First of all, to sum up my experience I would say that Roamer is a new must-have for every traveler. I’m very excited about this new find as it saved us a whopping 400 euros on our first trip! As far as usefulness for travelers goes, I would put this app third, right after Google maps and Tripadvisor.com.
Now to elaborate.
The plan was simple - a two week getaway on the sunny beaches of Mallorca. We expected to have lots of family and business calls. As it later turned out, emergency calls would be on the agenda as well (couldn’t have planned that).
I downloaded Roamer a month before the trip, registered my phone number, received the SMS with the code and launched the app. Everything worked well and the complimentary 5 euros that popped onto my account were certainly a pleasant surprise. Nice! I proceeded to read the instructions and checked calling tariffs in Spain along the way.
According to the help section, the first step was to set the date and time of departure so the app would know when to remind me to activate the service. I did that and, since it was way too early to park my number, turned the app off.
On the day of the departure I received a push notification and launched Roamer. The app requested to set call forwarding, so I followed the instructions, found the forwarding screen and pressed to paste the number into the slot. So far, so good.
Launched the app again and confirmed my parking settings. A message appeared telling me to turn the app off and remove the SIM card. I did that and put the SIM somewhere safe. I wasn’t planning on canceling my parking settings, but if you have a sudden change of plans or you were just exploring the options, you get to cancel parking at this point.
After a three-hour flight we landed in the Mallorca airport and I immediately was on the lookout for places where I could buy a SIM. That proved to be tricky, since most of the stores weren’t selling SIM cards and we had no time to search the airport. We ended up going straight for the hotel. In retrospect, I could have planned ahead and compiled a list of all possible SIM card store locations, like the one they have at Vodafone Spain http://www.vodafone....endas-vodafone/.
After settling in the hotel, me and my family went to explore local restaurants. By asking the locals we managed to finally find a SIM card store nearby. Turned out to be Vodafone. Me and my husband chose an 8 euro tariff plan with 500 MB traffic. We didn’t care much for minutes, since we weren’t planning on making any local calls (a decision that would later haunt us). We had to wait for about 10 minutes for the data connection to be tuned up. In total we spent 15 euros. And by the way, Spanish operators request a passport even when you just buy a prepaid, but there were no strings attached.
And thus, with a Spanish SIM in my smartphone I launched Roamer. A message to submit my Spanish number. Check. Another SMS with a code. Done and voila’ – I am now in roaming.
But first, a short call home to check if the service works. You just go to the Contacts screen, find the number you need and select it.
Roamer redirects you to the dialer and you press the call button. You then see a timer ticking and a message to pick up the phone. Soon the phone rings. That’s right, it’s a callback service – all calls you make with Roamer are actually incoming. You pick up the phone, hear a lovely lady’s voice tell you to stay on the line and then after a number of beeps – “Hello?” Yay, it worked! Assure them you are fine, share the latest news and tell them that from now on you can be reached on your regular number.
The call is finished. According to the History screen my call lasted 10 minutes and cost me 50 eurocents – and that’s per-second billing and no connection fee. A good first experience cleared all my doubts about Roamer and I happily decided to add more credit to my account. It was a regular AppStore payment, so I added 20 euros with no problems.
It feels so funny when you travel through mountains of Spain, all the while talking on the phone with someone who is thousands of miles away in your home country. And it’s amazing how the quality of the call is so good, you forget that it’s an international call. As far as I’m concerned this is way superior to WiFi, since we never really had any more energy to call with Skype before bed, like we did before. This is where Roamer has a certain advantage.
The one drawback to Roamer is that it doesn’t allow you to receive SMS on your regular number. Fortunately, we managed to find a solution by inserting the original SIM into a different phone, so we had two phones – one for calls and the other for SMS. I’ve heard that some people have phones that support two SIM cards at once; they probably wouldn’t even need to go through all the trouble, just use one SIM for calls with Roamer and the other to receive SMS.
Now a couple of words about data. Is 500 MB a lot, or a little? Throughout our 2 week vacation we’ve kept our standard Internet routine: replied to business emails, chatted through Skype and Whatsapp, read Facebook and Odnoklassniki (on both phones), and, naturally, posted some photos. All in all 500 MB were enough for two weeks. 3 days before departure we received a message that 90% of our traffic has already been used up, but from there on we only needed a couple more MB to make calls with Roamer.
A rather important side note – we had two phones with us, an iPhone and a Samsung. The Spanish card was on iPhone and we used it to transfer some traffic onto the Samsung. Now unlike iPhone, Samsung automatically updates as soon as you connect to WiFi. To not immediately drain all of our traffic, my husband had to disconnect and rummage through the settings.
Sad truth is that there’s rarely any free WiFi in Mallorca hotels, only in some expensive restaurants. So, calling with Skype is not a cheap option at all. Our hotel charged 2 euros for a half an hour WiFi connection. But it’s not really about the price – we just didn’t want to stay in the hotel. We spent our afternoons on the beach and our evenings shopping and having fun. Most of our calls were made either on the beach, the bus, or on our evening walk. Plus, since our trip happened during the "Happy destination: Spain - 0,01 EUR/incoming" sale, for a mere 1 euro we could talk for almost 2 hours while our daughter was busy on the playground.
The apps we used most were GoogleMaps and TripAdvisor, in other words we needed navigation and reviews of restaurants and tourist attractions. This is basically the main reason we bought so much traffic in the first place. Thanks to that we didn’t get lost and saved a hefty amount of money by using public transport instead of taxis. Public transportation is very well developed in Mallorca (and even better developed is its conditioning). The cost of an urban ticket ranges from 1,10 - 1,80 euros for an adult and intercity tickets cost around 10 euros. A taxi (with a special tourist tariff) would cost at least 25 euros within the city limits and around 80 if you need to drive out of town, and that’s only one way. It’s much better to spend this money on a family dinner that generally costs 40-60 euros.
What makes Roamer stand out most is how it fully replaces roaming. In other words, any person calling your regular number in your home country makes an ordinary call, without paying any extra fees for an international connection. When you pick up the phone they don’t even realize you are in a different country. You on the other hand receive a regular incoming call. We haven’t missed a single important call while we were on vacation. When you call someone with Roamer they see your regular number (thanks to the callback system), so most of our friends were surprised we even left at all, since we talked as usual and never asked them to call us back 2 weeks later.
So what do you do with all the minutes you paid for when you got a local SIM? Well, if you travel with a large group you’d be able to call each other. We’re planning on doing that on our next trip. Another option – calling the local services (e.g. taxi, pizza, etc.), but we didn’t need that either. By an unfortunate twist of fate we actually ended up using our local card anyway, and thank God we had one.
Our hotel room was robbed. The hotel staff was indifferent to the whole situation and left us to fend for ourselves. Their only help consisted of giving us a paper with a number to call police. Thanks to our local SIM we didn’t have to look for any country codes or local phones, we just dialed the number straight. Then we called our broker through Roamer and contacted a Latvian insurance company. Discussing everything over the phone took about an hour. Judging by the tariffs of Latvian roaming this could have cost us 20 euros. What’s more important, all this time we were using our regular number and our broker could easily reach us after settling the details. We couldn’t have planned a situation like this, but Roamer sure came in handy.
On the flight home I just inserted my home SIM into the phone and launched Roamer right after the landing. The app provided instructions to cancel all forwarding settings. After that I pressed “Confirm” and Roamer got back to its standard un-parked interface. The Dialer, History and Contact screens were gone.
To sum up, during our vacation we used up 3 hours worth of outgoing calls, 5 hours worth of incoming calls and burned through 500 MB of data traffic. Out of curiosity I calculated how much we would have spent if we were to use regular roaming (taking into account the lowered European rates). The Latvian Tele2 would have charged us 77 euros for the calls and 348 euros for the Internet. Another leading operator LMT turned out to be no better. With Roamer we’ve spent only 26,44 euros (15 euros – cost of the Vodafone card in Mallorca and 11,44 – Roamer calling charges). So all in all we saved 398,56 euros or 93%. Not bad. Thank you Roamer and see you on our next trip!