You have booked the flights, packed up your suitcases, and located your passport. You are ready to jet off, right? Wrong. You have to consider your smartphone usage overseas!
Too many people forget to consider their smartphone usage (something unavoidable) when going abroad, and end up unnecessarily spending a lot of money.
Don't return home with a bill of international overage charges more expensive than the actual trip. Before you take off for your new experience, here are four mistakes to avoid when using your smartphone abroad.
1. Assuming you can use your phone as usual.
Just because you feel like you are constantly seeing your college acquaintances posting photos in front of the Taj Mahal (or some other equally exotic travel destination), doesn't mean that they are using their gadgets as usual and worry-free.
In other words, when you head off abroad, don't just assume that you will be using your smartphone the way you normally do. You can’t simply check your email, make a lot of phone calls or send text messages as always without regard for racking up a huge phone bill.
Different smartphone service providers have varying policies when it comes to international travel, and it is up to you to check with them what is included in their service (or your package) and what isn't.
You don't want to be unprepared and return home with a $1,500 "roaming" bill.
2. Misunderstanding what constitute "roaming" charges.
People throw around the word "roaming," but do you actually understand what it entails?
"Roaming" is when you use your smartphone on another network, while still being billed by your existing provider.
Naturally, this mostly occurs when you are abroad, as your phone will automatically connect to a local network.
While on roaming, keep in mind the following:
- Your number remains the same. But the temporary phone company will charge your home phone company for any calls or data you utilize while on their network.
- You can completely switch the roaming feature of your phone off. Or, if your phone has the capability, you can turn on airplane mode for the duration of your trip.
- For specific activities where data use is unavoidable (such as checking your email or making voice calls via Skype), you should opt to only check when you are connected to a Wi-Fi.
- If you want to stream music or watch Netflix (activities that need an abundance of bandwidth), you should certainly only do it when on Wi-Fi. If you know you are going to want to watch shows or movies, or listen to music, most apps allow you to download items to be enjoyed when offline.
- Other apps, such as Google Maps and various currency converters, can be used on offline versions so you can utilize them even without an internet connection.
By downloading and preparing the necessary offline apps and then using free Wi-Fi when available, you will be able to decrease your need for roaming data considerably.
3. Arriving at your destination with a locked phone.
That being said, if you know you are going to want to use data when not on Wi-Fi (and Wi-Fi isn't always available), then you may want to consider purchasing a local pay-as-you-go SIM card (such as the Zain Iraq SIM card) once you have arrived at your destination.
The biggest mistake you can make is having a locked phone when you are planning on purchasing a local SIM in the host country.
Usually, when you purchase a new smartphone, it comes locked to ensure that you only use it with that particular carrier. However, if you want to insert a prepaid international SIM card, you are going to have to unlock it or purchase a cheap unlocked phone.
While your carrier can unlock it for you, it may only be possible once you have finished paying off the phone
Once you have an unlocked smartphone, you can take it into a store in your destination country, purchase a data package and then insert the new SIM card into your phone. While you will have a local number, you can use the phone without worrying about roaming charges.
4. Not downloading the right apps for staying in contact.
If you do decide to go down the foreign SIM card route, then you will be provided with a different phone number from your home one. This can make it complicated to keep in contact with people at home.
For this reason, it is better to rely on free international communication services such as Skype, WhatsApp or WeChat as they will work with your phone the same – no matter your SIM card phone number.
As you can tell, the common mistakes that occur relating to using your smartphone abroad all stem from forgetting to plan ahead.
While mobile roaming can seem like a complex game, if you take the time to consider the options and plan ahead for your mobile phone usage before you travel, you shouldn’t have any issues. And you will know exactly how you can post that photo in front of the Taj Mahal!
Author: Al-moottil P Antony
Al-moottil P Antony is a C-Suite Executive Support Professional for Zain, a leading mobile and data services operator with a commercial footprint in 8 Middle Eastern and African countries.