KnowRoaming Review: Unlimited roaming made simple
If you’re a data junkie and a traveller, KnowRoaming makes keeping your costs under control very easy indeed.
By now, everyone has either had an overseas data disaster, or at least heard of folks who have. Roaming rates aren’t quite as punitive as they were five years ago, but at the same time, our general use of data in an age of social and streaming media is considerably more advanced than it was back then.
The big telcos and many MVNOs will offer roaming rates, but the best way to make these economical is to buy packages upfront and then watch your data usage like a hawk, especially if you’re on a postpaid contract plan.
KnowRoaming’s approach is markedly different. While it does offer standardised call, text and data rates for most worldwide locations, its calling card is the offer of unlimited data usage for $US7.99 per day. While travelling to Mobile World Congress 2017, I had the opportunity to test out the KnowRoaming service, to see how it compares with other roaming options.
Why you'd want to use KnowRoaming
- SIM or sticker solution: KnowRoaming sell a SIM card option, much like any other roaming provider, but if you don’t fancy swapping out your existing SIM, they also offer what they call a “SIM Sticker”. It’s an apt name, because it literally is a sticker that you apply to your existing Australian SIM card with a supplied adaptor. The SIM sticker is, in essence, the circuitry parts of an existing SIM boiled down to their absolute essence and applied to a small adhesive patch. The adaptor tool can be used for regular, micro and nano SIM sizes. Once applied, and after you install the KnowRoaming app for Android or iOS, it effectively turns your phone into a dual SIM model, with profiles for home and abroad usage.
- Unlimited data counted in 24 hour blocks: A daily usage plan could be bad value if you landed overseas with only a few hours left before midnight, so instead KnowRoaming applies data packs in strict 24 hour increments. They work across international borders as well. I had no issues activating a data package in the UK, flying to Barcelona and picking up where I left off.
- Not tied to one national carrier: KnowRoaming has deals with multiple carriers in each country in which it operates. That probably saves the company money in access fees, but where it’s interesting for the end user is that it will dynamically switch carriers if there’s a better available signal. I saw this in action multiple times in Barcelona, where coverage was very good across multiple networks.
- Unlimited data: This is naturally the real hook for KnowRoaming. There is an acceptable usage policy in place, and the entire time I tested I was only on 3G networks rather than 4G, but that being said, heavy usage including video streaming and uploading, using the SIM in a phone as a hotspot and rapid-fire social media usage never tipped it over the scales. For all but the most egregious users, KnowRoaming should hit the sweet spot. This is a massive convenience play, because you can set up KnowRoaming before you leave Australia and have it active before you leave the plane when you land.
KnowRoaming: On the minus side
- Unlimited data, but not calls or texts: Unlimited data is great, but calls and texts will still attract a charge levied against your prepaid credit.
- Inflexible recharge options: The smallest credit you can apply to your account is $US25. If you only needed a little credit to buy a data pack for a day, that’s going to leave you with a chunk of leftover credit.
- Sticker application could go wrong: I had no issues with the SIM sticker application set, which asks you to place your SIM in a cavity before essentially hard pressing the sticker into place. Still, it’s a little bit nerve wracking in process, and if you got it wrong, you’d have to order a fresh SIM sticker and try again.
- Needs an unlocked phone with normal Android: KnowRoaming does advise that its product will only work with an unlocked device, which is quite standard for third party roaming solutions. I also hit an issue with a Huawei Mate 9 device that refused to access data services while abroad. I can’t say with certainty if it was the phone (which was a review model and may have had early software) or KnowRoaming’s approach. Switching to a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge solved for my data woes, but you’d be advised to check accessibility and particularly the ability to properly switch mobile data roaming on and off before you leave Australia.
- No warning on 24 hour expiry: Unlimited data packages last for 24 hours, but the app doesn’t warn you when it’s about to expire. In one instance, I went over my 24 hours and switched to much more expensive per-MB charging instead, burning through a few dollars of credit before I realised. My personal hack for this was to then set 24 hour alarms on my phone to keep my usage in check, but an app alert would be a better solution.
- Pikachu, I hate you! KnowRoaming’s unlimited data support does include applications such as using one device as a mobile hotspot to serve data up to tablets and laptops, but the one app it came unglued with was Pokemon Go. For whatever reason, while using Pokemon Go, I could not log in and authorise, even when using the service as a hotspot to serve data to another smartphone. I’ve no idea why this was so, but it does flag that some services that either poll the SIM or the location may not work seamlessly.
- Wide but not universal coverage: It’s worth checking your travel plans against the countries that KnowRoaming offers service in. Some areas such as Europe have wide coverage, but in Africa, for example, only Ghana and South Africa offer unlimited data coverage.
- Longer term use might not be your best option: It’s a common refrain for these kinds of services, or for that matter home grown solutions like Vodafone’s Red roaming deal, but a per-day paid service is a best fit scenario for short stays. If you’re overseas for a longer span, and especially if your data usage is only moderate, a SIM sourced from a single provider in your country of travel may be more cost effective.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other alternatives?
Knowroaming is the simplest solution for roaming without breaking the bank I’ve come across, so if you like to keep things simple while travelling it’s highly recommended. The app is easy to read and I never hit any kind of warning on data usage across the UK, Spain or Hong Kong.
The most obvious competitor is Vodafone’s Red Roaming, which charges a flat (and slightly lower) $5 per day to access your existing plan allocation while you travel. That includes unlimited calls and texts as well, which is a plus, but not unlimited data. Telstra and Optus both sell prepaid packages for contract users which are worth considering if you want to stick to a single SIM.
If you’re happy switching out your SIM, there are numerous roaming SIM providers, as well as the option to pick up a local SIM when you travel.
How can I get it?
Knowroaming sells its standalone SIM for $US9.99, while the sticker SIM costs $US29.99 with $10 of included credit. Any additional credit needs to be preloaded on the service. Call, text and per-MB data pricing varies by country, but its unlimited data deal covers over 90 countries for a flat $US7.99 per 24 hour period.