One of the most important things for me when I travel is connectivity.
On both my personal and business travels, I make sure I have either WiFi in my hotel or try to get a local SIM card – however this isn’t always easy, depending on requirements as a non-citizen wherever I am, and cost.
A new product that recently became available in December 2014 solves this problem. It’s called KnowRoaming (Canadian-based, run by South Africans) and this revolutionary product is, of course, available in South Africa.
WHAT IS IT?
It’s a sticker that goes onto your existing SIM card (works on regular, micro and nano) that remains dormant while you are in South Africa, and goes active when you travel to a supported country. What I love about KnowRoaming is that it works on both prepaid and contract SIM cards (as you know you can only SMS roam on prepaid).
KnowRoaming promises to reduce roaming costs by up to 85% – you don’t have to pay to receive calls when roaming anymore; and gives you the cheapest rates in a country that you’re visiting, that’s supported – for calls, texts, and data.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
You need to purchase a SIM kit, available online or at all iStores nationwide. Setting up requires the sticker to be stuck onto your existing SIM card. It costs R399 once off and thereafter you will need to top up your account with credit to access the service, make calls, use data and send messages.
Once you buy it, you will get a UK, and US number, displayed within the app. You can choose to subscribe to a “Reach Me” service, where all your local calls get diverted to this number while you are travelling and you can receive calls as normal – without paying the usual hefty fees to receive calls when roaming. This service and number is available for each country you visit, you pay $4.50 for a local number.
You need to download the app (Android, iOS, or mobile web) and complete the setup and see what options are available to you (like Reach Me). You have to sign up with KnowRoaming. If you are on iPhone, you will see a bunch of new options under Phone:
As you can see above, you can easily see what SIM you’re on, check for updates, enable call forwarding (for ReachMe), etc.
The app will show you what options you have, I was mostly interested in the data, which cost $7.99 for unlimited data for a 24 hour period. If you are travelling on business, this probably the most cost effective way to get access to data. You need to have credit in your account, to access the services. The minimum amount you can top up is $25. You can link your credit card when you set up. The daily $7.99 (in countries available) will go off from your credit card as another transaction, it won’t get deducted from the $25 credit you loaded. Whatever balance you have in your account will remain there for 15 months, after which it expires.
WHY SHOULD YOU GET IT?
If you travel a fair amount and looking for a better solution to roaming (just don’t do it with your local operator), then consider KnowRoaming. It’s convenient because you don’t need to go out and look for an operator to buy a local SIM card in the country you’re in. Once you land in another country, you should pick up the KnowRoaming network.
I suggest you work out what the cost would be before getting it, if you think getting a local SIM card might be cheaper – if you are going to stay for more than a week. It’s at the point where $7.99 a day for x amount of days adds up to the cost of just getting a prepaid local SIM – if it’s data you mainly care about. However, if you rely on receiving calls a lot while abroad, then there’s no doubt this is the cheaper option as you won’t be paying to receive calls on your number.
I tested KnowRoaming on my recent holiday to the US. I picked up the KnowRoaming network while in transit and when I got to each city, while I was on the runway, during taxi. The service is fairly new, and there were some bugs. When I clicked “tap to enable”, it would take me through the process of installing the KnowRoaming APN and then wouldn’t work. I just reset my phone to get around this (sometimes it took a few tries). This happened initially, afterwards it worked fine.
I could make calls from my own prepaid number (which would be displayed to the caller on the other side) using the KnowRoaming credit. As you can see above, it was fairly cheap. When you pay $7.99 to get unlimited data for the day, the app will show you the countdown on your 24 hour period. So you know when to buy credit again, and it’s 24 hours from the minute you purchase it.
It was especially handy having just landed in Los Angeles and we needed to take a cab to our hotel. So naturally I used Uber. It made my trip convenient, having access to maps wherever I was, making calls, etc.
I’ll be travelling in a couple of months and I’m looking forward to using KnowRoaming again as my $13.71 balance will still be available. Whatever credit is in your account when you get back home will expire after 15 months of inactivity.
KnowRoaming works on unlocked devices – smartphones (iPhone 4S upwards; Android 4.0 upwards), iPads, certain Android tablets and Windows Phone. It does not work on BlackBerry.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com