T-Mobile G1 Android Data Roaming

If you're looking into travelling and taking your T-Mobile G1 Android phone with you, you'll be shocked to see all the horror stories of people returning to find huge bills from T-Mobile due to massive mobile data usage, even though they hadn't used any mobile data. If you're preparing to travel and you want to avoid a shocking bill, you'll be interested to read this page. I'm about to take my G1 abroad so when I return (hopefully without a huge phone bill waiting for me) I'll post back here with my findings.

Android Data

The Android operating system is designed to be always on allowing itself and any apps you have installed constant access to the Internet. Automatic syncronisation of Google Mail, Calendar, assisted GPS, updates and all sorts of other stuff all use data whenever they feel like it. Most of these can be turned off in the Android settings menus. You'll also find a Data Roaming setting in Mobile Networks settings which would appear to do what we need. But as I understand it, it's just a setting that apps are supposed to abide by, but may just ignore it.

So many people have complained about this issue that T-Mobile have issued an official response:

T-Mobile is committed to delivering the best experience in wireless to our customers. If a T-Mobile customer would like to use their T-Mobile G1 while outside the country, they should contact Customer Care before they leave to ask that the WorldClass feature be added to their service at no additional charge. If they choose, customers can also disable data roaming on the G1. This can be done by going through the following steps: Home Screen > Menu > Settings > Wireless Controls > Mobile Networks > Data Roaming.

Some third party applications available for download on Android Market require access to the internet and have the ability to turn on data roaming when in use. Customers are informed whether an application will use this feature prior to downloading, but should also be aware when traveling outside the country.

Yes I've tried calling T-Mobile to ask about this, but as usual you get some idiotic foreigner who doesn't speak English properly, and who falls silent when faced with a sensible question not on his list of questions. Anyway, two possible partial solutions are as follows.

1) Rename your Access Point Names

The APN (access point name) is the point on the provider's network that gives your phone access to the Internet. There is also one that the phone uses when downloading a multimedia message. If you rename these names, Android won't be able to connect to the Internet through the mobile network, but will still be able to access the Internet via Wi-Fi. Note down the APNs so you can re-enter the correct APN when you return. For UK T-Mobile this should be general.t-mobile.uk.

APNdroid Logo

Note: If you're feeling lazy, there's a simple free app on the Android Market called APNdroid that does the simple job of appending "apndroid" to the end of the APNs, and removes them afterwards by simply running the app.

I'm not 100% sure if this method will work, as the phone will be connecting and attempting to find general.t-mobile.uk and failing. Does this not count as traffic? Probably not, as it can't appear on your bill unless it goes through T-Mobile's Access Point. ...I think. If you have any more details on this point please let me know or leave a comment below.

2) Airplane Mode Wi-Fi

Airplane Mode Wifi

Airplane Mode switches off all wireless communications of the phone. The Airplane Mode Wi-Fi app keeps Wi-Fi switched ON whilst in Airplane Mode. Obviously you won't be able to make or receive calls with this method, but you will still be able to use the camera, watch videos etc., and use the Internet and email via Wi-Fi. You can find Airplane Mode Wi-Fi free on the Android Market.

Conclusions

I plan to use both these methods just to be safe. And if I need to make a call, switch airplane mode off temporarily. I can confirm that having tested these methods, no mobile data entries appear on my itemised T-Mobile web account for the duration of the tests, so it seems ok. Please check it out for yourself though.

It's pretty annoying that as Android owners we are faced with this dilemma! If only the Data Roaming option actually did stop ALL internet activity!

Update: I've returned from abroad, and have found both APNdroid and Airplane Mode Wireless to do exactly as stated.