There are only two ways to avoid exorbitant data roaming charges when overseas. One – and this is quite a tall order – is not to use your phone at all. The more likely scenario, though, would be the second option: buy a local SIM card instead. Owning a massive collection of SIM cards is something most travelers can testify to, and it’s simply no fun to swap them in and out every other week.
Here’s KnowRoaming, a sticker that claims to be the magic replacement for the 55 SIM cards you might have collected when visiting the 55 countries it covers:
Its premise is simple: just stick it onto the top of your current SIM card, pop it back into your smartphone, and it will automatically connect to the local networks in any of the 55 countries mentioned on its website – no questions asked. Of these 55, 10 of them are in Asia-Pacific – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Israel, Kazakhstan, Australia, and New Zealand.
The idea first occurred to Gregory Gundelfinger, CEO and co-founder of KnowRoaming, when his co-founder and cousin Mathew Stein spent two days of his vacation in Mexico trying to activate a local sim card.
“We know roaming, and have created a device that emulates the convenience of traditional roaming without the cost,” says Gundelfinger. “We looked at why roaming has persisted for so long and why people continue to pay exorbitant fees, and decided to dedicate ourselves to developing a seamless and convenient solution to these problems.”
While the user is in his/her home country, the device remains dormant, and is only activated upon arrival in another country. Unlimited data can be obtained at a flat fee of US$7.99 per day, though the service is currently 3G-only.
In addition, thanks to deals it has cut with local telco providers, it promises roaming fees that are up to 85 percent cheaper compared to your home carrier’s pay-per-use rates. “We are not taking away revenue, but actually generating new revenues for these networks,” Gundelfinger explains.
To make things even more convenient, the Toronto-based team has also released a companion iOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry app that allows users to create an account, load funds via credit card to purchase the data bundle or make calls, and track their usage as well. As opposed to the usual means of topping up credits or checking your account balance by calling a number or buying scratch cards, this is certainly a nice touch. Oh, and your credits will never expire, too.
KnowRoaming also provides call forwarding from a user’s home number. This means that a user can receive all incoming calls directed to their home SIM card, as well as display their home number to whomever they call even when they are overseas.
There is one huge downside for Asian users: long distance calls can only be made from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. However, this can be overcome by using the unlimited data provided to make calls via mobile VoIP apps.
For now, KnowRoaming’s sticker kits can be purchased for $29.99. If you register within 15 days of ordering, you can also get $15 worth of credit for free.