While travelling in Europe recently with my shiny new iPhone 4S and its GSM capabilities, I was faced with the choice of relying on WiFi connections as I could find them, or adding my carrier’s international plan for voice and/or data. Now that WiFi hotspots are widely available, and usually free, it seems like an obvious choice instead of paying (sometimes a lot) for international service.
WiFi, I would still be able to check emails, surf the web, and even
communicate with people back home through Skype or FaceTime (plus all my
cool new apps). All the hotels I booked offered free WiFi, and it was
safe to assume I’d easily be able to find other hotspots while out and
about in the cities I was visiting. I could also have solved some
potential issues by taking along the highly portable Pepwave Surf Mini.
As a wireless bridge, it would allow me to connect to distant hotspots
and surf more securely by creating a private network rather than using
the open or unsecured connections offered by the hotels and cafes.
why did I choose to pay for the international voice plan anyway? Given
my travel needs, it was a peace of mind issue. The trip was for a
meeting that required some last minute coordination. There was also a
potential medical situation back home that I wanted to be reachable for
in case of an emergency. Yes, I could rely on WiFi fairly easily, but I
also wanted to enjoy my travels without constantly thinking about the
next hotspot to check what I may have missed.
small fee to temporarily add the plan, and the per-message and per-call
rates were entirely worth that peace of mind. I let people know I
would be checking email a few times a day, but not to call or text
unless it was an emergency (though I did offer to let them pay my bill
if they just couldn’t resist!). I was able to call home for Father’s
Day while enjoying a gorgeous view out on the town. The calls were
amazingly clear with very little latency, and I had great coverage
everywhere I went. I was also able to receive the text that my friend’s
long-awaited baby had finally arrived!
I could have accomplished it all (for free) via WiFi and apps, but
knowing I wasn’t tied to finding hotspots allowed me to focus on the
next big adventure instead of what I might be missing while between
connections. The unexpected bonus of having voice-only coverage and
relying on WiFi for data is that I had time to think about what would
make the biggest impact on just how cool my adventure was for my daily