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iPhone Users Hit with Mysterious Roaming Charges


iPhone Users Hit with Mysterious Roaming Charges

iPhone users have been incurring roaming charges when abroad, even though their handset's data roaming feature has been turned off.

This is according to forum members of the site MoneySavingExpert, who have been reporting the problem since April.

Users on the forum have had refunds from erroneous charges from O2, Vodafone and Orange. As a cross network it would imply that it's an issue with the iPhone itself. For once it’s not just an iPhone 4 issue either, as users with the iPhone 3GS have reported the problem.

“I have come back from 2 weeks USA and orange have charged me £274 for roaming charges on my iphone”, reported user caroline2103. “i triple checked my roaming was turned off etc and did not use my mobile, as my husband used his phone, did not even take it out with me in the days.”

The current theory seems to be that while users have ‘Data Roaming’ switched off, there is a separate setting for ‘Cellular Data’, which when left on, downloads data and incurs fees when functions such as GPS are used. This however, has not been confirmed, and TrustedReviews was waiting for a response from O2 and Apple over the issue at the time of publication.

Surprisingly, it seems that even placing your iPhone in a case won’t help on this occasion, so in the meantime users should take care when roaming with their iPhones and be sure to check their bills when returning home.

Link: Money Saving Expert article


July 26, 2010, 10:35 pm

I work all over Europe and have Data Roaming turned off and Mobile Data (as it appears on a UK phone) turned on. Never been charged roaming (yet!) and I do use the GPS for TomTom sometimes. This on a 3GS.


July 26, 2010, 11:05 pm

checking my bill right now.

Was in Morocco and GPS-ed a lot thanks to the photo geo-locating service.


July 27, 2010, 12:38 am

But GPS is nothing to do with the cell network, so why would using GPS incur any data charges?


July 27, 2010, 1:03 am

An educated guess would be the iPhone used A-GPS thereby incurring a data fee.

Luan Bach

July 27, 2010, 1:25 am

A-GPS talk to the cell towers to get help with the position fix.


July 27, 2010, 1:26 am

@Kevsta I think when GPS is used in phones it uses Mobile Triangulation to help get a lock faster, thats the only way I can think of that GPS incurs data charges.


July 27, 2010, 2:08 am

@Kevsta: A-GPS can use the cell network to access data that might improve or expedite a GPS fix:



July 27, 2010, 2:16 am


If a phone uses A-GPS (Assisted-GPS), then it uses the cellular network to get an approximate position while locking on to the satellites.


July 27, 2010, 2:25 am

"Surprisingly, it seems that even placing your iPhone in a case won&#8217t help on this occasion"


Doesnt the Iphone use AGPS - Assisted GPS - could that be whats causing the usage?


July 27, 2010, 2:38 am

@ Kevsta - probably the A-GPS kicking in? Not sure if the A-GPS uses data though - thought it went on tower signal strength, but maybe. At least they're fessing up and covering costs from the get-go. That's pretty remarkable these days!


July 27, 2010, 2:43 am

@Kevsta: A-GPS (Advanced GPS) downloads data off 3G to get a quicker fix unless A-GPS is switched off.


July 27, 2010, 2:54 am

@Kevsta. A lot of phones use the cell towers for assisted GPS to boot the service faster and it of course requires data to do this.


July 27, 2010, 3:23 am

Trying to recover the loss on those free cases. Shameless.

Geoff Richards

July 27, 2010, 6:37 am

Great to see so many TR readers seeing a question unanswered and diving in with the correct answer. Sorry about the moderation lag!

Andy Saunders

July 27, 2010, 8:40 am

I believe it's an iPhone OS problem, see here: http://www.vroam.com/news_j...


July 27, 2010, 1:12 pm

Interesting if A(GPS) is making these charges, I assumed AGPS just tracked the signal strengths of nearby towers, I wouldn't have expected it needed any Data packets sent.

Geoff Richards

July 27, 2010, 1:25 pm

I'm not a mobile comms engineer, but the Wiki says data=Yes



July 27, 2010, 1:25 pm


Reading your referenced article it's not an OS problem but more apps not being strictly written to check for certain features enable/disabled. So much for Apples 'approved applications' only moto. Interestingly the more complexity we add into our daily support devices the more 'less technically savvy' individuals will be caught out. As they say in law - 'ignorance is no defence' maybe the same should apply here - lack of understanding is no defence either.


July 27, 2010, 1:38 pm

@Geoff: Wiki says data=Yes

Oh right, something to be aware of then. Cheers..


July 27, 2010, 2:43 pm

@Guy: if I tell the OS that I don't want any data to be used, and if the OS lets some poorly porgrammed apps to use data nevertheless, it is an OS problem I'm afraid.

This never happened to me on Windows Mobile. I just switch data off in the settings, and no app can download anything, which is the way it should be.


July 27, 2010, 3:13 pm

@Manni: I just switch data off in the settings

There is the same settings in IOS. But if the AGPS is ignoring this, then your right it is an IOS issue. If it's confirmed this is indeed the case, then Apple need to fix this ASAP.

andy 1

July 27, 2010, 3:29 pm

AT&T may be doing ok but apple has explaining to do to UK consumers and their recently reported roaming costs.

It is another setback once again for Apple it will be interesting to see what's next in the news regarding iPhone issues (antenna, manufacturing and now service charges) and their steps to refund cases won&#8217t make up for the iPhone 4's lack of function over form.

It's a shame to see so many issues with the iPhone 4 after so many people waited for it's release. What's more of a shame is that it seems Apple knew about some of these issues already, such as the problem with reception.

But Apple have created such a loyal following that people may just put up with what issues there are for the sake of owning the latest Apple product.

Personally, I'd be happier with an older iPhone - at least then the issues are all ironed out.

However, it's also interesting to see how much excitement new technologies can bring. New technology and innovation is important for new business, illustrated by entrepreneurship grants and new business competitions like http://www.ukesnc.com.

Guess it's not all bad!


July 27, 2010, 3:51 pm

I can't believe I didn't see it before, the emperor has no clothes


July 27, 2010, 3:57 pm

I got hit by this in Africa and concluded that it was the free (Apple Christmas present) of trivial pursuits that was causing the damage, unless you opt out sends off streams of usage statistics. Ironic or what?


July 27, 2010, 4:00 pm

@Manni: As others have mentioned the AGPS will consume data - not related to the data off setting - so you need to be aware 'technically' of the phone features. Others pointed our Airplane mode - that does it - or the off button. Quite frankly if you have a smart phone it will utilise data connections for it features so be aware it will probably continue to use data especially for location sense. Want to be sure buy a simple 'phone' for holidays and leave your iphone at home or in airplane mode only - the joys a data roaming yet again.....

I guess your Windows mobile was less technically advanced compared to the 'always on world' on the Apple iphone....

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