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Product Review – Pokefi

Product Review – Pokefi

For all my readers out there, you will remember I reviewed a number of wifi/data products in my earlier few posts:

Review: Flexiroam – Affordable data roaming package usable anywhere anytime

Review: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

Cheap (Free) mobile data overseas

So far, I have always been a fervent supporter of Flexiroam especially if you are a frequent traveller. Flexiroam works great as it is really a plug (well, you can say paste) and forget kind of device because it is a thin microchip that is attached to your existing SIM card. This microchip allows you to  access Flexiroam’s low cost data roaming whilst overseas. The way it works is that it is a service where you can tap into a pool of data no matter where you are in the world. This means you can avoid i) “wasting” data that you bought but could not finish during your stay in a particular country (especially relevant in data expensive regions such as Europe) or ii) the hassle of purchasing sim cards in countries where it is difficult for a foreigner to do so. This advantage is counterbalanced by the relatively high cost of their data packages at US$29.99 per GB.

If you are not a frequent traveller, it may be most efficient if you were to consider renting a pocket wifi router. This is more so for Singapore travellers or travellers go through Singapore where such routers are on offer for as low as S$5 per day for unlimited use. While the cost appears low, this adds up over time especially if you are travelling for more than a week where the bill can be up to S$50 thereabout.

So, therefore, there appears to be no real product that seem to clinch the deal. Well, that is up until now.

In my recent travels, I came across a product on offer in Cathay Pacific’s in-flight catalogue that really caught my eye:

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They have wifi pocket routers called Pokefi on sale.

The price looked reasonable at US$120 / HKD990 with 5gb of data included. In the event you run out of usable data, more can be bought at a really reasonable price of US$15 for 5gb (averaging US$3/gb). This is way cheaper than what Flexiroam is offering and appears to me to be way more user friendly. One main flaw with Flexiroam is the fact that once you turn on the microchip, it disables your home sim such that you no longer are able to receive calls/smses until you switch back to your home sim. Pokefi, being a wifi pocket router, does not interfere with your home sim and you can continue receiving calls/smses as per normal.

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Using it appears to be simple.

Holding on to the button for 3 seconds turns it on.

It may take between 30 seconds to 60 seconds to make a connection with the surrounding network. During the interim, it will be flashing red. Once connected, it will then flash green.

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Holding on to the button for 5 seconds turns it off. There will still be one or two more green/red flashes but such flashes will not be as long and will end abruptly once the device turns itself off.

While there is no display showing the remaining amount of data or battery level, these information can be accessed via a link that you can key into your mobile browser (http://a.pokefi.). If you are connected to the device, this will bring up a dedicated page showing your usage and the existing battery level.

So far, while using it in Taiwan, I found the device to fair as good as the unit I rented from Changi during my Japan trip. My only suggestion is to keep a small battery bank with you when you carry this device around just in case you require some urgent juicing towards the end of the day or where multiple devices are connected.

Although the outlay is expensive initially, the cost savings add up quickly if you travel often. For example, my business trips are increasingly common and for longer periods. If I were to rent a unit from Changi, the costs would add up rather fast. A trip to Shanghai for just 6 days would cost me S$40 and another trip to Kaohsiung for 5 days would cost me another S$20. This would already be close to 1/3 the price of Pokefi! It may therefore make sense to actually buy one instead of renting especially if you are going to travel quite a fair bit or if you are visiting a data expensive region like Europe.

Definitely a recommended product!

Note: This, like all my other major reviews, is not sponsored products and are paid for using my hard earned cash. If you appreciate such posts, please remember to like and follow for more.

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Review: Flexiroam – Affordable data roaming package usable anywhere anytime

Review: Flexiroam – Affordable data roaming package usable anywhere anytime

To celebrate my blog hitting the 50 followers mark (to be more exact, 53 followers at the time of writing), I am sharing with you one awesome data service provider that will make travelling more enjoyable especially for those who travel frequently.

If you followed this blog from its infant days, you will remember me writing in a post titled “Cheap (Free) mobile data overseas” where I shared on how to beat the system and get free or cheap data whilst overseas. If you have not read it, why not pop over to my earlier post? If you read it, you will recall I promised to do a follow up article on Flexiroam.

Flexiroam – What is it?

As explained in my earlier entry, “Flexiroam X is a thin microchip that is attached to your existing SIM card and enables you to access Flexiroam’s low cost data roaming whilst overseas, connecting you to the local networks.

Flexiroam X 1

Flexiroam offers a service where you can tap into a pool of data no matter where you are in the world. This means you can avoid i) “wasting” data that you bought but could not finish during your stay in a particular country (especially relevant in data expensive regions such as Europe) or ii) the hassle of purchasing sim cards in countries where it is difficult for a foreigner to do so (e.g. China – Where I have personally been rejected for not having a local Chinese passport/ID or have heard of friends being rejected for a similar reason). 

Insider Tip: It appears that the Chinese “firewall” doesn’t censor data roaming users. While I have not tried using Flexiroam in China for the purposes of scaling and bypassing the firewall, my previous experience using data roaming in China suggests that Chinese censorship does not cover such areas. So FB and other banned websites like gmail or google may still work.

Flexiroam – Intended Customer Base?

Flexiroam, in my opinion, is not targeting the occasional traveller.

Occasional here means the average person who takes a couple of days off each year to visit one or two specific countries or regions. In such cases, a traveller can simply survive by buying a local sim for that particular location and/or region.

Instead, Flexiroam fits travelling patterns involving short but frequent trips overseas to multiple countries (i.e. a business traveller).

Due to the short nature of the trips, there is a tendency for the “wastage” noted above. Many data plans for tourists expire after a fixed period (eg. a month) and all the unused data at the end of the month will be wasted. Also, as you are travelling and crossing borders frequently, there may be instances where you have to keep with you a “stack” of sim cards to constantly swap around as you travel. Having a unified data package will help eliminate both these problems making travelling a seamless experience.

That said, Flexiroam also has it use for leisurely travel especially for a person already using Flexiroam on his phone for business purposes. So in my case, while I primarily use Flexiroam for work purposes, the ability to tap into my data package is equally helpful when I’m on a holiday and am in need of an Uber or Grab to get around.

Flexiroam – My experience using Flexiroam

Installing Flexiroam

There are three steps to the process.

First, installing the Flexiroam app on your phone. This is to do the basic registration and also to purchase from Flexiroam your starting data package and also for them to ship to you the microchip that creates the magic.

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Flexiroam – Starter Package

Flexiroam X 2

Starter Package Prices

Second, applying Flexiroam’s microchip on the top of your existing SIM card.

The application of this microchip was straightforward. Flexiroam will have sent to you the microchip in a stencil. Lift the film (the microchip is on the film) and place your sim card into the precut slot. Tear away the protective layer on the microchip to reveal the sticky surface. Lower the film (with the microchip) back onto the stencil and press down on the film and the microchip. This will cause the microchip to stick onto your sim card. You are done!

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Flexiroam Installation: The stencil that comes with the basic package. Place your sim card into the precut slot and press the sticky film down. Done!

Third, setting up the phone settings to enable the microchip. This involves two main steps: Switching from your home network to Flexiroam’s network via the Flexiroam app and also creating the relevant APN on your phone. Both are easy to do.

Detailed instructions can be found here.

Using Flexiroam

Pros:

Simple and straightforward. You just have to switch to Flexiroam’s microchip using the Flexiroam app. Let the phone do its thing (it will likely have to reset twice to switch network) and you will be roaming already. It felt seamless and transited smoothly between the different telcos as I travelled from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and back to Hong Kong before going to Taiwan. I always had data as and when I needed it.  My subsequent trips also saw me using quite a bit of Flexiroam whether to do some urgent “food research”, work related emails or just booking an uber or grab.

Another plus is that on renewing your plan, all remaining unused data gets carried forward to the next cycle.

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Flexiroam: Home Screen – Simple but informative

 

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Just hit “Switch to Flexiroam X” to turn on the microchip and activate Flexiroam.

Cons:

It is at times inconvenient if you expect to receive phone calls or sms on your home number. Once activated, the microchip blocks off your home sim card until you switch back to your home sim using the phone app. However, this inconvenience is not a deal breaker as this would have happened in any event had you purchased a separate local data sim and replaced your home sim card. A possible work around is to purchase a cheap pre-paid sim card on which to paste the Flexiroam microchip and use that in another spare phone. The other option is to just use Whatsapp and equivalent to make your calls and/or send messages.

Another possible negative point is the pricing of the plans sometimes don’t make sense. Its cheaper to buy a 5GB plan than a 7GB plan!

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Flexiroam: Pricing for some plans just don’t make sense

 

 

Would I recommend Flexiroam?

Yes. It is definitely a must for frequent travellers in need of small amounts of data. As to the average traveller, it might be a stand-in until you get your hands on a local sim card. For example, you may have been dropped off at some random bus depot and need to make your way to downtown. This flexible data will help tide you to the city where you can get yourself the much needed local data sim card.

Just be careful of your phone settings. It would be best if you turn off unnecessary apps or settings that allow apps to send data in the background. This may result in your phone burning data unnecessarily. A plus point of turning off such settings is that it will also benefit you for your own home network and help conserve data.

Let me know in the comments section if you intend to consider using flexiroam. Remember to Like if you found this post useful and also follow to be notified of new content. Really appreciate your support!!!

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