Qik Roam: Travel Internationally, Pay Reasonable Rates

By  |  Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 12:45 am

Qik LogoThere are plenty of benefits that come with owning an iPhone, but there are also some crosses that one must bear. One is the phone’s lack of support for video capture, which means that the nifty Qik video lifestreaming app only works if you’ve jailbroken your phone. (Or if Qik has given you access to the service via Apple’s approved “ad-hoc” access, which–full disclosure–it has for me.)

Another iPhone limitation: Assuming you’ve got an AT&T one rather than a pricey unlocked unit, it’s a costly phone to take on international trips. I’m on my way to Malta at the moment and have signed up temporarily for AT&T’s discounted global roaming rates and 20MB of international data access, but it’s still more expensive than buying the cheap local SIM I could pick up if my phone were unlocked. (AT&T has obligingly unlocked other phones I’ve bought from it in the past, but as far as I know,  it won’t free iPhones.)

So I’m slightly jealous of a new Qik service called Qik Roam, which is designed to control the cost of using the service and other Internet access, as well as making calls, while you’re trotting the globe.  Offered in partnership with a company called Cubic Telecom, Qik Roam gives you a SIM you can use for discounted calls and data in over 160 countries.  It makes perfect sense for data-intensive tasks like video streaming. And I can’t use it with my locked phone.

Out of curiosity, I used Qik Roam’s online calculator to do the math on whether the service would have saved me money in Malta versus AT&T’s rates–a moot point, but an interesting one. I discovered, first of all, that the extra $3.99 I’m paying this month for discounted international roaming is money down the drain:  Calls from Malta appear to be $2.29 a minute whether you’ve signed up for discounted roaming or not. But Qik’s rate for calls from Malta back to the U.S. is a much more affordable $1.22.

As for data, assuming I’m understanding the rates properly–never a given with wireless phone costs–Qik’s rate of $2.49 per 100KB is much, much cheaper than what I’d owe AT&T if I hadn’t signed up for 20MB  of international data. But it’s about what I am paying via AT&T, and AT&T might be cheaper if I purchased a large enough chunk of data. The cost comparison presumably varies meaningfully depending on who your carrier is and where you’re traveling to.

Another thing I just learned, maybe: The AT&T page for Malta seems to suggest that it may not have 3G data at all. I’ll let you know once I get there.

One lesson about international travel with phones that can’t be repeated enough: Don’t take your phone out  of the country without making some provision for avoiding paying undiscounted roaming data rates. One day I’ll tell you about the $900 bill I got when I surfed up a storm via my phone in an English village, and why I narrowly escaped having to pay most of it…


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Jay Says:

    I travel quiet a bit on business and i find the cheapest way to get voice and data while in a foreign country is to purchase a local pre-paid SIM card. For example, in Germany you can get a “Fonic” prepay SIM for EUR 10 which will get you € 24ct per MB of data and €9ct per minute to any EU country plus US and Canada. You can get comparable rates in most other countries. Surely much much cheaper than ATTs int. data plan !

    You can get a detailed list of pre-pay SIM cards and rates from :


    Sure, you’ll need to have a SIM unlocked iPhone but that’s not a huge hurdle these days. (yellowsnow or piggy back sim cards like turbosim or gevet)

    Change the voicemail greeting on your US phone # and let callers know you can be reached on the # of your new prepaid card and you’re set.

  2. DaveZatz Says:

    Qik doesn’t seem t know what kind of company they want to be. To the topic at hand, with Skype (WiFi) now available on the iPhone, I suspect it’ll handle the majority of my outgoing call needs from hotel lobbies.

  3. Harry McCracken Says:

    I’ll probably Skype it from my iPhone here in Malta, too. Although I’m also being careful about Wi-Fi usage–the hotel wants $40 for 10 hours of usage, versus $10 or $15 (or sometimes $0) for 24 hours in the U.S.


  4. Alanya Travel Guide Says:

    I was searching about this issue everywhere,I was really curious about this…Really big thanks.I am thinking for a long time travel, i guess i ll choose a relax place, coz im really tired.I need some silent shores 🙂

  5. David Says:

    If you are only concerned about making calls thru WiFi, you should think of http://www.roamAside.com. They have great rates so far (0.3¢ for Canada). To avoid roaming charges, it is the solution I will use on my next trip for sure.