Using your smartphone abroad sucks, or rather, it's just annoying. You wish you had your phone abroad, but it's complicated. Aussie telcos are starting to catch on and fix the situation, but beginning October 31st, US carrier T-Mobile will be offering free text and data in 100 different countries to customers on its Simple Choice plans. Boom.
T-Mobile's new plans aren't complex. If you've got a Simple Choice plan the new international roaming capability will just be enabled on your account when you wake up on November 1, so everyone has it. That means free text and data in over 100 countries, and if you need to make a call within the countries covered by the plan, it'll cost you 20 cents per minute.
The catch comes in the data speed you get on these plans: you won't get 3G. Instead you'll be relegated onto that country's 2G network. At an event tonight in New York City, T-Mobile executives officially declined to detail what the data speeds would be in countries across the world, but it's pretty clear that T-Mo isn't going to be juicing you at the top possible speeds.
If you've got a need for speed, the carrier will sell you speed boosts in certain countries so that you can speed up your connection when you're abroad. These boost plans are limited by both time and usage:
• $15 for 100MB for one day • $25 for 200MB over two weeks two weeks • $50 for 500MB over three weeks
But in the event that you were thinking about using this as your international calling plan of choice, T-Mo has some safe guards in place to keep you from abusing the plan. Trips need to be six weeks or less, so you'll need to have activity at least once in that period. Furthermore, over a three month period you'll need to use at least half of your data in the United States.
We'll have to reserve judgement on this plan until we start hearing from all over the world about how good this service actually is. But it sounds like a superb value-added feature that might lure new users over. If you're a frequent traveller, this could change everything. At the very least, it sounds like T-Mo is at least trying to live up to that "Un-Carrier" name.
Vodafone recently announced a deal where your global roaming would be capped at $5 per day while travelling for voice, data and text. Optus is also trying to make life cheaper for travellers by simplifying global roaming zones. Nothing speaks louder than the word "free", however. Price is king in the global market, carriers.