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Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card vs Data Roaming | Comparison

two woman looking at their smartphones

You booked your airplane ticket for an amazing holiday coming up abroad. All you are looking for now is mobile internet at your destination. Free WiFi’s can be a challenge to find, not very reliable and often it is only freemium (buy a coffee to get free WiFi).
Most travelers will get a Pocket WiFi or a SIM Card for a short-term holiday. What are the differences and what is the right fit for you?

The Pros & Cons Of Mobile Internet Solutions

Pocket WiFi

One of the greatest advantages of a Pocket WiFi (also called portable wifi hotspot) is that it is straightforward and simple to use. You turn the switch on and your smartphone/tablet/laptop can connect to it.
 
Portable WiFi devices are transported ready-to-use straight out of the box and support any wifi devices. Providers of a Pocket WiFi offer up to 1GB of data per day! After the daily usage is spent, the speed will be reduced so you still have access to all important messages & emails.
 
Pocket WiFi’s have a wide coverage and are capable to be used in many different countries all around the world. Nonetheless, you’ll have to watch the battery life and keep your Pocket WiFi charged to avoid bad surprises. Carry an extra power bank with you to be on the safe side.
 
Another big advantage is that you do not need to worry about your smartphone being locked or unlocked. SIM Cards need an unlocked device to be fully functional. Another great plus point is that you can share your internet with several devices at the same time.
 
Are friends or family coming over to visit you on your trip? No problem for a Pocket WiFi – Usually, you can share the internet with up to 5 devices.
 
The biggest problem may be that you have to worry about another device that must be charged overnight. Many travelers nowadays have at least a smartphone, laptop and/or a tablet.

SIM Card

Do you know if your smartphone is unlocked? Well, you need to know if you want to use SIM Cards abroad. SIM Cards only work with compatible devices that are unlocked.
 
Smartphones are usually locked to a particular cell phone carrier and will not unlock it for you unless your contract has finished or you are willing to pay an extra fee for it.
 
Additionally, your phone must be able to connect to the local network with its specifications. Like the Pocket WiFi, SIM Cards have a high speed but depending on the carrier sometimes lack coverage in rural areas, unlike a Pocket WiFi that makes use of many different providers.
 
Should you get a local SIM Card or a travel SIM Card? Well, it depends on the other choices. There are situations where a local SIM Card might be the best bet whereas in other situation a travel SIM Card will have its advantages.
 
Travel SIM Cards are great if you are planning to visit several countries in a short period of time. You don’t need to buy new SIM Cards every single time you enter a different country.
 
There are packages out there already that even work for whole Europe. Some even offer free international calls and texts messages. Depending on your travel plans, a travel SIM Card can be cheaper than Data Roaming but more expensive than a local SIM Card.
 
There are scenarios, where the travel SIM Card will be the cheapest option available.
infographic about a comparison between pocket wifi vs sim card

Quick Comparison of Pocket WiFi vs SIM Cards

 

Data Roaming

Out of all available options, data roaming is the most convenient one. You do nothing but just simply take your phone abroad and voila – it is working.
 
International roaming plans allow you to use mobile data in most countries all around the world. The very big downside is that you only get a very low data allowance for a lot of cash. It may be the most convenient options, but it is also the most expensive one.
 
That was a quick overview of the pros & cons of a Pocket WiFi vs SIM Card and even data roaming. What is the right choice now for you?
You have used SIM Cards already and therefore it might be a reasonable choice to stick with those. You don’t need to turn on and off a SIM Card unlike a Pocket WiFi to save its battery.
 
A SIM Card just plugs perfectly into any devices that supports SIM Cards. Nonetheless, you must make sure that your device is unlocked and ready to use for any SIM Cards abroad.
 

Additionally, you need to change a few core settings on your phone such as the Access Point Name. The APN is used so that the carrier knows what type of network connection will be created for your device, which security method it should use and which IP address will be assigned to it

Incorrect APN settings will not let you use the mobile internet network. A Pocket WiFi instead only needs to be turned on and it is ready to use. No hassling around with the phone settings to connect to the internet.

 

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As mentioned before, in many countries the SIM Cards work perfectly fine with most carriers in big cities but as soon as you enter rural areas, you might encounter the problem that the network signal strength is lacking and you can connect to the internet at all.
 
Pocket WiFi’s have a better coverage there, at least more reliable. Another point to consider is that you need to know how many devices you want to connect to it.
 
A Pocket WiFi can be much more cost – efficient if you are using it with several devices rather than getting several pre-paid SIM cards for each device. Imaging setting up each device so it is ready to use the SIM Cards and wondering if it is unlocked or not.
 
Data roaming might be plausible only if you are in a rush and have to time to do your research about Pocket WiFi’s or SIM Cards. Maybe you are only staying for a couple of days abroad. In that case, data roaming might be the best choice.
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