Design and Tech

Your iPad Travels Better Than Your iPhone

Or you can at least get around onerous fees by tethering to it when you’re abroad

Your iPad Travels Better Than Your iPhone

Unless you're a fan of costly smartphone data plans, GigSky plus an iPad can lead to big savings on your next major trip. Photo: AleksandarNakic/iStock

International travel can cost a small fortune in mobile fees. And forget about trying to keep your smartphone data plan while adventuring abroad.

Turns out, you’re better off ditching the cell entirely and using an iPad or tethering your iPhone to the iPad to use the iPad’s connectivity instead of your phone’s.

Why not just pop a bargain SIM into your iPhone? Because you want to keep your own number for incoming communiques, and changing SIMs means losing that connection. Instead, go through a U.S. carrier like GigSky on the iPad, which will enable you to keep your iPhone’s number and still save money.

Here’s how it works. First, you need an iPad running Apple SIM—not just Wi-Fi. (Note: If your iPad doesn’t have Apple SIM, you can buy it through the company.) Then you’ll navigate to iPad Settings > Cellular Data and tap “Set Up Cellular Data,” where you’ll find GigSky as an option.

  Photo: Courtesy of Michael Frank

GigSky offers service in 90 countries, with rates that cost about half or less of what most U.S. and overseas carriers charge. The key to the savings is that GigSky varies the charge based on what it pays, whereas almost all U.S. carriers offer only a flat rate, keeping what they save when local service providers charge them less rather than passing that savings on to you. For instance, in Greece, AT&T wants $60 for 300 MB. GigSky, on the other hand, offers you ten times as much data and charges only $50.

Important details:

1. First, both phone and iPad must be running the latest version of iOS8, and you must have the same Apple ID for both devices.

2. Once you’ve selected GigSky as the cellular data option and have landed abroad, go to Settings > Cellular > Personal Hotspot on the iPad. Enable it. Next, on your iPhone, find the network your iPad has created and enter the provided PIN. At the same time, turn off cellular data and data roaming on the phone: Go to Settings > Cellular to do this.

This way, any text or call sent to your iPhone’s number will get bounced to your iPad (by using Apple’s Continuity, which essentially acts like a form of call/text/FaceTime forwarding). You can answer on either device without paying your carrier’s international fees. 

3. Lastly, while outgoing texts and FaceTime don’t require your cellphone to be turned on—you can do this directly from the iPad—you do need your iPhone turned on and tethered to the iPad when you want to place voice calls and be certain the recipient will see your cell number on their caller ID.

Filed To: Gear, Design and Tech

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