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July 15, 2016


HOW POKÉMON GO IS ALREADY CHANGING THE WORLD

The original Pokémon craze in the late 1990s was an international cultural phenomenon. There were card games, computer games, cartoons, TV shows, movies… the ‘gotta catch them all!’ bug-chasing game captured the world’s imagination. It was hoped that a new game, Pokémon Go, launched on the 6th of July in the US, Australia and New Zealand, would ride a wave of nostalgia to success and profit. In a short space of time and just three countries, it has already achieved that and so much more. In the last seven days:

-              Pokémon Go has shot to the top of the app charts, reaching the top grossing app spot in just 14 hours, with 15 million downloads and users already spending $1.6 million via iOS on in-app purchases per day.

-              It already has more active daily users than both Tinder and Twitter.

-              Nintendo, the company that owns Pokémon, added $7 billion to its market stock cap, with shares rising up to 23% in a single day.

-              There are already scams, rip-offs and concerns about data collection.

-              People (including children) are flocking to inappropriate locations, and people are being asked to take care near government buildings and be respectful elsewhere.

-              There are news stories appearing every day that are connected with the app, including robberies, injuries, infidelities, the discovery of dead bodies and international incidents.

It’s worth repeating that this has all happened within a week, and because of an app released in just three countries. What, for Pikachu’s sake, is going on!?

It has been clear right from the start that Pokémon Go is not merely a game or an app, but rather the start of something entirely different  - although that’s not strictly true. The app can be classified as an augmented reality game – a concept which has been in existence for quite some time now. It is an application which superimposes a digital display onto a real-world view through your smartphone’s camera in real time (see, for example, Snapchat’s filters or earlier versions of the game concept). What makes Pokémon Go so different is that it puts two giants together –Nintendo and Google (who own Niantic Inc., the company that made the app) to bring the monster-hunting concept (which many fans are already very familiar with) to life. The app uses your phone’s maps, GPS and camera to allow you to find, locate and catch your own monsters and gear – just like the characters in the original story. But instead of moving a character around a computer-generated game world, this all takes place in the real world. Environment-specific monsters can be found in certain areas, such as parks, lakes, deserts, shady corners… and so on.

So, in order to play the game, you need to get out and about. Some believe that there could be unintended health benefits to this, as people have been walking long distances to try to find specific creatures. But this also means a good deal of blundering about, with distracted people glued to their smartphone screens rather than looking where they are going. Because certain items and monsters appear at locations that everyone nearby can see, it’s a tool that could be used by muggers or other criminals to trap the unwary. And of course, because it’s a game where the aim is to ‘catch them all’, it will no doubt lead to conflict and crime – just like it did the first time around.

Despite the sheer number of stories appearing due to this new phenomenon, it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The game will eventually be released worldwide. Currently, there are 128 monsters available to catch – from a list of 729. When the game was card-based, the rarest cards priced at $100,000 – what lengths will collectors be forced to go to in order to find the rarest examples in this game? Will we see people travelling to remote international locations just to find a computer generated creature? How will locals react to international travelers wanting to play the game? What effect will such a massively popular game have on the world’s already overloaded phone networks? The answers remain to be seen. What is undeniable, however, is that this is something new, something huge, and something that we could very well look back upon and say – this was the moment things changed.

UPDATE: In the two days since this article was written, the game has launched in Germany and the UK, T-Mobile have offered free unlimited data for US players, two players have fallen down a 50ft cliff, a SECOND dead body has been found, a man has crashed his car into a tree, and Donald Trump has said he wishes he had time to play it.


July 10, 2016

Mobile Travel Trends 2016



Hotels.com, an online booking site, has produced a very interesting survey about mobile phones and travel habits. Compiled by 9,200 travelers across 31 countries, the Hotels.com Travel Tracker survey reveals that smartphones have changed the behavior of many travelers, and not always for the better. One particularly damning statistic is that people would much rather travel with their phone than a friend or relative, with 76% of US travelers saying that their phone is their number one travel accessory, more than twice the amount that picked a human (although, in fairness to the human race, this is probably because people don’t usually consider their friends and family ‘travel accessories’).

Other findings are broadly in line with our increased interest and use of smartphones generally. Holidaymakers spent an average of three hours per day on their phones while they were on vacation (though 10% said they used their phone for a staggering 10 hours per day!) and these were mostly used to connect on social media. Checking the news and looking up travel information came in close behind. Fast and reliable WIFI remains the number one thing people look for when booking a hotel, but there are couple of surprises here. For example, offering reliable customer reviews and the right range of payment methods are now more important to people than the price of the room. Many respondents said that their smartphone had made them more spontaneous, with far more people booking their hotels on the same day they intend to check-in, and 14% of people now leave it until they are in the departure lounge before their flight to pick a hotel.

Because of the increasing importance of our phones, you need to make sure that you have the best rates when roaming abroad so it’s important to research the places you are visiting before you travel. Our new trip planner clearly lays out your options and what everything will cost – and because (thanks to surveys such as this) we know that people plan their trips either in bed (27%) or in some cases, in the bathroom (10%), you can do all this on your smartphone!

 


June 14, 2016

INTRODUCING OUR NEW ‘TRAVELER’ INTERNATIONAL SIM CARD

The summer is here, and as people’s thoughts turn to where they might want to go on vacation this year, Telestial’s thoughts turn to how we can best save you money on your calls if you do. With this in mind, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new Traveler International SIM card. There are a number of changes important changes that we’re really excited about.

Direct Calling in 80 Countries

Our SIMs used to work using Callback technology (you can see an overview of how this works here). Now you can make direct calls in 80 countries from the most popular tourist destinations including Europe, the USA and Australia. Direct calling offers a more natural, seamless experience like you would encounter with your domestic provider. We will be adding more countries to the direct calling list as they become available, but you won’t need to buy a new SIM to keep up to date – it will automatically update, meaning you can keep using your SIM for longer.

Data Plans

Over half of all internet connections now come from mobile phones. The applications that a modern phone is capable of running – from Facebook to Netflix and everywhere in between – make it an affordable and convenient replacement for tech that was previously only available on desktops or tablets. But all these things require a data connection, and for many people, the prohibitively high price of mobile data can mean that they stop using such apps while they’re traveling. Telestial believe that nothing should get in the way of your enjoyment while you’re away, so we have launched a range of data plans that can save you up to 300% on your mobile data costs. Broken down into two global regions, you can buy a plan of up to 2GB of data, more than enough for all your online needs.

Simpler Rates

We’ve made it significantly easier to plan your trip and figure out what rates are available in the countries you are visiting. Instead of having to look up each country individually for a multi-country trip, we’ve created a trip planner, which will show you the rates for multiple destinations on the same page. Data Plans are split into two regions, and we’ve made topping up clearer and easier so that you can see exactly which options are available and work best for you.

Access to the Best Networks

The new Traveler SIM covers over 190 countries, but also gives you access to over 380 networks, which is twice as many. This gives you numerous options that you wouldn’t necessarily get by roaming on your domestic SIM. Most domestic operators make deals with a few partners in other countries, usually one or two. However, since making deals with operators is the core of our business, our roaming SIM cards give us access to significantly more networks. If you find yourself traveling through an area where the coverage is patchy or your signal breaks up, the SIM will switch to a stronger network.

Family and Friends Call Free

Saving money on calls is great, but free calls? Even better! This is why we’ve set up a toll-free number for your friends and family to use to get in touch with you. It’s not completely free – you will have to pay a small surcharge to receive a call, but if you’re a long way away from home and don’t want your family to pay out for an international call, this option will cut costs for everyone. Right now, it’s only available if someone calls you from the USA, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the UK, but we’re planning on adding new countries soon.

Automatic Updates

As we’ve already detailed, the Traveler SIM will update automatically when new direct calling countries are added. But there are even more features that we’ve got planned that will be added to the SIM in a similar way – you won’t need to do anything to take advantage of them. We will soon be offering the option to add a +1 US number, for example, and while you can currently receive fast LTE data in 20+ countries, we’ll be adding more as soon as they become available.

We think that these changes will help make your traveling experience that much more enjoyable as you won’t have to leave your phone locked up in your hotel or back at home. So if you’re headed overseas this summer, grab yourself a new  Traveler SIM ($19, with $10 of included credit) before you travel and start saving now!


May 25, 2016

OUR GUIDE TO THE RIO OLYMPICS

In just a few months, all eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Having already picked up a Brazil SIM card, you’ll need to know where to go next. There are four regions of the city where events will take place, so here’s a guide to all the things you can do in those places while you’re not cheering on your national team.

Olympics with Brazil SIM Card
Maracanã

In the west of the city, on the coast, is the region known as Maracanã, which is already home to one of the world’s greatest sporting icons. Rebuilt and renovated for the 2014 Football World Cup, the Maracanã Stadium has played host some legendary football, and several footballing legends. These athletes were so adored and recognisable that many of them only need a single name – Pelé, Rivaldo, Zico, Ronaldinho, Zico, Neymar… the list goes on and on. As well as guided tours, there is a museum, where you can relive some amazing goals and check out some exclusive memorabilia. This is a must for any serious football fan. As well as hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, the stadium will also play host to – what else? – the Olympic football tournament.

It is well-known that Rio loves to party, especially during Carnavale season in the period leading up to the Catholic observance of Lent. But where else in the world would they purpose-build a stadium to better show off the skills of competing Samba Schools? The Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí is exactly that, a half-mile runway, flanked on either side by stands for spectators, where the remarkable displays of exotically-costumed dancers can parade to best effect. While the Olympics takes place at the wrong time of year for the Carnavale, you can be sure that the Samba Schools will put on something special for the opening ceremony. Because of its long shape, it’s a perfect venue for the Olympic archery tournament, and will also be the start and finish point of the marathon.

Copacabana

Just a little to the South of Maracanã, is the more famous Copacabana, immortalised in cheesy song (as is the borough of Ipanema). This legendary beach front region will play host to the volleyball competition on the beach, and the coastal road is a perfect venue for road-cycling, the marathon and triathlon events. As well as the white sands of the beach, this has proved to be an ideal venue for concerts, including a 1994 New Year’s concert by Rod Stewart that drew a crowd of 3.5 million and remains the biggest ever. 

Flamengo Park is the unofficial name of Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, a 300 acre area of urban parkland. This is one of the best places to be on a sunny weekend, with Brazilian families flocking to enjoy the green space. There are football pitches, tennis and basketball courts, and even an area for model plane enthusiasts to practice. For those looking for a bit of culture amongst the agriculture, you’ll also find an open-air theatre, the Rio museum of modern art and a sculpture park dedicated to those that died during World War 2. The wonderful backdrop of Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Christo Redentor will make it a perfect venue for the cycling and walking road races.

Barra

You wouldn’t have thought that Barra da Tijuca would be selected to host the majority of the Olympic events taking place in Rio, not when its name translates as ‘swampy sandbank’. Thirty years ago, the area barely existed, then being a huge beach adjoining a series of lakes and swamps. Now, however, the area has been transformed into one of the most metropolitan and luxurious parts of Rio, so it’s no wonder Olympic organisers were happy for most of the attention to be centred on it. Here you’ll find the Olympic Arena, the Velodrome, the official Hockey and Tennis Centres and Riocentro, which at all other times is the largest convention centre in Latin America, but this summer will host the weightlifting and boxing.

Outside the events, there’s plenty to see and do in this neighbourhood, particularly if you fancy a bit of shopping. There are several malls here, including the biggest in Brazil, with a wealth of entertainment and dining options as well as stores. In a region so young, there’s not much history to speak of, with one notable exception – Barra da Tijuca is the birthplace of Gracie Barra Ju-Jitsu. The martial art of Ju-Jitsu has existed since the 17th Century in Japan, but it thrives today not only on its own merits but also as a key component to the sport of MMA, mainly down to the influence of one family – the Gracie dynasty. Now with thousands of schools around the world, Gracie Barra MMA is one of Brazil’s most famous exports.

Deodoro

Deodoro is the Olympic area that is furthest from the city centre, but also hosts the most eclectic mix of events. Surrounded by rolling hills, traditional events such as equestrianism and shooting will be held here; alongside some of the newer, more exciting events such as BMX biking, white-water rafting and, for the first time in Olympic history, rugby sevens. The extreme sports park will remain after the event is over, offering the young people of Rio a lasting legacy.

Here you’ll find the Aerospace Museum, with over 50 planes from various eras to explore and learn about. Part of the National Air Force’s university, and with a couple of real squadrons based at the site, the museum is a great place to tour. It’s also the home of the Smoke Squadron, Brazil’s version of the Red Arrows or Blue Angels, who will no doubt be making an appearance at either the opening or closing ceremony.


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