Pity the unwitting overseas traveler who makes calls, sends text messages, and consumes data without planning ahead. The international roaming fees charged by most carriers are enough to make a grown blogger weep.
One well-known workaround is to purchase a SIM card that works locally, but that’s a hassle on many levels. You have to find one. Then you have to make the swap and keep track of your primary SIM card for the duration of the trip. Not to mention the set up for billing and dealing with the potential vagaries of an unfamiliar company and plan.
Enter KnowRoaming, which might best be described as “the sticker that prevents roaming sticker-shock.” It is, quite literally, a sticker that adheres to your existing SIM card and automatically connects you to local networks in over 200 countries — then charges you cheap rates for calls and data.
In other words, you step off the plane in Paris and can immediately fire up Google Maps to find the nearest boulangerie. Or call home to let family know you’ve arrived safely. And text a photo of you at the Eiffel Tower. There’s literally nothing you need to do to your phone except switch it out of Airplane Mode.
My first thought: What black magic is this? And how much is it really going to cost me? First things first: The sticker itself costs just $29.99, a price that includes the applicator needed to ensure a proper fit. And if you activate it within two weeks of receipt, KnowRoaming will give you a $15 account credit.
As for rates, the company currently charges $7.99 per day for unlimited data. Pricing for phone calls varies depending on the country you’re calling to and from, but KnowRoaming promises rates of “up to 90 percent off.” What’s also convenient is that you can use your phone’s native dialer, and your existing caller ID appears when you make outgoing calls.
Also, KnowRoaming relies on voice networks, not data, for long-distance calls, which should mean better audio quality. And KnowRoaming’s app lets you track your usage (and check calling rates on the fly), so billing time shouldn’t offer any surprises.
How can a simple sticker accomplish all this? For starters, it’s not so much simple as remarkable: You’re basically applying a wafer-thin second SIM card atop your existing one. The sticker detects when you’re traveling abroad and “takes over,” linking you to various partner networks. Even more amazing, it remains dormant when you’re at home.
Caveats? Only one I can see: To use KnowRoaming, your phone needs to be an unlocked GSM model. Most carriers will allow you to unlock your phone, but it may involve some hoop-jumping. As for CDMA phones, they don’t work in most countries outside the U.S., but a KnowRoaming rep said the company is “expecting to have a resolution to that issue in early 2015.”
Currently, KnowRoaming is compatible with nearly all Android, iOS, and Windows Phone handsets and tablets. It works with all SIM types: micro, mini and nano. Alas, BlackBerry users can’t get in on the action, at least for now. [Then again, if you are using a BlackBerry, you might want to check out our decision tree on upgrading your smartphone. -ed]
If you frequently travel abroad, this could be the best thing to happen to you since the neck pillow. Now I just need my editor to send me to France so I can give KnowRoaming a try. (What say you, boss? I’ll bring back chocolate croissants!)
Photo credit: KnowRoaming