TiPb Answers -- Can You Skip AT&T and Use an iPhone Over Verizon (or Sprint) MiFi

iphone_mifi_verizon

Can you run an iPhone without an AT&T voice or data contract, and could a Verizon (or Sprint) MiFi be used instead (insert iPhone on Verizon! humor here). That's what TiPb reader Angie wants to know:

Can you use an iPhone with wifi? like I have Verizon MiFi and cannot afford the AT&T data cost for the iPhone.

TiPb answers after the break!

For those unfamiliar, MiFi is an EVDO modem and WiFi router all-in-one. So, you can use it to connect to Verizon or Sprint's 3G network, and share that connection with several WiFi enabled devices. For geeks, they're pretty much little pocket-sized miracles.

So, you could run all the basic iPhone internet functions by connecting to your MiFi over WiFi, including surfing the web, checking email, downloading music and video from iTunes, and of course getting and using App Store apps. About the only thing you wouldn't be able to use is the Phone and SMS/MMS. However, VoIP apps like Skype could mitigate the phone part -- our good friend Matt Miller from NokiaExperts.com has been Skype'ing away on his N900 via MiFi and enjoying it. Likewise, IM or faux-SMS apps, of which there are tons and tons in the App Store, could make messaging livable as well. WebApps like Google Voice if that's how you roll, can get around SMS as well.

It won't be perfect -- you'll have to set up your MiFi and wait for your iPhone to connect, and incoming calls would be a hassle since VoIP won't run in the background on a stock iPhone, but it's the closest anyone can come to an iPhone on Verizon, or iPhone on Sprint these days.

Now, if you Jailbreak your iPhone, then GV Mobile (Google Voice), Backgrounder-enabled Skype, and many other options become available.

If anyone else has tried running their iPhone off of a Mifi on Verizon and/or Sprint, please add a comment below and let Angie know how it worked for you.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 42 comments. Add yours.

BrittN says:

I use my 2g over wifi and sometimes a paperweight too v

fassy says:

If you are absolutely, positively against AT&T, you would get an infinitely superior experience with a jailbroken and unlocked iphone than with this (clever but) cobbled together solution that essentially throws away the "phone" portion of the phone.

David Foster says:

In areas where the Clear(wire) WiMax network is in place, you can bypass cell carriers completely. If you get a CLEAR USB Modem and a CLEAR Spot (which converts the signal from the modem to a personal WiFi spot), you can just put the setup in your backpack and have WiFi everywhere.
At least this is what my recent research suggests. I will probably be buying this setup very soon, as I would prefer to pay the $45/month plan for the (presumably faster) Clear network. It also saves a bit from the lowest unlimited data AT&T plan, which ran at $55/month the last I checked.
The one caveat is the setup I described above has an up front cost of $190. But that cost could be made back after 10 months (taking into account the $30/month for 6 months promo that Clear has right now).

t0m says:

@fassy
But, that still limits you to T-Mobile (or of course AT&T).

firesign3000 says:

why would you do this with an iphone? wouldn't it make more sense, cost wise, to do it with an ipod touch? you could still skype and stuff. i still think it's ridiculous though. yet another battery powered device to carry around with dubious benefit as a substitute for an actual phone.

jtz5 says:

@Firesign-
I was thinking the same thing, but the iPod Touch doesn't have a mic does it?

LanceWebb says:

I tried this with my old 3G iPhone that I gave to my son with no service, so basicly an iPod Touch.
The problem is when the iPhone goes into standby (locked) it disconnects WiFi.
If anyone knows to make WiFi stay on, even in standby, let me know!
Currently for VOIP on Skype notifications we use Yahoo Messenger, "BUZZ, Get on Skype!".

Marc says:

@Lance-
The only way to keep wifi active is to jailbreak. An app called insomnia (and probably sbsettings with insomnia toggle) are what you look for. It works pretty good, but it's a drain on the battery.

jakej914 says:

I thought of this, or of just getting a Tour or something similar in addition to my 3GS But let's face it: I spend $90 a month as it is. I don't need the internet everywhere THAT much, haha.

Al says:

@ Lance - jailbreaking is your answer. I don't recall the name just now but there is a jailbreak app that causes the wifi to persist even when the phone is locked.

Dubzie says:

@Lance,
If your device is jailbroken then there is indeed a way to keep wifi connected while the device is "asleep". I can't remember the name of the app at the moment but it was an add on for sbsettings. I used this when downloading large apps from cydia and it worked quite well!

crimsonspud says:

you could also use the fring app to sign on to the gizmo5 network, then have google voice ring your gizmo5 number for free and have full phone functionality over the mifi device.

zeagus says:

"Can you use an iPhone with wifi? like I have Verizon MiFi and cannot afford the AT&T data cost for the iPhone."
I assume she can't afford the ATT Data Plan on the iPhone BECAUSE she's paying $59.99/month for the MiFi. Otherwise, this is just slightly upmarket trolling :).

Mickey says:

And maybe have some querky push notifications? I don't think those work properly when wi-fi is in standby...

David Yakir says:

I use my iphone 3G over my mifi everytime I'm in New York. Since I can't keep a call going on the iphone there... And the connection is actually clearer than an actual cell call. I use skype and ICall.

zeagus says:

@David Yakir - where in NY are you when you are in town? I'm curious because I haven't had the dropped call issues I used to have all of the time in Midtown. Not for the past six months or so.

mikenyc2 says:

Sorry, I must be missing something. All this talk about MiFi and using WiFi on iPhone to make calls, surf the internet, etc is, to be blunt, is USELESS.
Unless every house, business, etc has MiFi or Wifi, how can i make/receive a call while walking in a park? Or driving in my car (using bluetooth headphones of COURSE! -smile-)
Unless it works EVERYWHERE, then this is USELESS. Yes, 3G doesn't work everywhere. But there is Edge. Unless I am in the mountains (or in Manhattan sometimes. haha) then I can make a call everywhere using the normal GSM network.
I don't see how tis option is viable? Are we saying that MiFi/WiFi is as widespread as 3G? And if not, then this is a useless discussion.
Again,
Unless I am missing something obvious. Please enlighten me.
Thanks
Mike

zeagus says:

@Mike - we are talking about someone carrying a MiFi device WITH THEM, so it would be available to them all of the time (except in VZW dead spots).

Macboy74 says:

Huh???? Can you use an iPhone with wifi? like I have Verizon MiFi and cannot afford the AT&T data cost for the iPhone. The data cost on verizon is $30. AT&T is $30. I'm I missing something.

Joan says:

This is an interesting phone. May be replacing a Blackberry in a few months, so I'm really interested in following these comparisons. Thanks.

JB says:

The verizon mifi is 60 a month plus taxes totaling about $72.00
I use the mifi as a back up to AT&T (using skype if at&t signal not available). My kids also use their ipod touches in the car with the mifi.

mikenyc2 says:

zeagus
Thanks for the clarification. I take it is a small device. Plus I assume you can limit who can connect to it via MAC addressing and WEP?

Janey says:

...but you can afford the expensive Verizon MiFi? That's ridiculous. The cheapest MiFi plan is $60/mo (plus tax) and you have a 5gb monthly cap.
Agreed with the others. More Verizon trolling. :| That being said, I have a friend with a MiFi. He uses it at work to avoid connecting to his corporate LAN with his laptop (Wifi is on the corporate LAN, which he needs to stay off of) and he says that on a good day, he gets 600kbps down.

zeagus says:

Lame - let's complain about our service by trying to ruin everyone's.

sting7k says:

Why not just ditch the verizon mifi and use that money to pay for the iPhone data plan?

GoodGuesser says:

The Apple iTablet will (I'm told) have 3G or MiFi capability built in, so if you have an iPhone or iPodTouch AND your tablet, you can be in Sprint or Verizon territory for data and VoIP if you wish.
Of course, of your iTablet happens to have a built-in camera for iChat or Skype, (which it should) who needs to bother with the iPhone or iPodTouch at all?

Jose says:

Just get a land line. Why would you only want to use your cell phone over wifi at home?

Chris says:

I use a Verizon Mifi AND an active AT&T iPhone account. The downside is the expense of both plans. On the upside, I have other uses for the MiFi. For example, I'm using it now from a hotel room to write this from my laptop.
What you get is a great, portable wifi hotspot which has tons of uses AND you get Verizon's great 3G network for use by your iPhone. It's like day and night.

zeagus says:

Yes, the day and night of choosing between more coverage or faster connections.

YourMobileGuru says:

I do this every day at home since AT&T has poor structure penetration and is crap inmy house other than in the front room with it's big picture windows. I don't use it for calls anyway.

Josh says:

WOW Some of you guys really don't get it...As a Verizon customer who will not leave the network to get an iphone, but desperately wants to use one, this is the answer. It's not about data, its not about cost....Its simply about being able to use an apple product on the verizon network.

d says:

I have TMOBILE evenmoreplus plan NO CONTRACT for 40 bucks PHONE and TEXT and a jailbroken I phone - I plan on using verizon mifi service to use the web for I phone and as a connection for my computer since I got rid of cable. I know about the I pod touch and skype use with mifi however texting is not possible if I am not mistaken. Any criticisms of this approach? thanks!

Fernando says:

Don't see the point of crippling the iPhone's ability to make cell calls over GSM, but the iPod Touch is certainly a good candidate for this project. I've been on the fence on whether of not to do this with my iPod and ditch AT&T altogether. (I don't have an iPhone w/ATT, BTW). I'm on the fence waiting for a decision on iPhone exclusivity, but as I use my iPod Touch more and more, the thought of turning over call management to it becomes very appealing. Right now I'm half-way there by using Google voice to manage SMS messages through the TextFree app. Maybe taking a 2yr contract with Sprint or Verizon to test this theory out is worth it.

Laura says:

@Fernando , or, even just TRY a sprint/verizon mifi... you have thirty days, if before your thirty days is up you decide you didnt like it, you could return it, and get any money you put into it back, or if you decided it was simply brilliant, than wa-lah! amazing iPhone data service using sprint or verizon mifi :) haha.

JoeC says:

I have both an iPhone 3gs and a verizon MiFi. My iPhone experience is much better when I have the MiFi with me. I'm wasting money on my AT&T contract, but when my contract is over, I would consider bailing on AT&T.
Apple's whole deal with AT&T is like when your best friend marries a spouse that you can't stand, and is repulsive. A hard situation.

happy says:

i want to know what if you don't have no sevice at all period.... can you still use all the other funtion , like youtube,listening to your music or dwonload music, watching videos,map,,weather, take piture thats what i need to know????????

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Werner says:

Yes My AT&T got disconnected and I can connect my iPhone thru the home network wifi. I'm used to unlimited everything but AT&T too expensive so I'm wondering if I unlock it and get another provider or an air card or mifi can I use the iPhone to tether to my computers at home and say bye to my verizon home phone dsl and AT&T?

Kev says:

I've been with Verizon for about 8 years, six months ago I moved to San Diego from Santa Fe NM. I got the Iphone 3gs for work, it was great! the apps, the 3gs speed and the ability to do anything with it. Well I moved back to Santa Fe recently and the service is basically non existent. I couldnt get on the internet, check my mail or even send photo messages. So I canceled my contract and didnt get charged for early termination. Now Im stuck with an Iphone with verizon service.