For those who travel abroad, there's always a pang of jealousy when locals are able to switch on their phones upon landing, without a thought of excessive fees. While smartphones make a great travel companion—especially abroad where maps, translators and staying connected with home can make or break a trip—roaming charges can be a major burden. With the exception of global mobile plans, the only other option is purchasing a local SIM card, which can be time-consuming, expensive and at times downright confusing. World travelers take note: Canadian tech startup KnowRoaming offers the solution we've all been waiting for, but never knew of.
KnowRoaming's SIM sticker, which is just a few hairs thick and fits on every major smartphone, allows users to seamlessly access over two hundred mobile networks around the world—all without ever removing their SIM card once installed with the included applicator. "There are many alternative roaming solutions that are available in the market today, which I call SIM swapping solutions," says co-founder Gregory Gundelfinger. "We took a holistic approach to the problem with a focus on user experience and technology to emulate the same roaming solution traditional roaming offers."
Upon arrival abroad, simply open KnowRoaming's included app and select your desired network. Understanding that some networks have better regional coverage, KnowRoaming includes access to several networks in a given country. Rates depend on the country and are more or less equivalent to local data, talk and text rates. If you need to be on-call locally, simply buy a local number so callers in that country won't incur international charges. (People at home can still contact you on your regular number for no extra fee on their end.)
If you're prone to Instagramming, texting and streaming the latest YouTube video, have no fears about racking up a monumental data charge. The KnowRoaming platform operates on a top-up basis, and through the app you can monitor what you spend and add money to your account as needed. The app even provides a comparison for what you would be spending if you weren't using KnowRoaming—so you'll know just how much you're saving.
When testing a beta version of KnowRoaming on a recent trip to Germany, we found the operation with the app was seamless; from topping up the account to selecting a network to monitoring usage, user experience is clearly at the forefront of KnowRoaming's design. Best of all, the service and data speeds are on par with home networks, making it a truly viable and useful alternative to standard roaming services.
KnowRoaming launches today, 30 September 2013. The SIM sticker and applicator sell for $35 and are available at KnowRoaming online.
Lead photo by Hans Aschim, all others courtesy of KnowRoaming