Smart tips for using your smart phone overseas
Most studies show that between 80% and 90% of business travelers now carry smart phones. While these slick new devices are certainly “smart,” using them overseas can be very expensive. If you worry that it might cost you a fortune to turn your phone in other countries, here are some tips that should help ease your mind…and your travel budget:
> Use wi-fi when you can. Many hotels (and all Best Westerns!) now offer free, unlimited wi-fi, so do as much data transfer as possible at the hotel or anywhere else you find a hotspot. Remember, when you are roaming outside the US, it’s the data transferred over the 3G or 4G networks that nails you if you go over your limit.
>Most carriers offer special opt-in plans for international travelers–so be sure and inquire about these BEFORE you leave on your trip. AT&T, for example, has three features that can greatly reduce your bill:
– Global messaging – 200 international text messages for $30.00
– International data roaming -125MB for $49.99. If you use it with ONAVO (see below) it’s more than enough for a once-an-hour check of emails for a full month.
– International voice roaming – $5.99.
>SKYPE – nothing beats Skype-to-Skype video calls–which are either free (or nearly free at pennies per minute) and with the newer, faster laptops you can get very clear sound and picture.
>ONAVO is a free app for smart phones that compresses data and greatly reduces the amount of data transmission- it literally halves your incoming data bill.
>PHONE TAG – for $9.99/month. If you don’t want to constantly call back to the US to check your voicemail, you can forward your incoming voice calls to your phonetag number, which automatically generates a voice-to-email message. Many home phone services like Comcast offer a similar service. They aren’t perfect- occasionally the voice to text translation comes out a bit off– but they also send an attachment of the actual voice message that you can listen to if needed as a back up.
>CHANGE SETTINGS. Adjust the frequency that your phone automatically checks email from every fifteen minutes to every hour during the day and change to MANUAL setting at night unless you have wi-fi setting and wi-fi remains on 24/7.
>WHATSAPP – WhatsApp is an almost free app (99 cents) for international texting, and works great across iPhone, Android and Nokia platforms.
>BEWARE OF THIEVES – The most frequently stolen item in France is the iPhone. No one wants to be stuck in a foreign country without his or her phone… So don’t leave it out in the open–like on a table top at a bar or cafe. A reader recently reported to me that a young man covered his exposed iPhone with a newspaper as he asked him a question and attempted to take it away, but luckily he caught him in the act. Avoid using your smart phone on the metro because doing so makes you prime target for crook. Also, be sure to never leave your smart phone in a backpack or purse that is behind you.
Do you have any other money-saving or hassle-reducing tips on using your mobile phone overseas? If so, please leave your advice in the comments box below!