• KnowRoaming Sure Doesn't Know Me



    Last Friday Mobile Syrup posted this article about KnowRoaming, a Canadian company aiming to provide a service for international travellers like me (sometimes). In the words of their CEO:

    “With the KnowRoaming sticker, never again will you have to search for Wi-Fi, buy a local SIM card or be shocked by international roaming charges.”

    Wait, what?

    No arguments here about outrageous roaming charges... I've been dinged $90 CAD for a call to my mom from South Africa, and a whopping $300 for checking my email in the UK. Now that second charge was incurred on a hiptop, which automatically sucked down a bunch of other data the moment I turned it on. Nonetheless, if you're not mindful of roaming charges then you're in for a very unpleasant surprise when you get home.

    And yes, depending on the kindness of strangers via sketchy WiFi networks isn't exactly a best practice, either. You and your data are definitely at risk when you hop on to anyone's private network. On the other hand, the last five hotels I've stayed at all had free WiFi; ditto for the last airport I passed through overseas. I would trust a large-scale network — at least for casual data use — a lot more than something called "linksys".

    But what exactly is so bad about buying a local SIM card?

    I've used SIMs purchased directly from carriers in Bermuda, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan... Everywhere I've used them the experience has been great. Sometimes it's a hassle making a carrier's shop your first priority when you land, but in Hong Kong and Taipei you can purchase a SIM right in the airport. And with that SIM you can enjoy (usually) fast data at the same rates that locals pay — sometimes better!

    There are places in the world where a SIM-peddling middleman is at least more convenient, if not outright necessary. This past spring I got a data SIM and hotspot for Japan through a third party to minimize the damage from that country's particularly exorbitant rates. And that's ultimately what KnowRoaming is — a middleman. Don't think for a moment that they won't be taking a cut of the service fees that you'll be paying while abroad.

    Among the other issues I have with KnowRoaming is the hardware required to make it work. From that Mobile Syrup story:

    The KnowRoaming sticker is an adhesive that attaches to the pins of your existing SIM and interacts with your unlocked phone to seamlessly switch between networks depending on your location.
    Uh-huh... So you want me to put something between my SIM card and the radio of my phone. Gee, that doesn't sound like a security risk at all. And I'm sure my carrier will be thrilled to hear that I'm modifying my SIM with something that they've never tested or even heard of.

    If anything KnowRoaming should sell their own SIMs, cloning the data from the user's home network onto them. But that's likely illegal, and with good reason.

    Now don't get me wrong here, I like screwing over my carrier as much as anyone else. I just don't think there's a magic bullet when it comes to travelling with your phone. I'm of the opinion that the most effective weapons against roaming charges are an unlocked device and a local SIM.

    Either that or an account with T-Mobile USA...

    [hr][/hr]
    This article was originally published in forum thread: KnowRoaming Sure Doesn't Know Me started by acurrie View original post
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. ceredon's Avatar
      ceredon -
      For many people, the convenience factor if why they choose to roam to begin with. KR is only slightly less convenient that roaming, since you stick it on once and don't have to worry about hunting down a SIM again.

      For Hofo'ers and RFDers, it's no big deal to go out a get a local SIM. For someone like my father, in his 70's, going out a looking for a SIM is not convenient. He still travels a lot. He'll be in China, Jamaica and the US in the next 8-10 months, but he is almost never going to get a local SIM, no matter how much I try to convince him. He'll just turn off data and rely on wifi. But something like KR might be something he'll consider because it's easy and that matters.

      Even for me, getting a local SIM is sometimes a pain in the ***. I always find it amazing that you can't pick up a SIM in most airports. Unless I arrange for a SIM prior to leaving on my trip, then I have to navigate language barriers in order to find somewhere that sells SIMs, then get to the store, get the SIM and pick the right data plan. This is simple in the US or other English speaking countries, but sometimes a challenge elsewhere. I was in Mexico last week and it took until the day after arrival to find a store that sold nano-SIMs and it took 45 minutes in the store for the sale person, with exceptionally limited English, to process the sale. It isn't always such a chore. Last year in Hungary and in Jamaica, it took me all of 15 minutes to get everything wrapped up.

      You are right, that a local SIM is the best choice. But it isn't perfect and for some, something like KR is just a more convenient option. If it allows people to avoid roaming, then it seems worthwhile.

      For me, the biggest issue with KR is that they claim "local pricing", but they are nowhere close to close pricing. Their pricing is better than roaming, but orders of magnitude higher than local pricing in many cases.
    1. acurrie's Avatar
      acurrie -
      Have they published their rates yet? Couldn't find any specifics on their site...
    1. ceredon's Avatar
      ceredon -
      Quote Originally Posted by acurrie View Post
      Have they published their rates yet? Couldn't find any specifics on their site...
      They are just hard to find. I couldn't find them on their first day I heard about them but someone pointed out where. You have to select the country in a drop down instead of simply having a chart with all of the countries.

      Scroll down on that page to about the middle. It's below the "Take control section" and above the "We know roaming" and "look ma, no roaming fee" sections.

      The one that really showed that they aren't close to "local" pricing for me, was Jamaica. They charge $1/MB, which would be $1024/GB.

      From Digicel in JA, these are their prepaid data prices:
      Attachment 99301
      Lime is the same, $600 J$ for 2GB, which is roughly $6 Canadian. That is about 340 times the local price.

      Other countries are not quite as bad. Hungary was $0.13/MB or $133/GB. I paid about $16 for 1GB last year, so that's only 8 times the local price.

      Better than roaming rates, but no where close to local rates. That fact is that while they are cheaper than roaming, they aren't all that much cheaper than roaming. Their US rate is $0.12/MB or $6/50MB. Given Rogers now charges $8 for 50MB, they are far closer to roaming rates than to local rates.
    1. schultzter's Avatar
      schultzter -
      I think there's two things frequently overlooked in these roaming discussions.

      1. Every time you stick a new SIM card in your phone the number changes. And unless you forward your real number to your new number (which can be expensive if you're forwarding long distance) then you have to tell everyone your new number each time and they have to pay the long distance charge to get a hold of you.

      2. Because those local SIMs expire quickly (typically 30 days) then you will have to buy a new one on your next visit. Depending on where you're going (ex.: road trip through rural New England) that can be a real detour and adds to the cost.

      Roam Mobility and Know Roaming provide solutions to those two issues as well. Roam Mobility partners with T-Mobile in the US which means limited coverage. Not sure who Know Roaming is partnered with.
    1. acurrie's Avatar
      acurrie -
      Quote Originally Posted by schultzter View Post
      Every time you stick a new SIM card in your phone the number changes. And unless you forward your real number to your new number (which can be expensive if you're forwarding long distance) then you have to tell everyone your new number each time and they have to pay the long distance charge to get a hold of you.
      People still make voice calls?

      I myself ported out my phone number of some 18 years to a VoIP service. Works great in situations like what you've described above...
    1. Hello?'s Avatar
      Hello? -
      Their rates are here:

      http://knowroaming.com/#travel-happy-section

      Seems to be cheaper than roamly.com, which provides the same add-on sticker to your sim roaming service.

      http://roamly.com/?page=rates

      Strange enough, both are Toronto based companies, so not sure if its the same company. Anyone tried Roamly?
    1. ceredon's Avatar
      ceredon -
      Quote Originally Posted by schultzter View Post
      I think there's two things frequently overlooked in these roaming discussions.1. Every time you stick a new SIM card in your phone the number changes. And unless you forward your real number to your new number (which can be expensive if you're forwarding long distance) then you have to tell everyone your new number each time and they have to pay the long distance charge to get a hold of you. 2. Because those local SIMs expire quickly (typically 30 days) then you will have to buy a new one on your next visit. Depending on where you're going (ex.: road trip through rural New England) that can be a real detour and adds to the cost.Roam Mobility and Know Roaming provide solutions to those two issues as well. Roam Mobility partners with T-Mobile in the US which means limited coverage. Not sure who Know Roaming is partnered with.
      I don't think anyone is overlooking those. There are advantages to roaming, there are advantages to using a local SIM and there are advantages to a service like Know Roaming. There are also disadvantages to each. The question is, do the advantages of something like KR outweigh the advantages of the alternatives. I think it is clear that it outweighs the advantages of roaming, mainly because of price. But you still have disadvantages with KR, of having to arrange for a sticker prior to travelling, having to configure CCF to a new number, possibly having to arrange for a new local number (paid), etc. Does it outweigh the advantages of picking up a local SIM? In some ways, yes it does, but only minimally on price. But certainly, and massively, it is not as good as local service in terms of price. That alone might balance the scales toward a local SIM.
    1. vn33's Avatar
      vn33 -
      Quote Originally Posted by schultzter View Post
      Not sure who Know Roaming is partnered with.
      I asked this question before I pre-ordered my sticker, and the answer I got was their US partner is AT&T.

      Based on the rates I get through their online calculator, I would NOT use data through their plan, but voice only is still reasonable (IMHO) especially if you don't plan to talk a lot.

      For me, the convenience of not having to search for a local SIM, and worrying about the balance being expired, is worth it. I don't travel outside of North America often (maybe a cruise or All-Inclusive once in a while ?), so this is good enough. I agree, if you plan an extended stay in a country, and anticipate using voice & data a lot, then local SIM still trumps.

      I travel to the States to visit family once or twice a year, and for that, I do have a T-Mobile SIM, otherwise, I would use Bria App, taking advantage of my voip.ms account. For other times of urgent nature, KR seems to be ideal.
    1. shushwap's Avatar
      shushwap -
      I asked who they use In the states as well
      I was told att and T-Mobile
    1. kolo-bok's Avatar
      kolo-bok -
      SKip SIM (and phone number) changes. Don't want to sound like an add, but I travel out of coutry 3-4 times a year and this plan sounds great for me. I've got local prepaid SIMs but when trips have multiple countries it gets burdensome.

      Get T-Mobile's no contract $50 plan. Starting Oct 20 it includes (albeit 128kbps throttled) data in 100 countries for no extra charge. If you want faster data, $5 pass for 500MB or 1-day of higher speed data. I believe there are also 7-day passes. Still trying to figure out the WIFI calling, but even regular calls in these 100 countries seem to be reduced in price. I'll find out Nov 1-12 from Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech, and Germany

      I can't post links, but search for T-Mobile and it's pretty obvious on their main page (e.g. big pink world map)
    1. ceredon's Avatar
      ceredon -
      Quote Originally Posted by kolo-bok View Post
      SKip SIM (and phone number) changes. Don't want to sound like an add, but I travel out of coutry 3-4 times a year and this plan sounds great for me. I've got local prepaid SIMs but when trips have multiple countries it gets burdensome.

      Get T-Mobile's no contract $50 plan. Starting Oct 20 it includes (albeit 128kbps throttled) data in 100 countries for no extra charge. If you want faster data, $5 pass for 500MB or 1-day of higher speed data. I believe there are also 7-day passes. Still trying to figure out the WIFI calling, but even regular calls in these 100 countries seem to be reduced in price. I'll find out Nov 1-12 from Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech, and Germany

      I can't post links, but search for T-Mobile and it's pretty obvious on their main page (e.g. big pink world map)
      Did you confirm TMobile's speedpass pricing? I'd read it was much higher and not far out of line with regular roaming rates from other carriers.
    1. Treatz's Avatar
      Treatz -
      For the USA, for my needs the Tmobile sim is a good solution.
      My plan includes NA calling, and as such I simply forward my cell to the USA # and go.

      however, the new Roam rates are looking very attractive... $4.00 a day for 300 megs, calls and sms back to canada and the fact that you don't lose the balance vs Tmo's 90 days is also really nice.

      for anything but USA local sims work, but then again, I / we are on hofo.
    1. computergeek541's Avatar
      computergeek541 -
      Even if this device does legitimately work, that would effectively just make it a new sim card and you would still have to pay for service. Why wouldn't someone just buy a real sim card then?

      The only real purpose I can see for this attachment is a ways around a phone's sim lock - but wait - "The KnowRoaming sticker is an adhesive that attaches to the pins of your existing SIM and interacts with your unlocked phone to seamlessly switch between networks depending on your location." So since it interacts inside an "unlocked phone", it doesn't even get around sim unlocks. This just seems like a plain nonsensical product to me. I say sell it as a sim card and prepaid minutes but not as some magical sticker/attachment.

      Would you trust that the sticker successfully blocks your original sim card/phone from connecting to a network? It would be much safer to remove your original sim card and put a regular local one in while roaming.
    1. ceredon's Avatar
      ceredon -
      Quote Originally Posted by computergeek541 View Post
      Even if this device does legitimately work, that would effectively just make it a new sim card and you would still have to pay for service. Why wouldn't someone just buy a real sim card then?

      The only real purpose I can see for this attachment is a ways around a phone's sim lock - but wait - "The KnowRoaming sticker is an adhesive that attaches to the pins of your existing SIM and interacts with your unlocked phone to seamlessly switch between networks depending on your location." So since it interacts inside an "unlocked phone", it doesn't even get around sim unlocks. This just seems like a plain nonsensical product to me. I say sell it as a sim card and prepaid minutes but not as some magical sticker/attachment.

      Would you trust that the sticker successfully blocks your original sim card/phone from connecting to a network? It would be much safer to remove your original sim card and put a regular local one in while roaming.
      The advantages are:
      1) No need to track down a local SIM. This is not always convenient or trouble free.
      2) You get a new Canadian number to which you can forward your existing number and have it ring while you are away on your KR SIM.
      3) cheaper than outright roaming (slightly)

      Those aren't enough for me to consider it over a local SIM, but for anyone that is going to roam anyway, it might be attractive.
    1. kav2001c's Avatar
      kav2001c -
      Many people simply pay carriers outrageous roaming rates because they don't want to swap SIMs
      The US prepaid model is not that great (most plans have no options for BIS access or even to make calls back to Canada) & international are even worse
      So for those kinds of people who wanted to try and save the sticker options seem like a good one
    1. enfield71's Avatar
      enfield71 -
      Roam works on T-Mobile and they have bad coverage outside of big cities and no coverage in many of the Central States.

      I checked pricing for a gophone SIM on AT&T & that has the same or similar pay-as-you-go rates.

      This Knowroaming thing will also come in useful when I visit 3 countries in a 7-10 day period. If I visit Germany, Czech Republic, & Austria for example. Getting 3 SIMS will be a pain - specially in Germany and Italy where one has to go into the store with your passport to buy a SIM. I have never bought a SIM in Austria - so I would not know. I am willing to pay US$150 per GB to prevent me from spending 3 hours getting SIMS.
    1. dtong22's Avatar
      dtong22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by enfield71 View Post
      Roam works on T-Mobile and they have bad coverage outside of big cities and no coverage in many of the Central States.

      I checked pricing for a gophone SIM on AT&T & that has the same or similar pay-as-you-go rates.

      This Knowroaming thing will also come in useful when I visit 3 countries in a 7-10 day period. If I visit Germany, Czech Republic, & Austria for example. Getting 3 SIMS will be a pain - specially in Germany and Italy where one has to go into the store with your passport to buy a SIM. I have never bought a SIM in Austria - so I would not know. I am willing to pay US$150 per GB to prevent me from spending 3 hours getting SIMS.
      You are right about signals of T Mobile compared with that of AT&T
      If you are located in Can. cities, Windmobile is a good solution for your travelling without SIM swapping
      Cost: Can $30 + $15 U S add-on a month will let you roam in the US - AT&T plus T Mobile network unlimited talk/text to US/Can +5 Gb data.
      Also re travelling to EU : Talk/txt in Ger + Aus + Czech is 20/15 cents

      Daniel