With the huge upturn in smartphone and tablet ownership there is a near 24×7 requirement to have a mobile internet data connection wherever you are. Whether it’s downloading emails, updating twitter or Facebook status, map navigation, online shopping, Skype or simply finding train times, your iPhone or Android phone is becoming a life essential. When you’re in your home country, it’s not a problem; the networks offers large data bundles and you have your home WiFi networks to rely on. But what about when you travel abroad? We’ve all heard tales of bill-shock and leaving your data roaming turned on with a smartphone can quickly lead to a large roaming bill.
So what are the alternatives? If your smartphone is unlocked then you can look to swap the SIM card and put in a SIM card for the country you’re visiting, complete with a local data bundle. That’s OK but if you’re visiting multiple countries then you need a roaming SIM card that offers both voice and data (to allow the phone to make calls) and the data allowances on these SIMs are often small and overage quite high. Also, if you’ve got a WiFi-only tablet then this isn’t an option because there’s no SIM to swap.
The most effective option is to take a MiFi Personal Hotspot device with a roaming data-only SIM card. These personal hotspots are about the size of small cell phone and connect to the mobile internet using the SIM inside. They then broadcast the data wirelessly to up to 5 devices in a 10m radius. In other words, it’s like taking a mini version of your home WiFi network with you wherever you go. The access is password protected so only you get to connect. Because devices connect through WiFi, you can connect a phone, laptop and tablet to the device at the same time and you can share it with a traveling companion. Also, because the device is separate to the phone you can use it even if you have a cell phone that is locked to your domestic network. If you use something like Skype to make voice calls then you don’t need to worry about roaming call costs. The MiFi personal hotspots can use data-only SIMs, rather that voice & data SIMs, which tends to give you larger data bundles and better prices on overage.
The units do need charging and when under use tend to last about 8 hours. However, for the traveler this is generally fine since you only need it for bursts at a time. And you can still use the hotel or restaurant WiFi as well.
So if, like me, you feel completely cut off if you’re unable to connect your iPhone to the internet when travelling then the MiFi personal hotspot is an ideal solution.