a pile of sim cards for cell phones

Global Mobility

I have recently discovered the Daily Tech News Show and I have become a real fanboy. It is a bit of a time commitment (30-45 minute podcasts every weekday) but there is a lot of very valuable information about consumer technology and some enterprise.

Last week, there was a great segment on how to get mobile access when you travel internationally. The conversation was largely n=1; they shared personal experiences or those they had heard about from friends and family. But these informal evaluations really focused on some key UX issues. Getting set up, dealing with changes in your travel plan, trying to share with co-travelers, price. Then the next day the conversation continued with a few more ideas.

You can listen to the podcasts to hear the full stories. Some of their recommendations:

  • Buying a local SIM card for your existing phone is the cheapest
  • Buying a local burner phone is also cheap and you don’t risk your own phone. But you don’t have all of your apps etc.
  • You can get a prepaid cheapo phone in the US to bring over that is preloaded with 500 mB of data to use for Internet and just skip the voice part (using Skype etc instead).
  • One option they used had only 2G access. But it was surprisingly fast because (she thought) there were so few people on 2G.
  • There are some providers (such as JT Global) from which you can get country-specific SIM cards in advance.
  • If you are going to need a short duration but intensive use option, you can get $10/day unlimited. This would be $300/month, so not good for longer term trips.
  • Mobile hotspots give you the advantage of supporting multiple users and devices. They share several examples of these. But read the fine print. For one, multiple users only meant two! Some are 2G, 3G, or 4G. Some can be prescheduled according to your travel plans so they will work in each country when you get there. And some will provide the return shipping package so you can send it back easily and free when you get back.
  • Some common apps require two factor security when you log in from a new phone. Some (Twitter) use text message for the second factor. So if you go the data-only option, you won’t be able to do it. You can arrange in advance to get the second factor by email, but you have to remember to do this for everything.

Image credit: “Sim Card” by PublicDomainPictures used under CC0 1.0

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