Home > News - Updates, Rate Changes And Travel Tips
May 6, 2015
TRAVEL TRENDS 2015
It’s the time of year when people’s thoughts turn to what they want to do and where they want to go for the summer, and as always, we’re keen to find out just what that means. Surveys such as this one from provide a wealth of information and inspiration.
As always, world events have a huge influence on these factors and can be both beneficial and detrimental to the desires of travelers. For example, recent unrest and terrorist activities in Egypt and Tunisia respectively have led to a steep decline in the amount of holidaymakers who want to visit. The relaxation by the US government of embargoes against Cuba together with new travel options from the US, however, have made a huge difference – searches for travel information have increased 185% in the last quarter.
There is also a wealth of information about when people choose to take their vacations, and how long they plan on staying away. In North America, for example, an average stay of one week is the most popular choice, and usually takes place in August. For travelers from the Middle East or Africa, one week just is not enough, with 56% of those surveyed saying that they would be away for 14 days or more.
Despite the strength of the dollar compared to other currencies around the world this year, many US travelers are looking north of the border. Search queries for Canada have increased 45% on last year. This may partly be due to people looking to attend specific events, such as the Pan Am Games being held in Toronto, or the Women’s Soccer World Cup in Vancouver.
One travel trend that sadly doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is the tendency for phone operators to continue to charge sky-high rates on roaming fees. But we knew all about that one already.
April 16, 2015
SMARTPHONE DEPENDANCY – SOME SURPRISING FINDINGS
We knew that people were spending increasing amounts of time using their smartphones, but the fact that many Americans are wholly dependent on their smartphones for a high-speed internet connection came as a bit of a surprise. These are the findings of a new report by the Pew Institute.
For example, we did not know that of the 64% of Americans that use smartphones, 15% have limited access to any other form of internet. 10% have no broadband at home, and for 7%, their smartphone is their only access to data.
If you’re still in the mood for some facts and figures, don’t forget to check out CNet’s reaction to the results of Telestial’s survey.
April 7, 2015
Congratulations to our sweepstakes winners. All winners will receive their gift codes via e-mail in the coming days.
Grand Prize: Wesley P., CA
iTunes runners up: Sandra Rebecca M., TX; Lisa A., TN; Kathy T., NY; Lindsay S., WI
February 16, 2015
There’s a familiar trend for technological advances. Once an initial product is created, designers always try to ensure that subsequent iterations of that product are tighter, sleeker, more efficiently put together. Smaller, in other words. The first computers, for example, could have comfortably housed a family of four. Now, they’re small enough to fit inside a mouse. The first mobile phones were chunky, clunky pieces of kit that required long antennae. Now they fit comfortably into your pocket. And while the trend for ‘smaller and smaller’ continues (as with the burgeoning wearables market), most modern smartphones have stopped shrinking, and are in fact growing again. The latest iPhone, for example, is the company’s biggest to date.
The irony is that the smartphones are once again growing in size because we’ve made all the other stuff so much smaller. There’s no point in your phone being capable of high-definition video playback if the screen is too small for you to appreciate it. So while the handset may be skinnier (perhaps a little too thin at times), the screen size seems to be on the increase. This puts the humble SIM card in an awkward position. After all, it was because there was no room for a standard SIM that the Micro and eventually the Nano SIM were invented. Now, many modern smartphones have some extra space, enough for a second SIM slot.
A dual-SIM handset makes a lot of sense, for a number of reasons. All our phones have always been dual-SIM for the extra flexibility that it offers travelers. There’s space for your Telestial SIM and your regular SIM, so that any calls you get come straight through to you no matter which number you’ve given out. However, there are many other reasons for the sudden popularity of dual-SIM phones, as indicated in this report from OpenSignal.com. One of the strangest findings is that the sudden upswing in dual-SIM’s popularity is wholly unexpected: “What is clear is that dual SIM devices are a significant part of the mobile ecosystem, and despite building signal apps for years: this was news to us.”
As can be seen from the top 20 dual-SIM using countries, signal strength is clearly an issue. In developing nations particularly, differing regions may still be serviced by different operators, and making calls to competitor companies could essentially mean roaming charges, only without the roaming. If you’re unable to make a call on one service, having another option right there in your handset already makes a great deal of sense.
Of course, why stop at just two SIMs? Why not three? Or four?
January 22, 2015
THE TELESTIAL TIMELINE
Picture the scene: you’re on vacation. You’ve spent the last four hours on an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ trek, most of it uphill. The first hour was lovely. A gentle walk among the rolling hills in a place you’ve never been before. You marvel at the strange plants, waving or talking to the friendly locals as they make their way past you, with most of a small forest piled precariously onto their shoulders. The second hour is a bit less enjoyable. The incline has increased, and you’re just not used to this tropical afternoon sun beating down on you. You’re also wondering whether flip-flops were the best choice of for this adventure. By the third hour, you’re absolutely certain that flip-flops were in fact a terrible idea, and vow to immediately burn them on your return to sea level. Now the descending locals seem a little less chipper and more like they’re mocking the out-of-shape westerners, struggling to complete a climb empty-handed that they’ve already done twice before breakfast with a goat under each arm. You barely have the energy to raise a hand in acknowledgement, let alone stop for a chat. By the time you’re into the fourth hour, you are a mass of aches, pains and resentment, mostly toward the tour guide who told you that it was only a gentle walk. You vow that you’ll put up with it and get there, just to throw the miserable swine off the top. You have to remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun, mostly by chanting a mantra through gritted teeth, something along the lines of “I. Am. Having. FUN.”
But then you get to the summit, and suddenly, the pain and exhaustion melt away. There is no need for words, even if you weren’t too exhausted to speak. You, and the rest of your small group, sit upon the rocks with the dazed surprise of people who were told that it would be worth it, but somehow forgot this along the way. But yes, it was worth it. So worth it. You’re looking at the best, most impressive sunset you’ve ever seen in your life. The light reflects off the water of the bay, turning the whole sea gold. You stare in awe at the trees swaying gently in an afternoon breeze, the poor fools stuck on that lowly beach in the distance, and you remember that this, exactly this, is why you chose to come here in the first place. It was to see and experience things that you never would back home... which is when you remember a friend or family member. How they would love this. In fact, after a quick look at your watch and some gentle mental arithmetic, you realize that it’s only just 10am there. You could give them a call. So your hand reaches for your pocket… and time stops.
Time has stopped because there are three distinct timelines you could go down, depending on the decisions you made before you set off. Each timeline is very different.
In the first timeline, you reach into your pocket and pull out your phone. Up here, you’ve got a nice strong signal, and the person you want to call is on speed-dial. But just as you’re about to hit the dial button, you stop. If you make this call now, you have no idea how much it’s going to cost you. It could be as much as $20 per minute, and while you’d really like to spend five minutes describing the scene from your mountain-top, it’s not really worth the $100 you’d be spending. I guess they’ll like the photos, but it’s not the same. Maybe next time, you think, and the phone goes back in your pocket, unused.
In the second timeline, you’ve taken precautions about such things. For a start, you have ensured that your handset is unlocked (after all, you don’t want to spend four hours climbing just to discover that it won’t work anyway). You also purchased a local SIM at the airport to ensure the best quality service and the lowest rates, and you have plenty of credit. You could spend the next hour up here, gabbing happily away, and it wouldn’t cost you a cent since you’ve already bought the credit. Patting yourself on the back, you dial the number, and wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. After the third attempt you give up, a bit downcast. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. You wonder what you’ve done to upset your friend back home.
Of course, your friend isn’t upset. It could be that they’re at work, where taking personal calls on office time is strongly discouraged, no matter who you are. Or it could be that they didn’t recognize the number. In a poll from 2012, it was found that the overwhelming majority of cellphone users do not answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize, period. Given that you just bought your SIM card a couple of days ago, there’s no way that the person you’re calling will know it’s you. They’re especially unlikely to answer a call with an international dialing code that they don’t recognize. You could leave them a message and tell them of this wonderful moment that you wanted to share, but that’s not quite the same thing, and besides, it’s beginning to get dark.
The third timeline is the one in which you went online and visited Telestial before your trip. You received your SIM card, which came with a US and UK number (so no unexpected mystery country dialing codes), before you travelled, giving you time to share the number with your family and friends before you travel. You have some free credit on the SIM and the rates are much lower than they would be with your regular SIM, so you can still talk as long as you want. If you want, you can wait until the person on the other end fires up Facebook and takes a look at your Travel Journal. They’ll see you right there, a little red location tag on top of the mountain. They can also take a look at the photos you’ve uploaded. It’s the next best thing to them being with you.
Disclaimer – Telestial.com nor any of its affiliates can do anything about your blisters. Sorry about that.
December 17, 2014
‘TIS THE SEASON!
Yes, it really ‘tis! And just like many of you, we are a little preoccupied at the moment thinking about what gifts to get people. Fortunately, we have just launched a new range of products that will make your Christmas vacation easier, cheaper and hassle-free.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the site (and I can’t think of a single reason why you wouldn’t be), you’ll already know that we have just launched a new European SIM card. With excellent savings on calls, SMS and data for 30 European territories (plus a further 6 global destinations), we might be forgiven for resting on our laurels. But we just don’t operate that way. There’s always more we can do. That’s why we’ve launched a brand new Smartphone, the Smart 3. With a 4” touchscreen, dual SIM slots and running the latest Android OS, KitKat, it’s our best Smartphone yet.
We’re also very pleased to announce the launch of our first tablet system, the JT Tab. This also has dual SIM slots and runs KitKat, and offers all the same features as other, higher priced tablets such as a 7” colour LCD touchscreen, 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 8GB of internal memory. At $119 (with an Explorer SIM card and $10 free credit) we think it’s one of the best, most affordable devices on the market.
As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also got a couple of special offers available, because we know that many of you are headed overseas for the holidays. These include our Smart 2 handset (3.5” touchscreen, dual-SIM slots, 4GB of internal memory), a choice of either Explorer or Europe SIM card, $10 credit and a travel adapter.
No matter where you are spending the holiday season, we’ve got your calling and data needs covered. The only thing that remains is to wish all of our customers happy holidays and we look forward to seeing you all again in 2015!
December 10, 2014
THE ROAMING REPORT – DECEMBER 2014 EDITION
2014 has been a big year in terms of roaming. Faced with the rise in popularity of free VOIP apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and many more, the major operators have realized that they stand to lose out if they don’t get in the roaming game. But have things changed enough that you can just use your regular SIM anywhere, or are you still better off with an international SIM card? Let’s take a look…
Here in the States, the debate over Net Neutrality has dominated the conversation for some time. Hardly surprising, when 4 million petitioners and The President have a personal opinion on the subject. Behind the scenes, the major operators are fighting with each other over the cost of data roaming in the US. On one side, you have the new kids, led by T-Mobile, who have complained to the FCC about the cost to other providers for roaming on AT&T’s network. AT&T (with the backing of Verizon) have responded that since they put in the work creating the larger network, they should reap the benefits. T-Mobile (with the backing of Sprint) want the FCC to set a standard rate for data roaming across the country.
This suggested system would be similar to the one adopted by 31 countries in the European Union. As previously reported in this blog, they had planned to phase out roaming charges altogether by the end of 2015. However, telecoms operators have pushed back, claiming that the loss of revenue would render them unable to continue expanding their networks. While they have complied with current legislation that caps roaming rates across the board in Europe, some operators have been raising the cost of roaming elsewhere in the world. In some cases, prices have doubled.
Elsewhere around the world, the outcry over high data roaming rates and unexpected bills (which still make the news) have caused many other global players to reconsider their strategy. From Canada to Australia, Zimbabwe to Russia, telcos are slowly (very slowly in some cases) lowering their roaming rates. The news looks good. But is it really?
As indicated by the raising of non-EU roaming rates by Irish Telecoms operators, perhaps we’re not quite there yet. While it makes sense to lower the rates in countries close to your homeland, the further away you travel, the higher the rates will remain, and for as long as possible. Given that telecoms operators stand to make $50 billion from data roaming revenue alone by 2019 (and that’s just over half of the total roaming revenue at stake), it’s no surprise that they would be reluctant to give it up. It’s possible that these projected figures will be dented by frustrated customers either turning to free VOIP and WIFI services, or turning their cellphones off altogether while they are out of the country. One thing is clear – for truly global rates and freedom from billshock, usage caps and other hidden surprises, your best bet is still a Telestial SIM card.
November 21, 2014
IS IT A BIRD? IS IT A PLANE? NO, IT’S BILLSHOCK
Another day, another story of Billshock. However, this one is a little different: a Canadian man flying from London to Singapore last week accrued charges of $1,171 by using – or rather overusing – the airline’s WIFI.
There are of course two sides to the story. The WIFI provider, OnAir, claim that their usage and rate policies are absolutely clear, both before and during the data session. Certainly, it has never been easier to see what data you are using, with most devices featuring graphs that track usage in real time, and break down what types of data you have viewed. They also claimed that once the customer reached the end of his allotted 30MB, he was given a choice to end the session or continue at a higher rate. The customer, of course, has a different view. He claims that he was not using the WIFI too heavily, looked at maybe 150 pages and uploaded one small spreadsheet. It’s possible that he pressed the wrong button when his allocation ran out, and mistakenly chose to continue using data when in fact he was planning on going to sleep. The bottom line is that you always need to be aware of what you’re doing when you go online with your phone, so here’s a quick guide:
- Always read the small print – well, not all of it. After all, these things run as long or even longer than some of Shakespeare’s plays. But you should make sure you’re aware of all the charges and costs that you could incur. If there is a limit to the amount of data you are buying, make sure you know what that limit is, and adjust your browsing time accordingly.
- Be aware of what you are browsing – take a look at our handy chart, which breaks down how you can use an average data bundle. Pages comprised of just text and no images (such as emails) will cost you less than pages with images, which cost less than pages with videos, and so on. While this seems obvious and intuitive, it is not always as clear-cut. Take Facebook, for example. You could visit a Facebook page with the intention of just reading text, only to find that you are downloading videos as well. Check your phone’s settings to keep control of this.
- Check your apps – in the same way that websites may be doing more to your data allocation than you exepct, apps can also do the same. Push notifications, location services and automatic updates – these are all things that can accrue data charges without you even being aware that it is happening. You can find some great tips for taking control of your apps here.
- End your session when you are done – this sounds more obvious than you think. If you were using a laptop or PC, ending a data session is as simple as turning off your browser or computer. It’s not necessarily as simple with a smartphone, which usually stays on and may be doing other things in the background. Go to your handset’s settings screen and turn off mobile data to end the session with certainty.
- Ask yourself if you need to be online right now – this is less about being patronizing and more to do with awareness. The man in the story could easily have uploaded his spreadsheet either before or after he had landed. Most airports and hotels have WIFI facilities that were no doubt much cheaper than in-flight WIFI. After all, at 30,000 feet, you are not in a country but rather ‘international airspace’. This means that there are no designated providers and no cell towers. Companies providing data can charge whatever they want, and if stories like these are to be believed, they certainly will. If there’s the risk that you could go over your allocation and start using data at vastly inflated rates, consider whether it is worth the risk. It could mean the difference between $30 and $1,000.
November 19, 2014
Without mentioning a certain high-profile company’s reported high-profile design flaw, there are plenty of other ways to damage your Smartphone. Insurers Squaretrade have compiled a survey showing which US states are the clumsiest when it comes to looking after their handsets. Utah, take a – careful – bow.
Of course, dropping your phone into the sea, a hole in the ground or even a large animal is not a solely American pastime. Squaretrade have done their due diligence and surveyed Europe as well. The winners here are Greece, Italy and Spain. Congratulations, guys!
Of course, if you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you’re watching your phone disappear from view, it’s not just your phone that’s gone – it’s your SIM card too. Fortunately, you can insure your Telestial roaming SIM card against damage or loss with lifetime protection – just select the option at the checkout!
November 19, 2014
INTRODUCING THE NEW EUROPE SIM CARD
Here at Telestial, we are committed to providing the best roaming experience possible for our customers, which is why we are proud to announce the launch of our new Europe SIM card! We know that you want low, consistent rates for calls, SMS and data while you are away, which is why we offer just 25c per call, message or MB of data. We also know that you may want to call elsewhere, which is why we have added reduced rates to an additional six territories, including the USA, Australia and South Africa.
Whether you are visiting one of the major tourist centres such as London, Paris or Barcelona, or going off the beaten track to explore some of the continent's less-visited countries, the Europe SIM card is just what you need. All rates and charges are detailed on the product page and if you have any other questions, our customer service team is on hand to answer any questions you might have.
November 7, 2014
WORLD WAR WEB
It has been 25 years since the World Wide Web was developed, and no one could have predicted the vast impact it has had on our lives. Had they been able to so, it seems unlikely that it could have been allowed to grow and evolve unimpeded in the way that it has. It has now come of age, and is proving, to some, to be an unwieldy and complex creature, in need of taming. For every benefit, we are finding a hidden threat. The list of disturbing news stories related to the web in recent years is almost endless: Net Neutrality, Edward Snowden and the NSA, Wikileaks, hacked celebrity photos, cyber-bullying, Anonymous and other hacker groups, internet piracy, rick-rolling… the list goes on and on. Faced with a constant barrage of these issues, governments, tech giants and consumers are having to fight for control of the internet – and usually against each other. Make no mistake about it – this is war.
Nowhere was this clearer than Hungary last week, when Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced a plan to introduce an internet tax to help bolster the country’s ailing finances. The proposal involved charging Internet Service Providers for each gigabyte of data that they processed at a cost of 150 forints, or 60c per GB. To put this in perspective, a digital download of a new computer game would cost each user approximately $30. To say this was an unpopular decision is an understatement – this last weekend, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, and consequently the decision was reversed.
If you think this sort of draconian behaviour is limited to former Soviet States of Europe, think again. In the USA, one of the hottest political topics (one that doesn’t involve actual politicians, sadly) at the moment concerns ‘Net Neutrality’. This is the principle that all data on the web is accessible by all people without discrimination in terms of cost, content or anything else. In May, the FCC approved a proposal that would allow ‘internet fast lanes’ for those that paid a higher premium. As part of the process, the public were allowed to air their views, which they did, and in great numbers. Over a million US consumers commented on the issue, far more than any proposal ever had before. While most ISPs seem to be interested in keeping the web open, Verizon is set to pursue litigation.
The internet’s global reach is both a blessing and a curse. The fact that it is a vast, online community, without borders, means that activists are able to organise themselves much more easily than many other groups. But it is also the means by which hackers from one country can disrupt websites of other countries and global mega-corporations can take advantage. The revelations last year about the NSA’s widespread data collection methods caused a great deal of concern around the world, and governments are now working to protect themselves. For example, from 2015, any data collected by cloud storage facilities must remain in Russia, and such services must be physically located on Russian soil. This has huge implications for Apple’s iCloud and anyone already using or reliant upon such technology in Russia. Germany is also looking at introducing new safeguards to protect themselves, by demanding that US sites reveal their source code to prevent sensitive information from being passed on.
In Spain, the issue is slightly different, but no less contentious. Here, the goal is not so much to protect people from intrusive spying by foreign governments, but more to protect local businesses from the influence of globally dominant companies. A copyright law has just been passed to prevent Google and other news aggregator sites from posting links or snippets from domestic Spanish newspapers. Other sites that host links to Spanish papers will be at risk of a €600,000 ($750,000) fine if they do not remove them. Opponents say that the government could abuse this law, which could allow them to censor anything they don’t like. However, the downside of this is that websites lose out if they are not featured by Google. For proof of this it’s back to Germany, where powerhouse publisher Axel Springer, who had also opted out of the Google snippets, are asking to be let back in because of an 80% drop in visitor numbers.
The web may be world-wide at the moment, but increasingly it seems that individual states are exercising more and more control, while networks and ISPs struggle to keep the power they currently exert. Governments, corporations and citizens are squaring off against each other, in a battle royale for the soul of the internet, and early indications are that things may end up working differently depending on where you are, and will be of great importance to international travelers. Be sure to check back here for the latest developments.
November 4, 2014
I SAY YOUR GRACE, DO STOP TWEETING AT THE DINNER TABLE
The world is a very different place to what it was just five years ago. For example, we really don’t need to remember things any more. Say you are watching television and there’s an actress you recognise but can’t name. In the time it takes you to say “oh her, I know her, what was she in? Wait, I’ll remember in a seco…” – someone has pulled out their phone, connected to the IMDB via a web search and is reeling off their entire filmography. Information about anything, from instructions for changing a light bulb, to a detailed history of the light bulb’s development or even full biographies of the light bulb’s inventors (Swan and Edison, thank you Google) is available at the touch of a button.
Things were very different in 18th Century Britain. There were of course books, but this mostly contained historical information. If you wanted current, up-to-date facts about people, you had to hope that someone else could fill you in, but this could be sensitive information and if one was not of an appropriate social rank, then one was up a certain creek without a certain wooden implement. For example, what if you had a dinner engagement with Prince Henry Scot, Duke of Buccleugh and (shock, horror) you couldn’t recognize his coat of arms? What if you were (perish the thought) unaware that The Earl of Wandesford and the Viscount Castlecomer were in fact the same individual? Getting something like this wrong could be disastrous for a chap attempting to gain standing in Georgian high society. Fortunately, John Debrett, a Piccadilly book seller, was on hand to help.
The first three editions of The New Peerage were in fact published by Debrett’s boss at the time, John Almon. These contained an exhaustive amount of information on each and every titled family in the British Isles. Family histories traced back to the Norman Conquest of 1066, the locations of stately homes and a breakdown of the composition and meaning of every part of each coat of arms. In short, an 18th Century Wikipedia for the 1%. Debrett continued Almon’s work in the two volume publications The Correct Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland that followed. These guides were so useful that they became an indispensable part of life to those with titles and lands. Looking yourself up in Debrett’s must be considered the very earliest incarnation of what is now known as ‘Googling yourself’. It is referenced in many literary works, from Vanity Fair to Sherlock Holmes, as well as by authors such as Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell and PG Wodehouse. More recently, it has appeared in TV episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and Downton Abbey.
In the middle of the 20th Century, with the aristocracy on the decline, Debrett’s began to publish guides to etiquette: Debrett’s Manners and Correct Form in the Middle East or Debrett’s Guide for the English Gentleman, for example. Even now, the Debrett’s guide is still going strong, albeit under the slightly less distinguished title of People Of Today. They also continue to publish guides to good behaviour – including, this week, how to behave on both mobile and smartphones.
The advice is a mix of common and uncommon sense, wrapped up in the gloriously snooty format that you would expect of such a publication. We are advised to remove both headphones when at the cash register, as “the fact that it's a mundane transaction does not justify a refusal to engage properly with another human being.” It should be clear to anyone that “messages of condolence sent by text are the ultimate faux-pas”, but you might be surprised to learn that “formal handwritten thank you letters should never be replaced by a text”. I certainly was – I shall have to check with the butler to make sure he’s not slacking off. That is, assuming I can tear him away from taking selfies with the gameskeeper.
October 28, 2014
I HATE TO SAY ‘I TOLD YOU SO’, BUT…
Predicting the future is a funny thing. Sometimes, I am entirely useless at it (I’m looking at you, lottery picks and sporting events), and sometimes I’m right in a way that is so unusual, I may as well have been wrong. In the last post, I suggested that reports of the SIM card’s death at the hands of Apple might be a bit premature, and in fact that they might have a bit of a struggle on their hands in the coming months. Well, I was incorrect - they couldn’t even make it a week without things starting to go wrong.
First to break was the news that AT&T have decided not to play nice with Apple’s network-hopping SIM. The SIM is designed to allow users to change networks whenever they want. So, say for example, a customer on T-Mobile in the US is headed to a region where coverage is not that great, or is travelling across the Atlantic to the UK (where providers EE have signed up as well). Not a problem for the Apple SIM, you can just switch networks. A fantastic idea in theory, but it seems that the US providers were not quite as on board as everyone thought. For example, if you register on AT&T with the Apple SIM, you immediately receive a message that states: “Once activation completes, this Apple SIM can only be used with AT&T. You will need a new Apple SIM if you change carriers in the future.” Oh dear.
Controversial T-Mobile CEO John Legere provided further evidence that all was not quite as it should be with the new SIM. His victorious tweet this weekend showed evidence that AT&T were locking SIMs so that they could only be used on AT&T, attempts to contact on Sprint were leading to an error message, and Verizon were missing altogether – leaving T-Mobile as the only network able to demonstrate that things were working as they should. It is, however, a small victory – if the Apple SIM only works as advertised with one provider, then you may as well just use that one provider’s SIM in the first place. (UPDATE: Legere has gone on to explain further in one of his 'tweetstorms')
There was more bad news to come. Back in September, Apple announced another revolutionary feature, Apple Pay. Using NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, users could store credit card details on their phone and use it to make payments. Once you are at the till with your purchase, you simply wave your iPhone at the scanner, and the payment is processed. It’s attractive to customers because it makes life easier, and attractive to retailers because it avoids the extra fees that credit card companies levy on purchases using their cards. This sort of advancement that makes so much sense, you start to wonder why no one else had thought of it until now. It turns out that actually, they had.
Several major retailers in the US are already starting to disable the NFC features on their terminals, including Wal-Mart and Best Buy, in a deliberate attempt to stop Apple Pay. This is because they, along with over 100,000 other US retailers, are already signed up to a similar initiative known as CurrentC, and there are other such payment systems planned and appearing all over the world. Unfortunately for the US, CurrentC is not due to be launched until 2015, which means that everyone loses out in the meantime.
So what does it all mean? Have Apple underestimated the market, or are they so confident in their brand and market power that they believe that the other guys will blink first in this epic game of corporate chicken? Do Apple care that a few US companies are resisting them (after all, they have twice the number of retailers happy to use their systems), or do they have greater global ambitions? I’m certainly ruling myself out of the prediction game after this, but I think attempting to guess at how things will pan out is missing the point. What we should be asking are questions like: do we really need to be tied to SIM cards for mobile calls, or is this merely the networks attempting to retain control? And is it right that credit card companies charge 2% to retailers per transaction, or is there a better way of doing things? This is part of why Apple are as successful as they are – they ask the hard questions and their innovations force all of us to consider the future.
October 22, 2014
THE END OF THE SIM CARD?
If you have been paying attention to the online tech news, there’s one story that everyone is talking about: how Apple just killed the SIM card. The news broke at the launch of their new iPad, the Air 2, which they announced would ship with an ‘Apple SIM’ pre-installed. This SIM can switch between providers, giving the user a choice of which service to use without them having to swap the SIM out each time. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have all signed up in the USA, and more will follow around the world following the Air 2’s launch. It’s believed that this innovation will eventually lead to the SIM becoming obsolete. After all, if you no longer need a separate SIM card to pick up a signal from any given network, then you may as well take the microchip off the SIM card altogether and just make it part of the device.
People seem to be taking this possibility very seriously. Gemalto, one of the world’s largest SIM card manufacturers, saw their shares drop in price by a fifth since Apple’s demonstration last week. Here at Telestial, however, we’re not ready to pack up our things and go home just yet. This technology is not exactly new, after all. Our SIM cards offer a choice of provider and will switch automatically when you cross a border. It’s the result of years of hard work, including our own technical innovation and countless agreements with network providers. And this is where we think Apple may run into a few problems on their way to world SIM domination.
First of all, the people with the most to lose from this new innovation, namely the network operators that currently provide their own SIM cards, are also Apple’s biggest distributors. Very few people can afford to buy a brand new iPhone direct; they would much rather spread the cost over a period of months or years as part of a phone contract. It’s a model that has worked well for both parties so far, with customers getting access to the most modern smartphones for a relatively cheap upfront sum. If Apple do plan to get rid of SIM cards altogether, they may find themselves at war with the very people who have helped them get this far in the first place.
Apple have skirmished with providers already, and for the same reason. In 2011, they were fighting operators on several fronts, including how the App Store would be managed and whether they could remove SIMs altogether in order to make more space inside the handset for functionality. Back then, the networks all came together to gently suggest that doing away with SIM cards was not something they were particularly interested in. Even Apple’s compromise, a smaller SIM (known now as the microSIM) was very slow to be adopted. It was not until it was clear that the iPhones were a hit and in huge demand that networks relented and began to manufacture smaller SIMs. This success carried over into Apple’s next change, the nano-SIM, which was adopted by the network operators with very little fuss at all.
It is not just network operators that need to be wary. Customers should also be on their guard, and for one very simple reason: Apple have never done anything that could be described as ‘cheap’. Being expensive is a part of their brand attraction (and part of what has made it the most recognisable brand in the world). You know that when you buy an Apple product, it has been designed to the highest possible standards and the price reflects that. If Apple are looking to cut network operators out of the SIM equation, it seems very likely that they will step in to take their place in some way. How they plant to monetize this opportunity remains to be seen. They might levy a small fee each time a user switches operators. They could charge for access to certain networks in certain areas, or even add a fractional amount to each data session you start on their SIM card (the SIM is currently for data only, but this may also change). Whatever they decide to do, there is a huge difference in paying a premium for your device, and paying a premium every time you want to use it.
However this saga unfolds during the coming weeks and months, we at Telestial are confident that the humble SIM card isn’t going anywhere just yet.
October 9, 2014
There are 7.2 billion people in the world, and more are being added at the rate of two per second. That’s pretty impressive, though not quite as impressive as what we’ve been able to achieve recently. After all, it’s taken us 200,000 years to get here. Mobile phones have been around for only 30 years, and yet in the time it takes us to make a new person, we’re making 5 mobile phones. And for the first time ever, the amount of active mobile phones in the world has overtaken the amount of people. We have just been outnumbered: all hail our new Android (or IOS) overlords!
It’s not surprising that attitudes are changing. We have moved from a world where your phone was static, fixed in place either in your home, on your desk or outside on the street, to a world where everything is portable. The latest advancements seem set to move an object that sits in your bag or pocket (assuming it doesn’t, ahem, bend) to one that you wear about your person in the form of a watch or a pair of glasses. And while it used to be the domain of spies, criminals or cheating spouses to own a second or third device, there are now plenty of reasons why you might want to own another phone.
Take travel, for example. If you’re headed overseas, you might feel that the fee charged by your provider to unlock your current smartphone handset is too expensive when compared with the price of standard cellphones these days. You may wish to travel with something ordinary to deflect attention from potential thieves, or it may be that you’re traveling to a place where recharging your power-hungry smartphone may not be possible every two days, and you want something that will last a little longer. You may even wish to upgrade your phone in order to travel, taking advantage of all the useful apps that are now available, such as maps, online restaurant reviews or translation software.
Here at Telestial, we are happy to be contributing to the world’s overpopulation of mobile phones. We believe in offering the greatest possible choice of options to our customers, at affordable prices.
October 2, 2014
EU ROAMING CHARGES - GLIDING TOWARD A CHANGE In April this year, consumers in the European Union received some welcome news – lawmakers announced that they would abolish roaming fees in all 28 states of the EU by December 2015. This would mean that a traveler from France going to Spain, for example, would pay the same for making calls in either country, an initiative known as RLAH (roam like you’re at home). However, a new proposal revealed in Italy last week makes things a little less clear. For one, there’s no longer any mention of a fixed date for the removal of these charges, and instead, a desire to create what they’re calling a ‘glidepath’. While we’re not entirely sure what a ‘glidepath’ is, it brings to mind network operators as a flock of majestic swans, drifting downstream toward the sea in their own sweet time. Ironically, the reasons behind the push to scrap these charges and operating networks’ reluctance to do so are exactly the same. Former EU telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes wanted to use the change to encourage operators to invest in faster networks – but the operators are now saying that this expected loss of income would mean that they’re not able to make such investments. So what does this mean for consumers? It’s too early to tell, as nothing has yet been agreed. It does seem that there may be a move to a gradual phasing out of roaming costs rather than abolishment as initially proposed. There may also be a ‘fair use’ calculation, based upon average annual domestic consumption. Under these proposals, an amount of roaming would be permissible under this ‘fair use’ tariff, but once that is used up, higher charges will apply. Discussions are ongoing, but we will be keeping a close eye on them. Don’t forget to check back here for all the latest news.
October 2, 2014
THE SAME STORY THE WORLD OVER
If you’ve ever felt your blood pressure rise upon discovering just how much you are being charged in roaming fees while you’re abroad, then don’t worry. You’re not alone. In fact, it seems to be the same everywhere you go. It’s certainly the case in South Africa, with 92% of respondents in a recent survey by travel company Travelstart saying that the roaming fees charged by their domestic providers are too high.
There’s a good deal of additional information about South African travel habits, such as the types of handset they use and what they use them for, and whether they switch their cellphones off when they fly (spoiler: 2% of them are very naughty indeed). Check out the article here.
August 18, 2014
Mobile Data Update: Data is now available in Laos with our international SIM cards. Also, data rates in Pakistan have been reduced.
August 8, 2014
New country added! We now provide coverage in Laos for calling and texting with our international SIM cards.
August 4, 2014
Cyprus (South) has been added to the coverage of the Data SIM, bringing the number of popular travel destinations covered to over 55.
August 4, 2014
Honduras and Nicaragua are now also available for the data bundles of our international SIM cards.
July 21, 2014
Data rates in Saudi Arabia and Iceland have been reduced. Saudi Arabia is now also available for the data bundles of our international SIM cards.
July 18, 2014
We have expanded the coverage of our international SIM cards. Calling and texts are now available in Tajikistan and Equatorial Guinea. Data coverage has been added to Equatorial Guinea and Malawi.
July 7, 2014
*IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR TRAVELERS TO THE USA* In response to new information from the Department of Homeland Security, the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) has announced new security measures for passengers carrying electronic devices. Effective immediately, any passenger flying into the US from certain airports may be asked to switch on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or similar device to prove that it works. If the device does not have power, it will not be allowed on the flight, and its owner may be subject to additional screening. While the TSA have not said which departure destinations are listed as of particular concern, passengers from both Britain and Belgium have reported being subjected to these measures. Other reports suggest that iPhone and Galaxy devices have come under specific scrutiny. If you are flying to the US from any destination, we suggest you ensure that you check ALL electronic devices to ensure that they can power up and down, and remember to pack your charger. In the event that your device does not power up as expected, you still have a number of options. You can go back to the airline and place the item in a checked bag, and some airports have postal facilities that will allow you to post the item home to yourself. Additionally, you can keep it in your car (if you are parked at the airport) or give it to a family member (if they are there to see you off). Please note: if you do not take advantage of these options and the device is confiscated, it will be considered excess government property and you will probably not see it again.
July 4, 2014
New data country! Zimbabwe now has data coverage with our international SIM cards, also available with data bundles for even lower rates.
July 3, 2014
Russia has been added to the coverage of the Data SIM, bringing the number of popular travel destinations covered to 54.
July 2, 2014
Data rates in Russia and the Ivory Coast have been reduced. Both countries are also available for the data bundles with our international SIM cards.
June 19, 2014
Data rates in Thailand have been reduced for our range of international SIM cards .
June 18, 2014
China has been added to the coverage of the Data SIM, bringing the number of popular travel destinations covered to over 50.
June 3, 2014
Going to Brazil for the World Cup? Get a Telestial Passport SIM and pay just 79c for calls and 99c per MB for data. Our research has shown that this is the best available offer on the market!
May 28, 2014
Data rates in Costa Rica and Macau have been reduced for our range of international SIM cards .
May 19, 2014
Lower data rates for Israel, Faroe Islands, Rwanda and Uzbekistan announced! Our data SIM now covers 47 countries, with more being added all the time.
May 7, 2014
Data usage rates have been reduced in El Salvador and Guatemala for the current range of our international SIM cards.
April 17, 2014
New countries have been added to the coverage of the Data SIM, bringing the number of popular travel destinations covered to over 40.
January 14, 2014
The rate to send text messages has been lowered from $0.69 to $0.39 in 29 countries for the Telestial Passport SIM.
January 7, 2014
Data usage rates have been reduced in France and Anguilla for the current range of Telestial international SIM cards.
November 22, 2013
Data usage rates have been reduced in Luxembourg for the current range of Telestial international SIM cards.
November 19, 2013
Calling, text and data rates have been reduced for the UK SIMple Calling SIM.
November 12, 2013
Lower data rates in Costa Rica! Data rates in Costa Rica have been lowered significantly for the current range of Telestial's international SIM cards.
November 8, 2013
Lower data rates in South Korea and Grenada! Data rates in South Korea and Grenada have been lowered significantly for the current range of Telestial's international SIM cards.
November 5, 2013
The rates to make and receive calls in El Salvador has been significantly reduced on the current range of Telestial Passport international SIM cards.
November 1, 2013
New roaming country added! Coverage is now available in Rwanda on the current range of Telestial's international SIM cards.
October 18, 2013
Lower data rates in Nigeria! From next week on, data rates in Nigeria will drop significantly and Nigeria will be added to the data bundles!
October 4, 2013
More coverage! Service (voice and text) now available in Cameroon, Gabon & Guinea with our international SIM cards.
October 4, 2013
New data coverage. Data is now available in Cameroon, French Polynesia, Guinea, Nicaragua, Martinique and Zambia with our global SIM cards
September 24, 2013
Data usage rates have been reduced in Austria for the current range of Passport international SIM cards
August 28, 2013
Data usage rates have been reduced in Belgium and Ghana for the current range of Passport international SIM cards
August 9, 2013
Check our our latest travel app tip "Are we there yet?" edition!
July 30, 2013
Check out this great travel story about a trip from the UK to Mongolia on HuffPost!
July 23, 2013
Check out our latest travel tip on our facebook page!