET SLAMMED WITH A $3,700 DOLLAR BILL. For using Edge in Mexico. For using the “Unlimited” Internet that I signed up for too much. How stupid is that?

Posted by georgearmenta on November 16, 2007 at 9:33 PM (CST)


First time you leave the USA right?

It is always messy using international roaming, dealing with changing carrier is a problem, you can choose a favorite, also each carrier has different settings and in some countries you can only use the gprs network not even the edge, because you are not their customer, or your phone doesn’t have the proper “band”

I have good experience in Spain, but changing to Marruecos was so ugly, also some problems in Costa Rica.

When you enter a new country whit your phone, you can order your phone to install the local settings for the best internet experience, it is an automated thing, it gets the settings over the air, but you have to choose a favorite carrier for the country you are in the moment, so the phone stop changing automatically.

Posted by George on September 2, 2008 at 1:16 AM (CDT)


My wife and I are heading to Mexico City this weekend for 4 days. After reading these posts and others, I’ve decided to just leave the iPhones off or at home. I’m not willing to be shocked with some sort of outragous bill when I return.

Posted by Steve on December 1, 2008 at 6:47 PM (CST)


the best idea is to turn it on airplane mode and then turn the wifi on and connect whenever you can. you can text through email and other applications and use Skype to make calls. and no surprise bill because you didn’t receive anything while you were outside of the network. :)

Posted by allie on March 19, 2009 at 11:33 PM (CDT)


My wife and I both have iPhones and travel to MX all the time. We just make sure data roaming is off and have airplane mode ON. Unless we want to make a call, we’ll turn airplane mode off for the call. Most hotels have wi-fi so we turn that on to check email if we want or use apps, facebook, etc. Could use skype I suppose for free calls but then end user would have to have skype also. sort of a pain.

Posted by Jared on December 22, 2009 at 4:09 PM (CST)


Busca lo ultimo en noticias del iphone:

Posted by iphonelatinenews on April 20, 2010 at 1:30 AM (CDT)


does anyone know when the new g4 i phone will be available in mexico…...and is the interface in spanish or english?

Posted by ricardo lennie on June 24, 2010 at 9:26 AM (CDT)

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