Traveling abroad in the near future? Then you need, yes need to take a hard look at KnowRoaming. KnowRoaming offers cell (aka mobile) phone service without the exorbitant cost. Sure, on a day by day basis it’s more expensive than your post-paid bill, but that almost goes without saying. And it’s effectively a hell of a lot cheaper than your carrier’s international package.
That said, Knowroaming is designed to be used for finite periods of time and best of all it doesn’t require you to swap your SIM out for one of theirs. Instead you fix a SIM sticker over your existing SIM card and when you’re abroad it activates, otherwise it’s passive while you’re in your phone’s home territory (or so I had hoped – more on that later).
So what did I think? Keep reading my KnowRoaming review to find out.
Summary: The Knowroaming sticker is the hands down the easiest and most convenient way to travel abroad and not get suckered into your carrier’s ultra expensive data packages. Home country issues aside, the service worked as promised and makes being a tourist that much more enjoyable.
What We Liked
- Easy to install thanks to the included applicator
- $8 gets you unlimited data in 90+ countries
- Works with your existing SIM
What We Didn’t
- App needs a bit of work and greater transparency before traveling abroad
- SIM sticker stopped working when I returned to the USA
- Data speeds, depending on country, can be hit or miss
Installing the SIM Sticker
As mentioned, Knowroaming works via a SIM sticker. Installation takes less than 5 minutes and is painfully simple.
To start, you just need to open the tray, insert your SIM card and follow the included written instructions. In short, your SIM falls into an opening and upon pressing on the back of that tray, the SIM sticker is adhered to the top (the contact points) of your SIM card. My only concern was ensuring that the sticker actually stuck. And that’s why Knowroaming suggests you press firmly and hold for sometime to ensure proper adhesion. I can only recommend, beyond that, that you don’t remove the SIM too quickly from the tray for fear it might “unstick”.
To a large degree the SIM sticker is almost invisible, at least to the unknowing eye. And to that end, it fit, with no problem, back into my iPhone 6’s (and iPhone 5’s) SIM card tray and subsequently back into the phone. If you’ve used any SIM card adapters, then you know the size of the SIM must be on point, or the tray won’t fit. But that was anything but the case with Knowroaming’s SIM sticker.
Performance and Traveling abroad
What’s so great about the Knowroaming SIM sticker is that it effectively turns your phone’s SIM card into a dual SIM. Which is to say, when you’re at home – in my case the USA – the AT&T SIM card operates as such. It’s only once you’re abroad that the Knowroaming SIM activates.
To activate your Knowroaming card you’ll need a few things. First is the app. Simple enough. The other is, in the case of my phone, the iPhone 5s, you’ll need to install a new profile, will automatically enters the necessary APN settings to access Knowroaming’s partner networks. The profile is included within their app, so you won’t need an Internet connection in case you forget to do this before heading abroad. But make sure you grab the app in your home country, otherwise you’ll be stuck until you hit WiFi.
With the app installed, you’ll also want to allow the Knowroaming app to detect your location such that it can switch its service to the correct country upon entry.
If the aforementioned is done correctly, you should be able to make and receive phone calls and text messages, as well as connect to the web. However, you’ll need to be patient. Often I would land, switch on my iPhone 5s (I use an iPhone 6 at home, but since that phone isn’t unlocked it’s not compatible with any other SIM but AT&Ts) and have to wait sometimes as long as 30 minutes to garner service. I also found that restarting my phone upon entry to a new country helped some what expedite the process, but still wasn’t a guaranteed resolve.
By default, you can pay as you go. Data, voice and text pricing varies by location and to find the pricing you just simply need to open the app. Alternatively, you can buy 24 hours of unlimited data, which isn’t available world wide, but covers the major countries (90+ countries). I visited London, Barcelona and Dublin last month and I was covered by their unlimited plan.
That said, 24 hours of unlimited data costs $8. And while that’s $240 a month, need I reemphasize that it’s unlimited data? And you don’t necessarily have to buy unlimited data every day, but I found it to be the best experience as I didn’t have to worry that I was racking up a bill regardless of how much I used my phone. Moreover, most of today’s communicating can be done via data, such as FaceTime, iMessage, WhatsApp and the like.
Each country I visited I ran a speed test. Of course location, or distance to the tower is a factor, as is the network that Knowroaming has a partnership with. Much like T-Mobile’s international offering, it would seem that Knowroaming buys data on the older gen networks, which makes sense since carriers are phasing them out or their post paid customers are on a new gen. As a result, speeds can be a bit unforgiving, but for the most part, I had no issues using Google Maps. However, at times pulling up a website or searching Google on the other hands, could be a bit slow.
All tests were performed in city centers.
The best speeds were in London. There I was able to manual select and test a few networks, with one offering up to 10Mbps down and 2-3 up.
Barcelona was significantly slower, generally following some where between 1-2Mbps for both up and down.
Dublin was slight better than Barcelona, but still slower than London, and less reliable then both of them.
The app is fairly easy to use, though you’ll likely be lost when you first land abroad, as it isn’t clear what you need to do to buy unlimited data. Which is to say, you’ll need to be patient, as you’ll need an Internet connection to see the full set of options in the app, one of them being the option to buy 24 hours of unlimited data.
What I also didn’t realize, is that I needed to install a new profile on my phone to access Knowroaming’s partner networks. Fortunately the app does a fairly good job of walking you through this, but it would have been nice to know before landing in a foreign location.
There is a feature that is called ReachMe, which allows calls via your local number to be forwarded to your Knowroaming phone number. And yes, you’ll receive a local number. Mine was a UK number and I think remained the same no matter the countries I visited. That said, I don’t think the service ever worked for me, as I didn’t receive any phone calls during my time abroad, and I even followed the necessary steps to setup the ReachMe feature before heading abroad.
iMessage and Data
As mentioned, I opted for unlimited data since it affords me the most flexibility in terms of communication when abroad. WhatsApp is a must have for anyone in Europe and largely was my means of communication with family and friends while away. However, iMessage was finicky at first and for some reason wasn’t sending messages in “blue” to those that I know used the service. I still haven’t figured out why, but after sometime it resolved itself and worked without a hiccup. The only caveat following that, is that my iMessages were coming from an unknown number, leaving many people confused to who was messaging them.
When I flew back into the USA I immediately transferred my SIM card back into my iPhone 6. Since the Knowroaming sticker worked fine in this phone before traveling aboard, I had assumed it would be a none issue. Boy was I wrong. No matter what I did – even returning to my iPhone 5s – my iPhones continued to display a message that the SIM was not recognized and I needed to register my phone. The resolve? I tore the Knowroaming sticker off and threw it away. I was under the impression that I could leave the Knowroaming sticker on indefinitely – turns out, I couldn’t.
I couldn’t have done the trip without Knowroaming. As a result of unlimited data in all three countries I visited, we didn’t have to worry about carrying around a paper map or downloading an offline map, which rarely work and don’t provide real time data about public transit. Combine that peace of mind with their super simple pricing structure and it’s a wonder why everyone doesn’t use the service while traveling abroad for work or vacation. The only small wrinkle in their game, is the issues I faced when returning back to my home country, which for me proved largely moot since I don’t vacation more than few times a year. However, this could prove challenging for those depending on the service for work.
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