Category — Technology
There’s always a new deal in Italy, and prepaid phone plans change all the time. So, it’s time to update the details on my step-by-step guide to buying a smartphone SIM and pay-as-you-go plan in Italy.
The how-to instructions remain the same (see that previous post for easy-to-follow instructions): it’s simple to get connected in Italy, and much cheaper to use your smartphone (or even a regular phone) on a local network. Roaming rates for voice and text messages have come down within the EU, but that doesn’t help much if you are arriving in Italy from outside Europe. And anyway, if you want to use data, you need a local SIM and plan—wherever you are coming from, and whether you are bringing your own unlocked phone or carrying a MiFi.
Aside from the prices, the other big change since 2012 is the arrival of 4G (or LTE) data speeds. I was all over Italy last month and had a chance to test out one of the networks “in the wild”.
The best data deals on each of the main Italian networks are below the fold.
May 16, 2013 2 Comments
Super-fast Internet, 4G or LTE, arrived in Italy late in 2012. When I was there last month, I had my first chance to test it out “in the wild”.
I made a few coverage observations and occasional speed tests, using my iPhone 5 and 4G data with Vodafone—who have been rolling out 4G steadily across Italy’s major cities. These tests are not scientific and make no claims to be. But, to give you an idea of what to expect, here’s what I found on my travels:
- In theory, Vodafone’s 4G network can return download speeds of 43 or 70 Mbps. I didn’t get near either of those theoretical maximums, anywhere.
- Coverage in Rome was fast and comprehensive, especially outdoors. Pages were loading instantly. There was a definite “wow” factor.
- Coverage in Naples was also fast (tests averaged around 29 Mbps download speeds), but the narrow streets in the centre made for a patchy 4G signal.
- Coverage in Turin was fast and reliable: I tested at 25 Mbps download, 8 Mbps upload.
- There is no 4G coverage in Florence.
- A test in Milano Centrale station returned a download speed of 14 Mbps. In mitigation, I was under cover and it was rush hour.
- A test in Bologna Centrale station (also inside) returned a download speed of 22 Mbps.
To give you an idea for comparison: 3G data speeds outside my home in London average around 8 Mbps down, 1.5 Mbps up. And I’m pretty happy with that.
It’s currently free to use Vodafone’s 4G network in Italy—or, rather, 4G speeds are included with their current crop of data and all-in plans. After May 31, 2013, 4G will no longer be bundled with those. For 10€ you will be able to make your ricaricabile (prepaid/PAYG plan) 4G-ready by activating the Internet 4G per smartphone option.
Is it worth paying 10€ if you are only touring the country for a week or two? I’m not sure. Voda’s 3G is already reasonably fast; they run a good national network with affordable voice, text and data plans. And 4G geographical coverage is still fairly limited—Vodafone’s 4G/LTE detailed coverage map is kept up to date here. Ultimately, it depends on how much you value an instant (versus a mere “quick”) connection, and how much time you are planning to spend in 4G-enabled cities.
TIM also offers LTE/4G speeds in some Italian cities (notably also excluding Florence). Their coverage map is here, and is a little broader than Voda. TIM already has a 4G add-on for travellers up and running (and it isn’t free…): for 6€ per week, you can prepay for 500 Mb of 4G traffic with the TIM per smartphone 4G option.
[Also cross-posted at SmartphoneTravel.com]
May 14, 2013 1 Comment
That, basically, was the question I tackled for my latest Telegraph column. And I reckon the answer, for anyone who takes photos for fun rather than for a living, is “probably.” Fun, affordable lenses like the Mujjo Fisheye Pro Lens can help you add a bit of creativity to your shooting. Then there are apps like Camera+, which can correct common faults and add some frivolous filters. Read it all…
And there are a few more post-processing apps that had to be cut from the final piece due to space restrictions. I like Photoshop Express (iOS/Android; free). It enables one-tap autocorrection of basics such as red eye and colour balance, or you can play individually with attributes like hue/saturation, tint/temperature and sharpening. Snapseed (iOS/Android; free) has a range of creative functions including tilt-shift effects and focus recentring. It is a Google property, so also integrates seamlessly with Google+, if you share pics there. Free app tadaa (iPhone) has a social element alongside editing tools and filters. Camera360 is nifty on Windows Phone 8 devices—and free. Photoshop Touch (iOS/Android; £2.99) incorporates professional tools from Photoshop’s desktop and tablet software, such as layers. If you take your photography seriously, it is worth the small outlay.
And there are plenty more, for Android and iOS devices anyway.
May 7, 2013 No Comments
Here we go again: an autumn selection of just some of the words that have appeared in the wild with my name attached. Go:
1. A major project has seen the light of day: an eBook aimed at anyone who travels to the USA and wants to take their phone with them. Have you checked the cost of roaming on your home tariff? Ouch. Check out The Smart Phone Traveller’s Guide to the USA if you want to know how to save yourself a fortune. And the book only costs £2/$3. More in this new series are in the pipeline… and I’m also looking for expert local authors to research and co-write with. Drop me a line if you’re interested in discussing.
2. I was thrilled to write my first piece for National Geographic Traveller magazine. My tech feature covered how the social graph is changing the way we travel. More for my favourite travel glossy coming soon.
3. My technology advice column for the Telegraph continues. Recent editions have covered whether the iPhone 5 is the best smartphone for travellers and how to keep your digital information safe when you are travelling. A couple more are due to run before Xmas.
4. I’ve written stacks more answers to readers’ questions on London, for the Telegraph‘s In The Know microsite. What are London’s oddest street names? Which are London’s best literary museums? Looking for the best places to buy graphic novels, a kilt, or Lomo gear? Maybe you want to know where to eat offal in a restaurant or whether Parliament is haunted by creatures more ghoulish even than a modern-day politician or how to see (and re-create) the Thames views that Monet painted. And so on.
6. I offered up 5 Things You Don’t Know About London, with pretty pictures, for Frommers.com.
7. Three guidebooks I co-authored were published. You can buy Frommer’s London 2013, Frommer’s Italy 2013 and Frommer’s England & the Best of Wales in the usual places. For Italy, I covered Tuscany and Umbria, as well as the planning, background and itinerary chapters. For England and Wales, I looked after London, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, southern Somerset and North Wales. Frommer’s, of course, is now owned by Google. So, what happens next? We shall see…
There is more, and more to come… but that’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by.
November 30, 2012 No Comments
I haven’t been on a plane since 2004. But, I hear, lots of you do, and millions visit the USA every year. Have you checked the price of using your phone there recently? One major UK network charges 90p per minute roaming for local calls within the USA, and £6 per MB for data, or allows travellers to prepay a data bundle of 200 MB for a whopping £120. Another charges £5 per day for up to 25 MB. You could use a few meg just navigating around the corner using Google Maps.
A leading Australian network will charge over $2 per minute for you to make a local call within the USA. Phoning home will cost over $3 per minute from the same operator. Those are per minute.
That’s the bad news. But guess what? You don’t have to swallow that. You can pick up a local SIM for almost (or even literally) nothing. You can instantly prepay for a plan that gives you unlimited calls and texts for a week for $14, and even throws in 50 minutes of calls home for free. From another network, you can buy a gig of data for $25. You get to use your own phone, logged into all your usual services as normal.
It’s all easy… if you know how, and where to look for the best deals. So I teamed up with New Yorker and longtime business journalist, and author of over 20 guides, Stephen Keeling, to show you how. We wrote an eBook, the Smart Phone Traveller’s Guide to the USA. It costs £2 (or $3) for the Kindle.
That’s roughly the cost of a two-minute roaming call home, or of checking Facebook a handful of times. In other words, the book will pay for itself, many, many times over, on an average trip to the USA.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them below. If you enjoyed the book, let me know too.
And you can connect with Donald Strachan on Google+.
November 9, 2012 No Comments
Tourism to Croatia is growing. Fast. You probably know this already.
What you might not know is that EU regulations to limit the roaming charges your home network can levy while you are overseas don’t apply there. (And they never will if you’re visiting from the USA, Canada, Australia, or anywhere else outside the European Union.) Per minute local call charges of around €1 and data at several euros (or pounds, or dollars) per MB aren’t unusual.
So, if you want to travel with a phone or tablet, you need a local SIM card. Calls and browsing will be much cheaper, and it will be free to receive calls on your local Croatian number. Fortunately, SIMs and top-ups are easily available in Croatia—from post offices, gas stations, and supermarkets as well as specialist retailers—and calls and data are cheap if you shop smart. Way cheaper than roaming, for minimal hassle.
The best Croatian prepaid phone SIMs [Read more →]
October 1, 2012 4 Comments
It is said by wise SEO alchemists that a punchy title and a top 10 list are the keys to eternal love (from search engines, anyway). Well, 1 out of 2 isn’t bad, I suppose.
In truth, I didn’t have time to write a proper piece. So, like many a travel journalist, editor, and blogger before me, I’m reaching for the crutch of a quick and dirty toplist. Here are a few of the small noises I’ve created recently:
- I’ve finally got my mugshot on the Telegraph Travel columnists page, and have written for the column recently on fantastic apps for navigating UK public transport, cutting mobile phone costs abroad, and tested to find out which car rental websites find the cheapest deals.
- I wrote an in-depth guide to seeing Tuscany on a tight budget for the Guardian.
- I’ve joined the team of “London experts” for the Telegraph‘s In the Know, answering questions asked by visitors to London including “where can my kids learn about London’s history in a enjoyable way?” and “where is the most reasonably priced glass of bubbly in London?”
- I’ve held the brand new edition of my Florence & Tuscany Day by Day guidebook, published last month, and played with the stunning new iPad app of my latest Great Britain guidebook.
- I’ve gathered the very latest information on data plans for smartphones and iPads for anyone visiting Italy this summer.
- I toured Tuscany to write a short beer-lover’s guide to the region (well, someone had to etc. etc.).
- I selected five things you don’t know about London for Frommers.com.
- I’ve written a short guide to visiting Florence in July for bThere magazine.
- I wrote about Weymouth’s mini-renaissance in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.
- I delivered lots of words for new editions of guidebooks on Europe, London, England & Wales, and Italy.
On which, more soon…
July 17, 2012 No Comments
Last year, I wrote a post about travelling with your smartphone or iPad in Italy. Data roaming is obviously a popular subject, because that post remains the most common point of entry for readers coming via a search engine. The advice is still solid, so you should first skip over there if you’re looking for general tips on buying an Italian SIM card in Italy.
But the pay-as-you-go (i.e. contract-free) plans and prices need updating. So, below the fold are the latest updates as of June 2012. [Note: the updated plans as of May 2013 are here.]
June 12, 2012 69 Comments
Here’s a quick roundup of some of my stuff that’s appeared around the Web (and elsewhere) in the first few months of 2012:
- I’m still co-writing the travel advice Q&A column in the UK’s Sunday Telegraph, covering anything with a tech twist. Recent pieces have covered the best apps for taking skiing with you, the best gadgets, apps, and websites for translating on the fly, and (inevitably) data roaming and SIM cards, in the light of the EU’s new price cap regulations.
- A couple of new co-authored guidebooks have appeared. For the first, Great Britain Day by Day, I wrote two brand new chapters on Wales. I also co-wrote the completely revised new edition of Frommer’s Florence, Tuscany & Umbria Complete. If you’re a journalist or blogger and would like to review either of those, let me know. By the end of 2012, another 4 or 5 titles that I’ve written or co-written are scheduled to appear.
- I’ve also written a number of destination pieces, including: a look at the cultural side of Udine for the Sunday Telegraph; a guide to what to do in Florence in the Spring for b-There magazine; and a tour around Britain’s beer capital (it’s a tough job, but someone’s etc. etc.), for Frommers.com.
April 24, 2012 No Comments
It seems to be time to put the boot in on Groupon. The share price is tanking. Businesses have had bad experiences with the online daily-deals service (though this is hardly new news). Schadenfreude is doing the rounds. Last week I was speaking to a London restaurateur about how she uses the service. And you know what? She is delighted with the results of her two offers. But then:
1. She’s done her maths. She knows that the Groupon voucher breaks even for her, at best. That’s all. There’s no chance she’ll lose money on the deal, but if she wants to make a profit, well, …
2. Not everything you could ever want from an evening in the restaurant is on that voucher. There’s an up-sell/cross-sell strategy in place before anyone walks in the door.
3. She knows when she’s busy, and when she isn’t. There’s no point in her shipping in break-even customers when regulars are fighting for a table. For her, November is a great month to run a Groupon deal. December would be nuts. [Read more →]
November 24, 2011 No Comments