While in Thailand, I'm using my iPhone on Advanced Info Service's (AIS) mobile network. They are by far the largest mobile carrier in Thailand. They do have one competitor called True which actually has an edge over AIS in the fact that they have a much larger 3G presence than AIS at the moment…in fact, I think that AIS only uses their 3G for data services using USB cards. Either way, 3G doesn't matter for me. I did plenty of research before coming to Thailand and found that the parts of Thailand I will be spending most of my time have very limited to no 3G access. That is why I've been hanging on to my trusty 2G iPhone for so long. After Jailbreaking my phone, I am using the AIS 12Call prepaid plan.
To get started, I bought a 12Call SIM card from 7-11. Almost every small store sells them however. The card costs 99 Baht and you get 10 minutes free talk time. This plan allows me to add minutes whenever I want. Every call that I make is 3 Baht (9 cents) for the first minute and 1 Baht every minute past that. Incoming calls are free. This is why it is very common for people to ring your phone and hang up to show their number, that means they want to talk but have no money. SMS messages are 3 Baht each and they can be sent Internationally but these cost 9 Baht.
Adding minutes can be done multiple ways…adding minutes are called “top up” minutes. I used to buy top up minutes from 7-11 stores which are on almost every corner in Thailand. Lately however, I have a contact that sales top-up minutes using SMS top up. Using this method, I can call them and “show my number”. This is their signal to add 200 Baht of minutes to my phone. Then I pay them back later on when I see them. I will receive an SMS message notifying me when minutes have been added to my SIM number. Checking your balance is as easy as dialing *121# A message will be displayed letting you know how many minutes you have left.
You can also use Internet data services (EDGE mainly or GPRS) with the voice minutes but you burn through these very fast. I don't know what they charge (or how) but I lost 300 Baht very quickly. A better method is to call AIS and request a data package. With these, you can get 20 hours of data for 150 Baht or 50 hours for 200 Baht. At first I opted for 20 hours and was very happy. Then I dialed *139# to check how many hours/minutes I had left on my phone and was surprised that after beginning the program, I used up nearly all of my time. After some trial and error with my iPhone, I finally figured out several things:
1. Turn off “Data Roaming in Settings -> General -> Network
2. Make sure any apps that use “Push Notifications” are disabled. Facebook and IM apps use this for sure. In addition, Skype has a “Stay Online” on/off switch. I turned this to off.
3. In Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars -> Fetch New Data, turn off Push and set Fetch to Manually. Now, I won't use up minutes until I actually go to check my email. Yes, you won't know if you got mail until you check, but this is the best option for me.
iPhone Email Fetch Thailand
Doing these three things helped me to drastically slow down my data usage. I still will come across a game app that uses online leader boards or some other app like Amazon's Kindle app that checks to see if it needs to download any new books you purchased. There is no way to turn off most of these so you just have to be careful. Or if you're really concerned, turn on airplane mode!
Most of my time is spent in locations where I have Wi-Fi access so the only real time I need cellular internet is when I travel. So far, 50 hours is just about perfect!