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July 19, 2017

BILLSHOCK 2017 - WE HAVE A WINNER!


The mobile world has changed a great deal in the last few years. On the whole, we're more in control of our smartphones than ever before. We're well aware of our spending habits, and take the necessary steps to avoid suffering unexpected bills when roaming abroad. But there are still a few of us who haven't quite figured it all out, and it takes a strong dose of billshock to get the message across. This is what happened this week to Jamaican Finance Minister Audley Smith, much to the annoyance of his boss.

Now before anything else is said, it's not quite as bad as it looks. After all, the Jamaican dollar is worth 0.008 of a US dollar. Nevertheless, it still must have come as a shock to discover that his phone bill for the period from March 2016 to February 2017 amounted to J$8.34 million (US$65,205). Over half that amount was racked up in October 2016, with a monthly bill of J$4.2 million (US$32,831), during which time Mr Smith was overseas on official business. And then of course, there's this damning piece of evidence: "A query with the service provider later showed that the charges were due to data usage while roaming".

While this has not gone down well with other residents of Jamaica, Mr Audley is far from the only offender, even in his own department (and it bears repeating that this is the FINANCE department). Two of his colleagues racked up charges totaling US$6,405 and US$2,823 respectively, while others in the government accrued US$4,927, US$1,564 and US$2,776. From these few phone bills alone, over US$81,000 has been spent that really didn't need to be.

In other news, Telestial's rate for making calls and/or sending texts to Jamaica from most parts of the world is just US$0.35, with data at US$0.25 per MB. Governmental ministers take note.


June 12, 2017

THE FAST TRACK TO LUXURY


This November sees the release of a new version of Murder On The Orient Express, the second big-screen adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel featuring the legendary detective, Hercule Poirot. As is the way with such things, there is a murder, and the suspects are a suspicious group of aristocrats and well-to-do (and their staff) traveling across Northern Europe in the dead of winter on a steam train. Created in 1883, the Orient Express was simply a passenger route, primarily from Paris to Istanbul. It wasn't until after the 1934 publication of Ms Christie's book that it became associated with luxury travel. But as our methods of travel changed and became more affordable, the extravagance of a journey on the Orient Express - not to mention the relatively long time the journey took %u2013 fell out of favour. In 2009, the Orient Express was closed down and forced to remove itself from the timetable of scheduled journeys, instead becoming a private venture.

But the desire to make a slow journey across land in what amounts to a five-star hotel on wheels remains popular for those who can afford it, as there are luxury train routes running throughout the world. Some retain their old-world sensibilities, while others make the best of modern technology to give a more 21st Century feel. And all of this without a dead body in sight.

The Orient Express (or the Venice Simplon Orient Express, to give it its full, less interesting name) currently runs from London to Venice, via Paris, and from Paris to Istanbul. But is plenty of luxury rail travel available throughout Europe. Many are short trips, such as the Swiss Classic Train, or the Belmond British Pullman, both of which have the added authenticity of using steam-powered locomotives. Others take in a variety of routes, such as the Majestic Train De Lux, which runs out of Austria to a number of Baltic States, and is a replica of the personal train of Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There are also trains that celebrate the destinations as much as the journey, such as El Expreso De La Robla, which covers the countryside and coast of Northern Spain.

Probably the second most famous train route in the world is the Trans-Siberian Express. Currently run by Golden Eagle Luxury trains, this line, the longest train route in the world, cuts a nine thousand kilometre path straight through Russia, from Moscow to Vladivostok. There is also the Imperial Russia service, which additionally runs to Beijing, China. Another epic journey, albeit with a completely different climate, is The Ghan, which runs North to South straight through the middle of Australia, via Adelaide, Darwin and Alice Springs.

Some of these journeys are truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Imagine, for example, taking in an eight day tour of north-west India aboard the Maharajas' Express. From Mumbai to Delhi, there are visits to palaces, temples and castles on routes that go through mountains, jungles and deserts. There's even an elephant polo match and a safari. Or if you'd like to see the safari without having to remove yourself from your opulent carriage, then you could take the Pride Of Africa, with its specially designed viewing carriages. Be warned, however, that the price tag for most of these adventures is incredibly high.

Even today, luxury train travel is in high demand. Starting operation in May this year in Japan, the ultra-modern Train Suite Shika-Shima has already sold out until April 2018, despite the journey working out an average of $2.50 for every minute you spend aboard. With 10 carriages but a maximum of only thirty-four passengers, this updates the luxury train experience for the elite of the modern age. Hot-tubs, an open fire and an open kitchen where you can watch a Michelin-starred chef prepare modern Japanese food - it would be easy to forget that you were on a train and not a space ship.

With less people in the entire train than most commuter services have in a single carriage, a luxury train journey can really add a new spin on the holiday experience - provided you can afford it.


May 8, 2017

INTRODUCING OUR NEW AND IMPROVED USA SIM


Telestial are proud to announce the (re)launch of our USA SIM service. We've taken on board your comments and feedback and have made a few changes to ensure that we offer the best service possible for all our customers. Some of the new features of our USA SIM include:

Improved coverage
We've made some changes to ensure that no matter where you are in the USA - metropolitan areas or out in the big country -you'll get the strongest signal available, for both calls and data.

Works everywhere
Previous iterations of our USA SIM have only worked in the US. But now you can use your SIM while in transit, giving you the option to share your US phone number with family and friends before you travel.

Auto-activation
Again, previous versions of our SIM required you to manually configure your SIM once you arrived on US soil. Now, activation is automatic, giving you one less thing to worry about when you arrive in your destination.


Despite these changes, we haven't had to cut back on our deals - we still offer the same great bundles as we always have, with a range of unlimited talk and text deals, and up to 2GB of data. So if you're headed to the USA this summer, don't forget to pick up your Telestial USA SIM card today!


April 25, 2017

THE BIG NAMES MAKING BIG MOVES


There have been some huge changes to the world over the last 10 years, and this is made very clear when you look at the list of the top 5 largest companies in the world. Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Bank Of America and Citigroup are all gone, replaced by Alphabet (Google's parent company), Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Only Microsoft remains (and in the same third place as it was back then). Clearly, smartphones and what they are used for have become all-encompassing in their importance, so with this in mind, what are the biggest players planning for 2017?

Facebook
When you're a tech company in the top five biggest companies in the world, you don't need to turn up to other people's tech showcases, you simply host your own. The WWDC (Worldwide Developer's Conference) is Apple's version, while Google have I/O. Facebook have just held their annual conference, named F8 was held in San Jose this month, and they revealed some of their ideas for the future. Mark Zuckerberg is renowned for having an ambitious vision of the future, and this year's announcements were no exception - they're working on creating a way for computers to read your mind. This is something that Zuckerberg has been thinking about for at least two years, but the difference between a man worth $60 billion and the rest of us, is that he has the resources to turn daydreams into reality. As well as dreaming big, Facebook will be making a few tweaks and changes to their existing properties, which include the most popular apps in the world (for example, the number of people using Facebook Messenger is now an astonishing 1.2 billion). They'll be looking closely at both Virtual and Augmented Reality (and as you'll see below, they aren't the only ones), updating the Messenger app (because 1.2 billion users isn't enough) and working to combat 'fake news'.

Apple
Traditionally, Apple likes to wait until September before making any big announcements. Given that 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the release of the first iPhone, people are expecting something special this year, and there's already plenty of speculation about what that will be. But Apple have a bit of an image problem at the moment. After 10 years at the top, the sheen is starting to wear off a bit, and Apple are having to engage in a bit of damage limitation. What, for example, are they planning on doing with the $245 billion profit pool that they've got stashed offshore (it's unlikely to be anything on this list)? It was recently announced that in the future, Apple's phones would be made from 100% recycled materials. While this might be down to a new-found sense of responsibility, the more likely explanation is that it deflects criticism away from the fact that they don't allow people to repair the Apple products that they own.

Despite their issues, Apple remain technological visionaries, and, just like everyone else, considers Augmented Reality to be vital to their future plans. Having already reaped $3 billion from the success of Pokemon Go! apps on iPhones, Apple sees this as a better bet than Virtual Reality, as the former enhances the real world, while the latter locks you away from it. They have some interesting plans, and the option to combine this with another piece of futuristic tech that is becoming a reality - self-driving cars. The idea of Apple's design team let loose on the humble automobile would be something to get very excited about indeed, but we still need to ask ourselves how much Apple would charge for such a thing, and whether you'd be able to fix your car if it broke down.

Google

Apple aren't the only big company flirting with the self-driving car concept. Google are also on the case, and are already offering free rides in their driverless cars in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a little bit behind their co-founder Larry Page's extraordinary new toy, which looks like something taken straight out of the pages of a Batman comic. Meanwhile, Google continue to put their AI DeepMind through its paces, setting it up against one of the world's best Go players. DeepDream, an experiment to figure out what an AI network 'sees' when it looks at an image, continues to push the boundaries of both science and modern art. Even Bob Ross's Joy of Painting is not immune to its surreal influence.

In the smartphone market, Google seem to be faltering a little. While there are plans to follow up their very successful Pixel phones with newer models, there are still issues getting hold of the original. For a company the size of Google, this is a rare misstep. However, they have also recently announced two new initiatives that should make a sizeable difference. Firstly, they're reportedly putting an ad-blocking feature into their Chrome browser. Some may believe this is a bit of a strange move from the world's foremost advertising platform, but it's to protect users from other types of advertising - pop-ups, self-playing videos and the kind that hides malware. There's not much news on that yet, but speaking of news - they have also just announced an offensive against 'fake news'. How they're going to achieve this is yet to be seen, but in common with their peers, Apple and Facebook, no one could accuse them of thinking small.



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