If you travel a lot around the globe, a handy mobile hotspot gadget like the GlocalMe U2 would be a handy companion.
Not just any Wi-Fi gizmo, mind you, but one that doesn’t require a SIM card and can conveniently hook you up in various countries without the hassle of re-configuration.
The gadget itself looks like a sleek MiFi device that lets you link up to a local mobile network and share a connection via Wi-Fi with a travelling party. However, the U2 offers a lot more.
The main selling point is the “cloud SIM” technology that GlocalMe, a Hong Kong-based company, uses to offer international data roaming packages without the need for a physical SIM card.
You can buy unlimited data for 58 countries for an annual fee of 355 euros (S$551), which is a bargain if you’re running a small company that has people travelling during different times of a year.
There are also country packages, say, a 1GB offering for only 5 euros in China – a steal – that’s valid for 30 days. For Hong Kong or Japan, it’s 7 euros and you can also bundle three countries – China, Japan and South Korea for the same price.
For also 7 euros, I can buy a seven-country Western Europe pass as well. Or just pick a single country and buy what I want. The idea is endless flexibility.
I tried out the service when I was travelling in Thailand a couple of weeks ago. True to its claim, the GlocalMe U2 gadget connects up to a local mobile network without any fuss. I was quickly able to get online with my Android phone, and minutes later, the rest of my family’s phones and tablets.
I can’t say if the connection was faster than the data roaming link I had previously been using via my telco, but the GlocalMe service was stable and solid throughout a drive from a resort in Koh Samui to the local airport.
The U2 doesn’t have a screen, but you probably don’t need it once you have got the GlocalMe app on your phone. Here, you can your balance and account, and check out the battery level on the U2 device as well. If there’s a problem, you can connect to the U2 via its IP address, like on your home router.
I’m happy to say the modest 3,500mAh power pack works well too. After a good many hours on it during a trip in Thailand, the battery meter still stood at more than 60 per cent. Sure beats bringing a spare Android phone on a holiday to use as a mobile hotspot, as I did last year on holiday in Japan.
Still, these services are not free to use. You still have to turn them on. For M1, the fee is S$10 if you travel to a popular destination like Australia, Hong Kong or Malaysia. The fee goes up to S$25 for countries such as Japan, China or Britain.
And for a recent work trip to Belgium, I had to buy a Euro passport for S$50, even though I didn’t need to travel to the other 27 countries that the offer extends to. Perhaps Belgium is not a popular destination for M1 customers.
In this case, the GlocalMe service would have helped. A 1GB package, enough for the five days I was in Belgium, costs 12 euros (S$18), less than half the fee I paid M1.
That’s not to mention that the U2 looks sleek as well. I tried out a gold-coloured sample, but you can also choose the darker one on Amazon.
And yes, if you do find a cheaper local SIM, you can slot in two of them inside as well to turn the gadget into a regular MiFi device. That makes the price a no-brainer, if you’re looking for such a gadget.
Perhaps the only thing that GlocalMe should improve on is the manual. With half the footprint of a business card, it looks tiny and insignificant. But don’t throw it away.
Inside, you’ll learn to pull apart the U2 to discover the all-important Wi-Fi password to hook up your devices. Get past this one-time annoyance and the GlocalMe U2 should be a great device to bring along on your travels.
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