With airfares now being more affordable than ever before, the world is becoming increasingly accessible. But as the world gets closer, staying connected while abroad remains quite expensive; Internet connectivity is more of a necessity, and is genuinely useful when travelling.
While we were away on two separate assignments, Travel Recommends, a new service that promises highly affordable mobile WiFi devices, offered us the chance to test them out. The first assignment was in Taipei for Computex 2016, where my colleague Andrew used it as his only Internet access point, and the next assignment was in San Francisco, for Lenovo Tech World.
How did Travel Recommends fare in both assignments?
Taipei – Computex 2016
Back when we flew to Taiwan for Computex 2016, my colleagues immediately bought local SIM cards the moment each of them arrived at the airport. As tech journalists, we simply cannot live without data.
I, on the other hand, had my Travel Recommends Pocket WiFi already in my bag and activated the moment I landed. The company couriered the device (including the charger and cable, as well as a power bank) the day before our flight, which was very convenient. I could also pick it up from the Travel Recommends kiosk at the Departures hall at KLIA (where I can also return the device after the trip).
My past experience with using a pocket WiFi wasn’t very pleasant; battery life was a huge issue. To my surprise, however, the pocket WiFi unit I used in Taiwan managed to last all day long, usually hitting 10 hours of constant connection to my phone and several hours on my laptop. On days where I was only using my phone, the pocket WiFi eked out a good 12 hours of use, which was pretty great.
Anyone who has been to Taiwan can attest to the very pleasant user experience of its mobile networks, and the same applies to Travel Recommends’ pocket WiFi. Throughout my time in Taiwan, I honestly don’t recall having any intermittent connectivity: it’s almost always connected wherever I am, even when I was taking the underground train. The speeds were great too; the wide 4G coverage in Taipei is consistently fast.
There were instances when my laptop could not connect to it, but a simple reboot of the pocket WiFi fixed the issue. It only happened once, and for the rest of my stay it didn’t happen again, so it is likely a minor issue. In all, I had a very pleasant experience using the Travel Recommends pocket WiFi device.
San Francisco – Lenovo Tech World 2016
While Andrew had a great time using the Travel Recommends pocket WiFi in Taipei, my experience in San Francisco was slightly marred by a few issues.
For starters, the pocket WiFi I received required me to “purchase” a data pass every 24 hours. Surprisingly, this pocket WiFi is actually a device from Skyroam, which probably means Travel Recommends has a leasing agreement with Skyroam.
Next was connectivity. I’m not sure why, but my maximum connection throughout my week and a half there was stuck at HSDPA or 3G+. Not only was there a lack of 4G connection, the network provider also seems to have issues in specific areas in the city, dropping right out of coverage and leaving me completely in the dark until I moved a few blocks. It happens even when I was walking in the streets, which means the issue lies with the network provider and not the pocket WiFi itself.
There was a 500MB daily fair usage policy for US pocket WiFi devices before my connection speeds would be throttled. I was expecting to hit that limit on at least a few days I was there, but surprisingly even on days where I hit over 600MB, I did not experience any throttling.
That said, the battery life of the pocket WiFi device was pretty solid. I was able to go about 10 hours at a time in between charges, which was just about right when I’d be back to my room.
Our two assignments using Travel Recommends as our sole Internet provider seems to be largely positive. In Taipei the connection was fantastic, and with “true” unlimited data quota. In San Francisco, where the mobile network isn’t as advanced as in some Asian cities, the difference was noticeable.
On the other hand, the pocket WiFi devices provided are also different depending on which country you are heading to. Both devices presented to us were very compact (they fit into our slim fit jeans pocket), had great battery life, and usually remained cool even with multiple devices connected.
And we haven’t yet discussed the best part: price. Travel Recommends had the lowest rental rates we’ve seen so far on pocket WiFi devices. Daily rates go as low as RM9 per day up to RM26, which are both still significantly lower than how much one would need to fork out for data roaming charges. The connection can be shared too, which increases the savings if you travel in a group.
With so much competition in this space, Travel Recommends is offering surprisingly low rates for a convenient service. There’s a well thought-out customer service, with a strategically-located kiosk and even live chat on its website. Plus, the pocket WiFi devices themselves are of high quality with all-day-long battery life.
Check it out for yourself the next time you plan your holiday overseas. Head on to the official website for more information, and more importantly, current promotions.
Disclosure: This article was sponsored by Travel Recommends.