No More Roaming with KnowRoaming and T-Mobile

Written by GT on October 10th, 2013

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International data is always a headache, no matter if you’re buying a local SIM, renting a country specific hotspot (1, 2), or exploring your carrier’s roaming plans. Up until now.  Two companies are coming out way ahead of the flock with some interesting new revelations in international communications.

For one, T-mobile has just announced today they will be providing unlimited data and text for their postpaid customers in 100 partner countries starting October 31st.  Meaning, as long as you’re not on a pre-paid plan and have T-mobile, you can walk off the plane and continue your WhatsApp chat where you left off at the boarding gate.  Want to make a call?  This includes flat-rate $0.20/minute calling to the 100 “Simple Global” countries (the list includes a generous lot of Western European, East Asian, and Carribean countries, check out the rest at the bottom of TechCrunch’s article).  You won’t exactly be zipping along on LTE though, because T-mo is only offering 2g/EDGE speeds, with optional $15-$50 “Speed passes” that bump up your data to 3g for 1 day to two weeks.

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KnowRoaming (iOS/Android; $35) is taking a completely different approach, and this could be an industry-wide game changer for every traveler out there.  KnowRoaming is independent from the carriers and has developed technology to add stickers to the your SIM card that allows you to automagically switch to KnowRoaming’s partner networks in 220 countries wherever you might touch down.  You fund your KnowRoaming account with a credit card, and their app tells you how much you’ll be paying for data, text, and calls on the KnowRoaming network.  Which is, in simplistic terms, how KnowRoaming works — you’re on your home carrier in your home country, as soon as you leave, you’re on KnowRoaming’s network.

On paper, they offer a complete service with “normal calling” and occasionally automatic call-back in certain countries to avoid fees. According to KnowRoaming’s website, you have to purchase a forwarding number before you leave, but everyone who calls your home cell phone number will get connected to you without noticing any disconnect or alternate numbers.

The downside with KnowRoaming is the unknown.  They are promising a LOT from a Toronto-based startup with 9 employees with a first-run that’s being funded by a proprietary Kickstarter-esque campaign.  On the bright side, this is how the Google’s and Apple’s have changed the world, a small pivot-able company ready to take on the big companies of the world.

If in February of next year, KnowRoaming takes over the international marketplace, they will start putting pressure on conventional carriers to revamp their roaming policies.  I’d love to see KnowRoaming really push forward, and in the short term start simplifying roaming terms and techniques — abolish these Skype-esque “forwarding numbers” and “call-back” routines.  With some traction, KnowRoaming could be offering unlimited packages and become a next-generation powerhouse global network.

 

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GlobalGig Hotspot for Connection In Seven Countries

Written by GT on March 7th, 2013

While there are some good options getting internet internationally, such as XCom’s Mifi Rental or increasingly inexpensive plans from carriers, there’s still not a one-device-to-rule-them-all option.  GlobalGig is working really hard at being the first to get there, though.  Simply buy the $99 hotspot device, and get access to easy 3g-speed wifi in the US, UK, and Australia — and today announcing service in Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Hong Kong.  Though you won’t get the blazing fast speeds of WiMax or LTE 4g, the 3g/2g compatibility will probably provide more functionality outside a few countries that do actually have 4g. The data plans (1 gb – $17, 2 gb – $25, 5 gb – $45, 10 gb – $80) are reasonable and as long as you buy the device outright, you’re on a month-to-month contract.  You can check your usage on their website to see how much you’re using so there are no surprise charges at the end of the month, since there is a $0.05 charge for every extra megabyte ($50/gb), you’ll want to keep an eye on that.

 

 

DJ Wherever You Are

Written by GT on February 14th, 2013

Urbanears, a swedish company known for their custom colored headphones, has just launched their new Slussen (Free/$14.99 adapter; iOS) product.  The Slussen adapter is an ingenius mini headphone and speaker plug that allows you to cue and preview from within your headphones while simultaneously broadcasting your tunes out to the party via speaker.  It handily stays clipped to your keychain when not in use, ready to be whipped out a moments notice.

The Slussen iOS app allows you to cue, crossfade, preview, sync, scratch, adjust BPM, and EQ (with kill switches) from entirely within the app.  Simply load up tunes from your music library and it will start analyzing the waveform for easy syncing (by hitting the “sync” button in the middle).  From trying it out this morning, there is actually some control on the beat matching, and the “sync” function luckily only attempts to sync the BPM’s instead of the entire beat matching process (as some other apps do).   With the help of the adapter, this would be seamless.  The app seems to work fantastically, with a great attention to detail.  Even pressing the play button off affects a turntable-stop sound.

No need to pack that turntable anymore for the just-in-case DJ set on the beaches of Goa.

 

Easy Methods For Streaming Blocked Media

Written by GT on February 13th, 2013

Photo by Shardayyy/flickr

Whether you’re traveling, inside a blocked access network, or just trying to see some TV that’s not available in your country, you have some options.

Lifehacker just published a great round-up on extensions and software to do just that, emphasizing the use of Hola Unblocker (Free; Windows, Chrome, Firefox) as the “easiest method” — with a simple extension installation you can have access to Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, CBS.com, FOX.com, BBC’s iPlayer, and ITV Player, and they’re working on even more sites.

These are mostly desktop based solutions, so if you want similar access from a mobile device, we’d also suggest you check out options we’ve suggested for mobile access as well as desktop connections, using Tor Browser and Hotspot Shield, which would essentially give you unlimited access to any country-specific media outlets, but with a little more tech know-how required.

 

GeoTipper 1.4 Released!

Written by GT on April 18th, 2012

We’re proud to announce that the latest iteration of GeoTipper has been released for iOS.  For those of you that don’t know, it’s a comprehensive tip guideline database and tip calculator for the traveling nomad.  In this new release we’ve added tipping guidelines for New Zealand, Fiji, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Peru, and the Bahamas, which means that you can find the appropriate tips for taxi drivers, bartenders, restaurant, and hotel service in 65 countries!

For more info, check out our Support page here.

Download or update now, and happy travels!

GeoTipper (iTunes App Store)

 

Satelllite TV Through The Porthole, To Your Tablet

Written by GT on March 23rd, 2012


MTN Satellite Communications has just launched their MTN Worldwide TV service, which will stream eight US and international channels: BBC World News, CNBC, Fox News, MSNBC, Sky News, Sky Sports News, Sport 24 and E! Entertainment Television, as well as special event programming such as sporting events.  This launch is concurrent through their commercial (cruise ship) and government offerings.

What’s revolutionary about this is that you can watch these TV streams from wifi enabled devices (laptops, tablets, and mobiles) anywhere on a ship, instead of a hard-lined TV.  Got an iPad?  You’ve got your own mobile television on-board. Government offerings will especially benefit from this if governments shell out for streaming TV for deployed Navy personnel.   Check MTN’s coverage area to see if you can watch NFL games on your next sea jaunt.

 

Extreme Mobile Cases for Extreme Conditions

Written by GT on March 14th, 2012

via Samsung Galaxy S2 Marketing

When your smartphone or tablet becomes your travel computer, it not only becomes more precious, but it also enters more precarious situations: constantly in your hands as you shuffle out of the tuk-tuk in Thailand, on the table in a French cafe as you calculate the tip, or shoved in your backpack while you’re on a train ride through Northern India.   But since you’re trusting it to keep your info safe, your maps handy, and your guidebooks available, you have to make sure that thin piece of electronics doesn’t break if it slips out of your hands, falls off the table, or gets trampled on in a pile of gear.  Hit the jump for an extreme case bonanza… Click to continue »

 

Stop Holding Your Phone!

Written by GT on March 7th, 2012

There’s lots of smartphone stand-cases out there, but if you’re set on your own non-stand case already (like I am, sporting a Speck Candy Shell Card Case), then you’ll need some kind of external stand.

The Wedge stands out from the 100′s of phone stands you can find on amazon simply because it’s soft. It resembles a beanbag, but because of the sewing angles, and the lip on the front, it makes for a great universal stand, on any surface — like reading on your iPhone while laying in your bed.

The only downside is that it can get pretty dirty traveling with you everywhere, especially if you end up using it to prop up your phone for movie-watching on an airplane folding table.  Luckily, Jordan from WedgeWorks tells us: “you can throw it in the washing machine but we prefer to let it air dry or if you must use a dryer, do not use heat (tumble dry only) as it can melt the foam inside.”

 

Access Google Music Outside The US

Written by GT on February 29th, 2012

Using Google Music you can store 20,000 songs on Google’s servers and stream them back to your phone, tablet, or computer. While traveling with a limited storage device, such as a smartphone or a tablet, having a depository of music that’s only a wifi connection away is invaluable. But the biggest problem with Google’s service is that it is only accessible from within the US.  Which is exactly the problem I ran into while traveling through Thailand last month; tired of my limited tunes, I connected to my hotel wifi and was quickly stiff-armed by the Google Music site.

Enter (previously mentioned) Hotspot Shield (Free, iOS) and Tor for Android (Free, Android).   Known mostly for their desktop VPN counterparts, these apps will allow you to connect to US servers (along with other countries, if you’re using Tor), and mask your IP from the gatekeepers at Google, appearing as if you’re in-country.

While this does work specifically for Google Music, it will also work for Pandora, iTunes, and many video sites that allow only specific-country access.  So happy travels AND happy listening.

 

Calling Without Skype

Written by GT on February 24th, 2012

Image by OpalMirror/Flickr

Sometimes it’s too difficult, your trip is too short, or you just don’t want to spend the cash to acquire a local SIM card while traveling.  Luckily there’s quite a few apps that allow you to call over 3g or wifi, giving you the flexibility to call friends, family, and coworkers from a recognizable number.

Sure, there’s Skype and Google Voice, but they’re far from perfect.  Skype has a well-rounded service, but you end up having to buy and pay for every function and add-on (Phone number: $18, One SMS: $0.11 to US).  Google Voice offers a free number, voicemail, and US SMS, but the main functionality of the Android and iOS apps are reliant on normal cell signal, although there are workarounds.

It turns out “free calling” is quite a versatile term and applies to a range of apps that provide a wide-range of services.  Free calling apps are not created equal.  MagicJack Talk Free? No dedicated calling number.  Line2? Too many fees, and expensive texting. Viber? Only really works app-to-app.  Fring?  Outdated, with no voicemail, texting, or phone number.  Vopium? No voicemail and overpriced SMS.  Vox.io? Call-to and Texting number confusion.

This is the search for an all-in-one calling app.  One app to master calling while traveling for your needs, without having to bend to the fees of Skype.  Is it out there?  Hit the jump to find out.  Click to continue »