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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: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

Review: Pocket Wifi Router (Changi Recommends)

For those wondering how not to burn a hole in your wallet while remaining connected in Japan, I covered some great tips and alternatives in one of my earlier post. This is a follow up article where I share my experience using a Pocket Wifi Router that I got from Changi Recommends.

Collection of Pocket Wifi Router at Changi Airport Terminals

A really seamless process. Just order online and head over to the booth at the airport terminal. Place a deposit and you are done. Returning the device is likewise straightforward.

The kit comes in a pouch with the router (pre-charged) and a power charger. The power charger appears to have been set up for the region you are travelling to (i.e. with the correct socket plug type):

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Value for money

For those lost, these routers are small little gadgets that emit a wifi signal that your phone / laptop can tap into such that you have a mobile unlimited data wifi hotspot with you all the time. The data allowance for such routers are generally unlimited (subject maybe to a speed throttle in cases where the fair usage amount is consumed). While such routers are generally expensive (averaging USD100 for around 9 days of use), Changi Recommends offers a very reasonably priced router (unlimited data) at just SGD5 per day with the first day rental being free. This is a bargain at SGD40/USD30 for 9 days of unlimited data coverage!

Easy to use

Unlike other fanciful travel hacks (e.g. flexiroam – a sort of international data roaming service which I also use from time to time – check out my post here), there isn’t much fiddling to do to start using the router. It is as simple as turning it on and finding it on your phone’s/laptops wifi list and keying in the password that is located at the back of the router. Nothing complicated.

Fast connection

I don’t know whether you feel the same way but hotel wifi connections are terrible. Even for 5 star hotels, you sometimes have trouble getting a decent and fast connection.

The pocket wifi router solved all of that. The connection was fast and during my stay in Japan we used it for not only the most basic of things (emails/social media/google maps) but also the more data intensive applications like watching youtube videos and given the odd game or two of Mobile Legends (Side note: Japanese Mobile Legend players are insane ><)

The connection also held up away from Tokyo and worked spectacularly while we were in Hokkaido.

While the connection was generally good on the Shinkansen, there were certain times when the connection was weak. This is to be expected as the train was passing through tunnels with poor signal strength.

Battery Life

While there are other reviews claiming the battery life is awesome, my experience is that it actually depends on your use. Sure, if you just turn it off after each use, the router can definitely last for ages. But if you are like me and would prefer to feel like you are back at your home country (i.e. free access to data the whole day), you will likely keep the router on the whole day. Expect it to last approximately 8 hours before it goes flat (assuming two users). Less if there are more users tapping into the router. So be sure to have a power bank or two to juice up your device in the late afternoon.

I hope my review is helpful. If you are heading to Japan anytime soon, be sure to get one router for yourself.

As usual, please remember to like and follow! Each like goes a long way to help support this blog!!!

 

Staying connected while in Japan

Staying connected while in Japan

SIM Card, Flexiroam, Pocket wifi router and what else?

While Japan prides itself as being one of the most connected nations in the world, it seems that this only applies to locals. As a tourist in Japan, data appears to be always lacking or in short supply. While you can always survive on Wifi without a data plan (and Wifi can be found in most hotels and guesthouses), you are at the mercy of the hotel’s network. Once you move out of range, you will be thrown back into the stone age. Fret not you don’t have to turn on your data roaming while in Japan as there are other solutions available to keep you connected to the web during your stay. While there are a number of alternatives, bear in mind the ideal situation is for both cheap data and also unlimited mobile data. 

Prepaid data-only SIM cards

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Data SIM cards are available in Japan.

You can either go for IIJmio Japan Travel SIM (1GB/30 day approx 2460 Yen) or B Mobile Visitor SIM (1GB/14 days approx. 3980 Yen).  

The prices are however not fantastic at close to 22 USD / 30 SGD per GB.

No youtube or music streaming unless you are willing to cough up more money to top up on your data plan. Why not consider the other options below?

Flexiroam

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Other than buying a prepaid data-only sim, you can also consider Flexiroam. I covered Flexiroam in one of my earlier post. If you have not read it, be sure to check it out!

There are two alternatives available to a Flexiroam user. He can either tap into his normal data pool or use a “local data package”.

If you read my earlier post, you will remember that Flexiroam offers a universal pool of data that can be tapped into from anywhere in the world. Flexiroam also offers packages specific to countries and has recently released a package for Japan. The prices range from USD1.60/Day (100MB) to USD6/7Days (400MB):

Flexiroam Japan

This appears to be a steal as you average USD15 per GB.

There is also an ongoing promotion. 50% discount if bought 2 months in advance and 25% if bought a month in advance. This will help bring down the price further if you are purchasing such a package.

As these Flexiroam packages are valid for X number of day, you may want to do multiple bookings to ensure proper data coverage across your entire trip and also benefit from the early bird promotion for these other bookings.

If you do not want to trouble yourself with these local data packages, another option is to just tap into your data pool with Flexiroam. This option is, however, more expensive at 30 USD per GB and makes it more expensive than buying a local sim card.  

Pocket wifi router

For heavy duty users, the above two options may not be feasible or practical. You will burn through your data allowance and also your wallet rather quickly.

You can, however, consider turning to a pocket wifi router. These routers are small little gadgets that emit a wifi signal that your phone / laptop can tap into such that you have a mobile unlimited data wifi hotspot with you all the time. The data allowance for such routers are generally unlimited (subject maybe to a speed throttle in cases where the fair usage amount is consumed).

A quick search online reveals that it is also quite expensive. Expect to pay approximately up to USD100 for around 8-9 days of use. Service providers include (japan-wireless appears to be the cheapest but the website appears not as impressive/professional as the other two):

https://www.globaladvancedcomm.com/order/index.html

https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/services/pocket-wifi

http://japan-wireless.com/products.html

While more expensive than a SIM card and/or Flexiroam, the routers are more value for money as the data available is unlimited and can be tapped on by multiple users.

There is, however, a fantastic exception to this.

Changirecommends offers a very reasonably priced router (unlimited data) at just SGD5 per day with the first day rental being free. This is a bargain at SGD40/USD30 for 9 days of unlimited data coverage! This would normally benefit Singaporeans. However, I can foresee Australians visiting Japan via Singapore or even any nationality using Singapore as a travel hub benefiting from this.

Data roaming passports

I briefly touched on this in one of my earlier posts titled Cheap (Free) mobile data overseas.

Some service providers over a hybrid data roaming service. Instead of charging you separately for data roaming, such service providers over a service where in return for a monthly fee you can use your home data package overseas. . As to whether it is worth it, it depends on the options available to you.

For example, if you have access to Changirecommends’ pocket wifi, it might not make sense for you to enable such data roaming passports on your phone. The cost of enabling a passport may cost as much as just getting a pocket wifi. For example, M1’s Japan passport costs SGD25 per month. Assuming you activate this service for a month, your total cost would be SGD25 and you will be subject to the amount data you have on your home network. Why not just top it up for a pocket wifi and have unlimited data wifi?

If you, however, don’t have access to a cheap pocket wifi but have plenty of data on your home network, such passports may be a possible alternative.

So always consider your options!

My verdict?

I personally went for Changirecommends’ wifi router and booked one for my upcoming trip to Japan. This is definitely worth it at least in terms of pricing. If it were just for a short trip, I might consider Flexiroam’s data packages just for the sake of convenience and also to avoid the hassle of picking up and returning the router.

Let me know in the comments whether you have tried any other the above while travelling in Japan? Or if you are headed to Japan soon, whether you intend to use any of the above options to remain connected to the web.

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