I first started travelling when a postcard was the main communication with my friends and family. Now wifi is more important to me than almost anything. My banking, travel plans, communication are all based on having access to the internet. That is not always easy. Ever had any of these scenarios?:
- The advertised free wi-fi at the hotel turns out to be only on the 9th floor and you can only get a room on the 26th
- The Airbnb’s free wi-fi has the speed of a sloth and the reliability of the same (no offence to sloths).
- You rock up to the resort and find they have a package that allows 200 meg for $10 or unlimited for $29.95 a day.
- Spending 20 minutes trying to log onto the free wi-fi at the airport
- Not wanting to access a public network because of security risks with banking, passwords and email
This changed for me recently with the kind gift from the people at Skyroam of a Solis WiFi and Power bank with 15 days of free wi-fi in return for road testing and reviewing the unit. NB I also receive a commission from anyone who purchases a unit using this special code: WILDTRAVEL.
The kit comes with:
- a bright orange round unit (cannot be lost ) that fits into the palm of my hand. It is about 12cm (5″ in diameter) and 3cm thick (1.2″). It weighs less than half a kilo (a US pound).
- a charging cord for the unit
- an adapter to allow one to plug a USB charging cable for a phone
- easy to read and digest instructions
There were three things I focussed on with the unit:
- Ease of use
Let me address each of these.
1. Ease of Use
I am very good with IT and electronics and know that compared to most of my peers, I adapt to technology fast. Even so I had some trepidation with this unit. These concerns were completely unfounded. Solaris really have built this to work immediately. I was astounded.
In go the batteries. Some people have complained that opening the battery compartment is an effort. I had no issues.
The device switches on using a single switch on the side. There is a second switch on the top of the unit which is used to connect to the wi-fi. There is a single port on the opposite of the on-off switch which is where I plugged my phone in.
You can link up to five gadgets to the unit. We ran one iPad, two phones and two laptops off it as a peak test and they all worked smoothly. Through Japan, we ran four devices off it every day.
When you open your browser, the Skyroam Solis will open up to a simple login page where you enter the username and password provided. NB You cannot change either.
Your account page as seen below on my phone and computer:
You can buy as many day passes as you want. They do not need to be used consecutively.
My first tests were in Australia. The system connected perfectly at my house and then I took it travelling to other cities and a regional area in Australia. Then it was off to the international airport with it for the system operates in over 100 countries.
On landing in Hong Kong when the airline told us we could switch on our phones, I switched on my Solaris. Seconds later it connected and I selected the day pass for that day on my phone. Before we reached the gate I was using whats app to send messages and Facetime to make a call. That was outstanding.
It has now travelled with me to five countries. I have not had to try and buy a sim or connect using a foreign language. One of my challenges previously has been connecting using unfamiliar wi-fi systems. Try using wi-fi in Thailand with only Thai characters or in Jordan with only Arabic instructions! Skyroam eliminates all of that!
Each 24-hour day pass provided access to the fastest network globally (HSPA+) with speeds up to a 3G/4G hybrid. I connected in all of the following spots with absolutely no issue:
- Australia: Houses, offices and public transit in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and a regional area
- Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur
- Hong Kong
- Thailand: I used it in apartments, on buses, in cars and taxis and on the underground in Bangkok and through rural areas on both train and bus
- Japan: Hiroshima, Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka and Tokyo on subways, buses, trams, regular trains, the Shinkansen High-Speed train and on a ferry
There were a couple of spots where the signal was hard to find. Walking a few metres resolved that. Speeds were good and adequate for watching videos, Whatsapping, Facetiming, blogging, Facebooking, Skype calls and Tweeting.
The Solis Power Bank has 6,000 mAh battery which I used to charge my phone a couple of times. It charges very slowly When walking around a city, it was a good resource to keep the phone fully charged. The battery itself apparently lasts for 16 hours but I never ran out. I did switch it off periodically through the day and plugged it over lunchtimes when I could find a power outlet. I also fully charged it overnight.
I did not plan a drop test but I did drop the Powerbank on a floor from my briefcase. It didn’t bounce but the case did not crack and it has kept on working!
Adding extra day passes is easy. It means you only have to worry about one payment centre instead of paying out different amounts through different companies in different locales.
One of the most significant features is security. It reduces the possibility that someone can eavesdrop on your private information. I know some people do their online banking on public wifi (FOOLS!). Being able to access my banking on my devices through a secure network meant a lot to me
There is a limit of 500mb per day at which point speeds are slowed to 2.5G. You can continue using it but the speed will be very slow. Even with no restraint on my part, I did not reach the point of having slow internet.
The day passes are literally 24 hours. A couple of times, I could not work out why my wifi was no longer working. This was because I had run out of day pass. It is not a big deal to choose a new one but the Solis does not warn you that the day pass is coming to an end. You can monitor your usage by leaving the Solaris website open in your browser.
I have been living in fear of losing the included USB-C adaptor! That needs a rethink.
I think if you are buying more than one day pass, there should be a discount. For example, one day pass for $US9 and five day passes for $US42 and ten day passes for $81 etc etc
If you are relying on Skyroam for a long trip eg seven or more days in the one place then it becomes very expensive. Eg for a seven-day trip the cost for internet becomes $US63 for wi-fi. Anything over four days, I would try to invest in a local sim. But as part of a package of options, it is a useful tool especially if I am country hopping with a couple of days in different countries. I also know the next time a hotel charges me 19 pounds ($USD25) for wi-fi, out will come my Solis! NB If a group of people are travelling together, the cost equation is incredibly attractive. $US9 a day becomes less than $2 a person per day for a chunk of internet access.
The Skyroam team have thought through how to solve every wi-fi issue I can think of. The Solis is a simple easy to use robust device that works seamlessly country to country with only one payment point is a dream.
I will personally rely on the Solis as part of a portfolio of solutions which will include a worldwide sim and a local sim for some countries.
Skyroam Solis retails for $149.99 with global day passes offered (as mentioned) at $9.00 per 24 hours. Using this code: WILDTRAVEL will earn you a 10% discount and a free day pass. NB I receive 10% commission.
Where Skyroam Solis works:
AFRICA: Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa
AMERICAS: Argentina, Aruba, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saipan, Turks & Caicos Island, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela
ASIA: Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam
EUROPE: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican
MIDDLE EAST: Israel, Qatar, Turkey
PACIFIC: Australia, Christmas Island, Fiji, Guam, New Zealand