Imagine having a SIM card with you from the get-go on your next vacation, in an exotic location. One that you can use to let you family know via WhatsApp that you have safely arrived. Then during that awesome lunch at a picturesque locale, you decide to send your friends a selfie through Facebook Messenger. All this done without having to scurry around shop after shop, looking for a local SIM card, or incurring ridiculously expensive roaming charges when you reach home.
Meet ChatSim. ChatSim is the brainchild of Italian technopreneur Manuel Zanella. It started life as WhatSim on 21st January 2015. When it was first launched, it was introduced as a SIM card for exclusive use with WhatsApp with the premise of enabling users to use the app in around 150 countries with compatibility to more than 400 telco operators. Users will only have to pay a yearly fee for the SIM card and to use the service, and without data limitations. A year on, as of their first anniversary on 21st January 2016, they have sold over 150,000 SIM cards.
From A Single App To 10
In essence, ChatSim is the evolution of WhatSim. It still costs the same at €10 per year for the service, on top of the SIM card which will set you back another €10. While WhatSim’s sole purpose was to a single app, ChatSim lets you connect to ten apps. The list includes; LINE, Imo, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Telegram, BBM, QQ, Kakao Talk, Hike, and of course, WhatsApp.
Multimedia At A Cost
The base ChatSim Unlimited plan gives you the ability to send an unlimited amount of text messages and emojis across all supported apps. However, if you would like to make voice or video calls through these apps, or send multimedia messages such as audio, photos, and videos, you will have to purchase the separate Multimedia Recharge.
Their multimedia plans comes in three different tiers, with the cheapest option coming in at an additional €10 for 2000 Credits. This gives you approximately 200 photos, or 40 videos to send, or 80 minutes of call time. You can also check out the two other tiers, which comes at a more premium price point, in the image below.
Multimedia data consumption rates also differ among the different zones of countries which are pre-determined by ChatSim. Take a look at the image below to find out how much credits it will cost you the next you time you want to send that awesome holiday photo to your friends while using ChatSim.
ChatSim has since expanded coverage to more than 150 countries. Expect to see the several telco operators from more popular destinations, while there will at least be one representing each country. For visitors to sunny Singapore, only Singtel is the supported carrier.
A User’s Perspective
Late last year Mr Sherwin Loh, Deputy Editor at The Straits Times, had a chance to try out ChatSim. While it mostly works as advertised, there were still some caveats. He has some interesting findings to share about its actual usage.
1. Not That Unlimited After All
The SIM card you receive will only be pre-loaded with 5MB of data out of the box, coming to an average of roughly 1,000 text messages. Exceed and your messaging experience gets slowed down. Go overboard with the data use, and it deactivates your SIM card.
2. Data Leakages
Modern smartphones often makes use of background data processes to run the OS (Operating System) and applications. ChatSim is supposedly able to, in theory, at least cut off access to its data by non-instant messaging applications, stopping “unintentional and undesired traffic” by up to 90%.
Even then, the OS and applications continue to chew up on background data making that 5MB an easy amount use up.
3. Good But Spotty Coverage
Lastly, he mentioned that while traveling across the causeway it seemed to seamlessly transition the border,
“The service itself worked very well. I did not have an issue connecting to networks in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.“
However, the various applications seem to be unable to send push notifications on the fly as messages come in.
“My only beef was that sometimes the phone failed to send notifications when messages came in. When I noticed that I hadn’t received any WhatsApp messages in an hour, I went to the app, only to have over 50 messages load at the same time.”
So Should You Order One?
ChatSim is certainly an enticing thing to have while traveling, but it is perceived as something only for the most ardent users of instant messaging. Frequent travelers who spend most of the year outside of their home country may covet these more than those who go on holiday once or twice a year.
For the to-be holidaymakers, the process of getting a local SIM card is almost a ritual of sorts these day once you touch down at an airport. There’s also the additional benefit of being to openly use Facebook and Instagram, with the bigger data limit at your disposal, to share all your enviable photos and videos with all your followers. Of course, there’s also the option of getting an overseas WiFi router, such as the ones provided by Changi Recommends, which lets you connect instantly to the internet when you touch down at your destination.
Image Credits: Chatsim