Cost: From £5.99 to free
THE PRINCIPAL purpose of swapping your handset's existing SIM card over to a SIM4travel one is to avoid 'roaming' charges. If somebody dials your mobile phone while you're abroad, you as the recipient (as well as the caller) have to pay.
While being able to make and receive calls when abroad [technically known as 'roaming'] is a major benefit with GSM phones, the cost of calling while overseas can be prohibitive.
It's particularly aggrivating getting charged for receiving calls when you're abroad. That doesn't apply with SIM4travel because it employs a technique known as 'call back'.
Consequently, SIM4travel doesn't charge you to receive calls, as long as you're in most of Europe; the Middle East or Australasia. In other regions, such as North America, the cost rises up to £0.89 per minture to receive a call.
More good news is that with a SIM4travel SIM, it costs nothing to receive a text and just £0.39 to send a text when travelling.
The crucial point about SIM4travel is that the mobile handset itself has to be 'unlocked', otherwise it will reject the SIM. The cost of unlocking a handset these days ranges from free (via codes available on the Net), to around £30 [unless you have an Ithingey handset which is way over the top].
It is also vital to activate the SIM itself (preferably in the UK), before usage. The INQ activated its loan SIM via a voice call but it would have been easier to have done the job via the Net.
The more airtime you purchase, the cheaper it is to acquire the SIM from SIM4travel. The price ranges from £5.99 for the card with £20 worth of airtime, down to free if you fork out for £50's worth.
A potential snag comes when you insert the SIM4travel SIM into an older make of mobile phone. The older models can't dial using the callback method from within the handset's address book function.
Instead, those with mature handsets have to resort to a technique known as 'menu calling'. This effectively involves a fairly laborious process, requiring you to manually enter the number with its full international code.
With newer handsets you soon grow accustomed to waiting for the system to call you back before you can actually start to speak. Given that SIM4travel claims that its charges are actually lower than the 'eurotariff' rates recently imposed by the EU, it's definitely worth all the effort involved.
Naturally, the product isn't perfect. The INQ would have like the ability to view an itemised bill on the Net so you can gauge exactly which calls are burning up the pennies.
Presently, the SIM4travel SIM card doesn't offer you data 'roaming'. There
appears to be a hidden data facility called Peppermint.
However, the INQ strongly suspects that a data capability is in the pipeline, given that SIM4travel was acquired by Truphone and the company is probably still investigating the best way to set this up.
SIM4travel still has a few rough edges. For example, the facility intended to show how much money is left to make calls didn't work with 'menu calling'. The messages the handset gives out when dialling can be confusing. The Nokia handset which the INQ used gives out the message "call not allowed", before going through the call back process. Very unnerving.
Overall, if you're somebody who hates to be out of touch while abroad – and organised enough to change you voicemail messages at home to reflect the new SIM4travel number – then this solution is for you. µ
Dispenses with incoming call charges
Requires an unlocked handset
Data roaming isn't provided yet
Bar tender's verdict
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