Toronto start up Knowroaming is our favourite multi-country option for staying connected while travelling. It is more expensive than purchasing local SIM cards, but for short trips it can certainly be worth the convenience, and rates are still much lower than what you’d pay roaming with your home carrier.
- Pay-per-use service
- Easy to track usage
- Attaches to your existing SIM card
- Automatic call forwarding when abroad
- Data rates can be pricey
- No way to forward text messages
How much is convenience worth to you?
Knowroaming is a Canadian company that started with the goal to make worldwide cellular phone roaming cheaper and easier. For most people, using your cellphone when in another country can be both a pain and quite expensive. Need a Sim tries to alleviate that pain with country specific articles on getting connected, but for short trips, admittedly, the time it takes to set up may not be justified. Although roaming packages (especially to the U.S.) have improved recently, they are still considerably more expensive than having a local SIM. Knowroaming is somewhat of a compromise to these two options: the convenience of not having to acquire and change SIM cards when you change countries, but a little more expensive than local SIM card (or a fair bit more expensive, depending on the location and your usage). As a result, if you are changing countries regularly for a relatively short visit, in my opinion, this really is the way to go. If staying over a week in a particular place, I would recommend a local SIM to save money. Visit our home page to find country specific articles on purchasing a prepaid local SIM card and credit.
How it Works and Setup
To start, go to knowroaming.com and sign up for the service. This will cost you $30 for the ‘sticker’ that is the basis of their technology which will be mailed to you. Once you receive it, you will need to apply the sticker to your normal SIM card. Knowroaming gives detailed instructions and the application is not difficult with their included application tool. I have seen no interference issues with having the sticker on my SIM through 3 phones (iPhone 5S, Moto X, Moto G). Once you have attached the sticker to you SIM, replace it into your phone and download the Knowroaming app for setup. That’s it, you are ready to go. Once you have applied the sticker to a SIM, you cannot remove it and move to another SIM, so in case you have multiple phones or change phones often, I would recommend applying the sticker to a nano SIM and purchasing adapters (that are very inexpensive) to prevent compatibility issues.
When at home, the sticker does nothing, and you continue to use your base carrier for connection. Once you cross the border into one of the 200 Knowroaming partnered foreign countries, your phone will recognize it is roaming and the sticker will activate. The phone will then connect to a Knowroaming partner network in that country. How it does this is some sort of magic, but it works pretty well. From this point on, any use is pay-as-you-go with Knowroaming and your home carrier is disabled.
You do not get a choice of which local network you roam on as Knowroaming has partnerships setup with specific local carriers. This can be good and bad. You don’t have to research a local company, but sometimes the chosen company isn’t the best (looking at you T-Mobile in the United States).
I recently did some travelling and put my Knowroaming sticker to the test. My trip included 8 days in the USA, 1 day in England, 4 days in Germany, and 6 days in Switzerland, and 7 days in Turkey. As per usual travelling, I tried to keep major internet use on WIFI and kept my mobile use to as needed (Maps, searches, etc). For this test I was using an Android phone (the Need a Sim recommended Moto G) but the experience is not very different on iOS.
Upon landing in the US, my phone connected to the partner carrier (T-Mobile) but the data connection didn’t start. The phone app includes some instructions on how to set up data if not working. Sometimes the provided steps work, which include setting up an APN for Knowroaming, but in this case they didn’t. There is a back up though, that includes a second app that Knowroaming installs on your phone called ‘SIM Toolkit’. When you open the app, it asks which country you are roaming in. Simply find the appropriate country and the app does the rest. I find this method the easiest and quickest to fix any issues with connectivity.
Once a connection was established, everything worked as it should. One thing to note is that while roaming with Knowroaming, your home network is disabled. That means that if someone were to call or SMS your normal number, it won’t go through, unless you sign up for the forwarding service ReachMe (additional $3/month). This can be the largest downfall of the service. But with many data based messaging apps, you should still be able to maintain connection. If can get your hands on a dual SIM phone, applying the Knowroaming sticker to a secondary SIM is an option if you want to maintain connectivity to your home network (please note that we have not yet tested this setup). However, if you’re truly travelling the world you may want to save that second SIM slot for a local SIM if you end up staying in a country for a while
One of the best conveniences of this is once you land at the airport you can quickly and easily connect and be online, no waiting to find a store to get a SIM, or trying to connect to airport WIFI (which is free in a lot of the world…except the US). Once connected, I never had an issue and enjoyed 3G connection throughout all of the listed countries.
A new service, and one I have not tried, is cheaper long distance calling. The sticker will recognize when you are calling a number outside your local area code and switch to their network for cheaper rates.
Knowroaming has an app for both Android and iOS, and they are both pretty much the same. The app gives you access to your usage, remaining credit, rates information, and store front to purchase their products and top up credit. As stated above, you need to have the app for the sticker to work. It runs in the background to check for country switches, but I saw no real change in battery life. On both mobile platforms, the app will let you know what state it is in: “Home” where it is dormant, and “Active” when you are roaming with them. In iOS you get the words “knowroaming active” or “knowroaming home” at the top of the screen, below the notification bar. In Android, you get a small notification in the notification bar that you cannot remove. In both cases you quickly forget about them. Other than that, the app is clean, fast, and reliable.
I should state that the sticker also works in Windows Phone, but functionality is limited at this time (and we have not tested it).
Basically just reiterating the title, the Knowroaming sticker is a great accessory for accessing internet fast, easy, and cheaper than your normal roaming costs pretty much anywhere in the world. If you are staying more than a week or two, I would still recommend visiting our home page for information and purchasing a local SIM, but for many trips, whether business or leisure, this will be the only SIM you need.