My initial impressions of KnowRoaming were ‘amateur hour’ at best. I was one of the early individuals to order the Kickstarter project described as “stick-on SIM cards for roaming.” I placed and received confirmation of my order for two KnowRoaming stickers followed by… crickets. Checking online three months later I could see the first 500 sets of stickers had been sent out, so I submitted a query to find out where mine might be. I was assured that I had been sent an advisory by e-mail (with the implication that perhaps the message had gone into my junk folder). In reality, I hadn’t received any message and no, I had not missed a mislabelled junk message – I check that folder regularly. The message that I didn’t receive apparently advised that after the first 500 SIM cards were shipped there was a delay in shipping the remaining orders due to problems manufacturing the SIM card sticker applicators. My guess is, the delay was a complete re-design of the applicators, as the early reviews indicated many problems with that aspect of the product. I was assured the delay in shipping my SIM cards would only be four weeks. KnowRoaming also made the offer “If you have an upcoming trip planned, please let us know your departure date so that we can try to ensure you receive your order before your trip.”
A month later I still had not received my order and I had an international trip coming up quickly. I wanted to check out this product and provide a review, so I submitted another query to KnowRoaming on the status of my order, telling them that I wanted it for an upcoming trip. Within two days I received a response that my order had shipped via express post. Sure enough, a couple days later I had a delivery from KnowRoaming. Containing… only one of the two SIM stickers I had ordered. Ah well, better than nothing I suppose. Interesting though that the package did not include any sort of an invoice acknowledging that my order had been for two devices but that in reality I had only been shipped a single one. I had to follow up on that but when I did I received a sincere apology and quick shipping of my second sticker. The letter accompanying the KnowRoaming SIM sticker provided a website for where to get the step-by-step instructions on how to apply the sticker. When I tried to find it, that site no longer existed. Luckily, Google maintains a cache of such pages and even offers helpful hints on where the page might now be found. So I did ultimately find my way to the current instruction page, but again an outdated instruction on the setup website just shrieks lack of attention to detail.
KnowRoaming is not the least expensive option, but in my mind it’s the most convenient and therefore worth the slight increase in prices over the alternatives.
The installation of the sticker on my SIM went very smoothly and precisely according to the instructions provided. I presume the new and improved applicator for the sticker was the reason for this. The next step in the instructions tells you to download the KnowRoaming app from the Google Play store (for us Android users) and then register your SIM. What they don’t tell you, until you get halfway through the process, is you need to first consult the SIM toolkit app that installed itself automatically once the phone was restarted after installing the SIM sticker. The SIM tookit app on your phone provides you with the SIM sticker registration number. So check that first. You will need to input that information during the registration process. Then you need to top up your account – to basically buy airtime credit. It’s hard to know initially how much you should invest in this top-up, so I chose the minimum $25 amount, but I also chose the option to automatically top up again by another $25 anytime my balance goes below $5. To do all this you need to associate a credit card with your KnowRoaming account. That’s a very straightforward process, as making a payment to a company usually is I find. As an aside, I’ve noted that it is amazing how easy companies make it to give them money and how difficult they make it for you to get money back when it’s owed to you.
Next you need to decide if you want to purchase a local number so you can have your regular calls forwarded to you when you are roaming. The cost for the number in Canada is $3 per month and you don’t need to purchase a phone number if your home carrier is located in either the U.S. or the U.K. as you get a free number for each of those countries. KnowRoaming says the costs for the local numbers can range from $1 to $9.50 per month and they can be cancelled at any time. So for a one-time trial, I purchased a Canadian home number to forward my regular calls to while I was roaming. Not that I get many calls – so I later decided instead of paying an ongoing $3 per month I would simply check my regular number’s voicemail in future since the cost of calls is low. Ah well, lesson learned for $6 (I forgot to cancel before the first automatic monthly renewal processed). Finally, you need to configure your phone so you can receive data while you’re roaming. This entails going into your phone’s settings for mobile networks and creating a new access point name (APN) for KnowRoaming. Having been down this road before with Roam Mobility (see our Affordable Roaming Guide), I almost didn’t need KnowRoaming guidance on how to perform this configuration. I just need to remember to change my setting to the KnowRoaming APN before I land at my international destination so it would hopefully change over to the local network automatically.
And that’s it – the phone is set up. So now you are wondering, how does the roaming perform for real? So far, I’ve tested it in the U.S. (California, Georgia, and New York) as well as in Mexico and some Caribbean islands. There is no doubt – the service works. There are some idiosyncrasies to the service that you need to be aware of though.
Once you land or cross the border and confirm the APN setting it can take several minutes before the phone successfully connects with the local network if the automatic change-over that is supposed to occur actually happens. On the first trip when that didn’t happen I wasn’t thinking there was another way to force it, so I reached out to KnowRoaming through social media (via wi-fi) to ask them what to do. The company very quickly responded and pointed me to the SIM toolkit app on my phone to force a manual change-over. Sure enough, there’s a setting in the SIM toolkit where you can manually switch the SIM to whatever country you are in. Handy and easy. I now use that method as soon as I arrive in a new country and it’s a much better way to ensure quick connectivity. In general I’ve found that with KnowRoaming the connection via the international networks was really quite good. The rates for calls and texts are very reasonable although if you use a lot of data the cost can add up in a hurry. I tend to keep my data roaming turned off while travelling, and rely as much as possible on WiFi, so that helps keep the cost down. If you think you’re going to be needing a lot of data (i.e. you’re using your smartphone maps navigation function), KnowRoaming does offer an unlimited data option of $7.99 per day for most of the countries you are likely to travel to.
For the sheer sake of convenience, I have become a convert to using KnowRoaming as my go-to travel telecom method of choice. There’s no need to swap out SIMs (although much like that method, you must have an unlocked phone to use this system). There is no need to buy packages from various international carriers – everything is directly billed by KnowRoaming. And if you minimize the number of calls/texts and the amount of data you use while travelling, there is no automatic cost incurred. It’s purely pay as you go. Finally, if you do need to use more services than planned, as long as you’ve set up a valid credit card for automatic top-ups, you’ll never run out of money in your account for the services you need. The KnowRoaming app on your phone offers your current account balance right on its front page as well as providing a simple and easy usage button so you can check what’s eating up your credit if it’s diminishing more quickly than you expect. The rates are also available and regularly updated to the app, so you can always check the local rates to find out what it will cost you for a call, to send a text, or for using data.
KnowRoaming is not the least expensive option, but in my mind it’s by far the most convenient and therefore worth the slight increase in prices over the alternatives. Despite my initial impression of KnowRoaming as an ‘amateur hour’ service, it has rapidly become my go-to travel service. Whenever I have a problem, KnowRoaming staff are polite and very quick in resolving that problem. KnowRoaming is highly recommended.