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Hit the Road and Roam Like a Pro

We’ve all been there. You’ve made the journey across the border into the land of miles-per-hour and candy bar varieties you never thought possible. Just as you’re enjoying the open road, you remember an urgent message that needs to be sent to a client. You craft your reply, hit send, and are hit with a sinking feeling that comes with a familiar question:

“Am I going to get charged for that?”

Using your phone outside of Canada doesn’t have to be a scary proposition. With a little preparation and the right knowledge, you can keep your business connected abroad without taking a hit in the wallet.

Understanding data: What is it?

One of the most confusing parts of roaming is figuring out what exactly data is. Most communications on your phone can be put under one of three categories, each of which will be billed separately when roaming:

  • Data (the Internet) – Anything from downloading to using apps and browsing web pages uses data, either from your cellular provider or over wireless local networks (Wi-Fi).
  • Voice call – A standard phone call from your device’s default phone application.
  • Text messaging – A standard message from your device’s default messaging application.

Was that data or a text?

Here’s where things can get tricky. Your phone’s default messaging and voice applications will count towards your plan’s included voice or text messaging allotment. But most other similarly functioning applications – like Skype or WhatsApp – will use Internet data, either from your cellular provider or Wi-Fi. Many of these services go by the term “Voice over Internet Protocol” – a fancy way to say it’s using data over the Internet.

iOS users (iPhone and iPad) have a built-in VoIP messaging service called iMessage, but only when texting other iOS or Mac users connected to the Internet. You can see which service you’re using by the colour of the message. If it’s blue, that’s data. If it’s green, you know you’ve sent a text.

Know your device’s data settings

Before you travel, familiarize yourself with your device’s settings. A few quick button presses can save you a lot of hassle down the road.

Turning off data roaming in iOS is easy:

  1. Head to Settings
  2. Press Cellular
  3. Toggle off Cellular Data and rest easy knowing you won’t be charged for data.

Turning off data varies on Android devices, but can typically be found in Settings under Wireless & Networks.

More info on turning off data roaming

If you have Wi-Fi turned on then your device should automatically try to connect to open networks nearby, even when cellular data is turned off. Wireless hotspots are popping up in more places than ever – from your hotel room to coffee shops (just ask the barista for the password).

Finally, keep an eye on your carrier displayed on the top of your device’s screen. When it switches to an American carrier, you’ll know you’re roaming.

Still not sure if you have the right settings? If you need to stop data use right away, go into airplane mode to cut off all wireless communications from your device.

Find the right plan

The best way to alleviate any fears over using your smart device while travelling is to simply go ahead and use your device like you would at home or in the office. To pick a roaming plan that’s right for you and your business, think about which features you’ll be using the most while travelling, and the wireless options available where you are.

Have a question on how to roam like a pro? Ask in the comments below.


Adam Campbell

If there’s a new piece of tech, Adam is probably coming up with an excuse to buy it. He’s constantly experimenting with new applications to find simplified solutions to everyday issues. Adam is a writer, a reader, a communicator, a devourer of media and a pop-culture obsessor. He’s also a Winnipegger with a passion for his home city’s history and quirks.

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