These days, people can’t bear to be without their smart-phones for any length of time at all. I know I get sweaty palms just thinking about it. Go to any restaurant and you’ll see couples not talking to each other, but madly updating Facebook statuses, tweeting and “app-chatting” to everyone else! The smart-phone is becoming ubiquitous. Samsung has called its last couple of smart-phones “life companions”, and they are pretty much right.
Given that we can’t live without them, leaving the smart-phone at home when you travel overseas is really not an option. However, when you go on that well-deserved overseas holiday, taking a smart-phone can end up costing you as much as taking an extra kid with you! It’s not uncommon to see 2 or 3 thousand dollar bills from your provider when you get back. All from doing exactly what you already do, except overseas.
So why is it so expensive? Well, there’s a few reasons. When you’re overseas you are using a foreign network who has an agreement with your carrier for you to use their network. You are effectively at their mercy when it comes to the rates you are charged. Our carriers often won’t even know the rates until the call records are received by them. Voice and data rates change all the time, and it is virtually impossible for an Australian carrier to keep up to date with 200+ international networks, most of whom do not routinely send an advice to other carriers when their call or data rates change. Your Australian carrier will naturally mark up the foreign network’s already-expensive rate before passing on to you. This means any call in any country will probably be costly. Your smart-phone may also be regularly “pinging” your email server, Facebook or some other app without you even realising it. You could be paying a dollar or more each time this happens when you are roaming!
Secondly, you pay for incoming calls as well as outgoing calls when you are roaming. For example, if I ring your mobile number from Australia when you are in England, I will be charged, and you will too!
Lastly, the way calls and data downloads are charged can differ from network to network. Did you know, for example, that some foreign networks actually start charging when the phone starts ringing, rather than when it is answered? Effectively, you can be paying for a call that no one answered. Minimum call cost per call, flagfalls, and charging protocols can differ wildly from network to network, even within the same country.
As you can see, it’s a minefield to say the least! CMOBILE has come up with some simple tips to make sure you have a working service at minimum cost. Those dollars are going to be important when you get back and the coffers are empty. The last thing you need is a massive roaming bill on your doorstep:
1. Make sure your handset is unlocked. If you are on a contract or bought it on a contract when it was new, you might need to contact your carrier and get them to unlock the handset. Your phone simply won’t work on any other network, including overseas ones if your carrier has locked it to their network.
2. Turn off data roaming, usually found in the settings menu of your smart-phone. Switch off any push email or app settings. You can still check your email, it just won’t auto-refresh in the background and cost you hidden dollars.
3. When you arrive at your destination, buy a prepaid SIM on a local network, and top it up with credit for voice, text and data. This will ensure you are paying the same rate as the locals when you use your smart-phone. If you are unsure, it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of internet research before you go. The front desk at where you are staying would be pleased to assist too. Make sure you check what size SIM your smart-phone takes, so you don’t buy the wrong size. You can email/Facebook/tweet your overseas contact number to all of your friends and family very easily. When buying your SIM at your destination, don’t forget to take your passport with you. ID may be required to connect a prepaid SIM, as it is in Australia.
4. Use wi-fi hotspots where possible. Your hotel , bars, shopping centres etc will probably have wi-fi available. Make sure you take advantage of wi-fi hotspots where you can. When you are on one, this is a great time to refresh your email inbox!
5. When you are on wi-fi, use Skype, KIK, What’s App, etc to contact friends. This way you won’t be using your credit.
6. Before you go, check out what apps are available for your destination and download them. For example, train or bus timetable apps, maps, restaurant and entertainment guides etc. Where possible download maps and guides to your phone so you can read them off-line and not incur charges.
Your smart-phone is an invaluable travelling companion, and by following the above tips, you can easily take the worry out of the cost of roaming. If you are still unsure, contact CMOBILE on 1300 545000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and our expert team would be happy to help you, even if you’re not currently a CMOBILE customer.
One last tip, don’t forget to change the phone numbers in your contacts list to international (+61) format before you go. For example, Australian mobile number 0414123456 becomes +61414123456. Australian landline number 03 12345678 becomes +613 12345678. You won’t need to change them back when you get home, they will still work as normal!