Forgetting To Turn Your Phone Off While Flying Is Pretty Common

Have you ever reached for your phone at the end of a flight to switch it back on and check your messages only to realize you never turned it off in the first place? If so, you’re in good company. Accidentally leaving your digital devices turned on while flying is quite common, according to a new study.

The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the Consumer Electronics Association released a survey showing that close to 30 percent of travelers have forgotten to turn off their phone, ipad, laptop or other device before taking off.When they do actually remember to power down, many passengers don’t actually turn their electronics all the way off. Around 21 percent of fliers put their phones and tablets into “airplane mode” and five percent sometimes shut down their devices, while 59 percent of travelers did as the airlines asked and turned their electronics completely off.

APEX says that 99 percent of adult fliers travel with some sort of portable electronic device and many want to be able to use it during the whole flying process, including takeoff and landing. The group hopes the results of the survey will help persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to loosen the rules regarding use of electronics while flying.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Global X]

Take your landline phone on the road with the netTALK DUO

If your trips regularly include the need to make phone calls back home, then the netTALK DUO phone adapter may be the perfect solution for keeping costs to a minimum.

When plugged into a network port, the netTALK DUO turns you into your own phone company. Best of all, unlike some other pocket sized phone dongles, the netTALK DUO does not require you to keep your PC turned on.

And to make a great product even better – the initial investment of $69.95 includes the adapter and your first year of unlimited phone calls.

Once the first year is up, you can add additional years of unlimited calling for $29.95. The yearly fee also includes a variety of free features, including 411, caller ID, call forwarding, conference calling and extremely competitive international rates. In fact, if you travel abroad with the netTALK DUO, it may even be cheaper to make a local call than use the phones in that country!

Travelers can carry a small landline phone, or make calls using their computer, plus once you have a netTALK account, you can also make calls using their iPhone, Android or Blackberry applications.

To order yourself a netTALK DUO, or to learn more about its various features, check out netTalk.com. We’ll also have a full review later this week.

AT&T works on travel transparency

iPhone abroadHave AT&T? Going somewhere out of the continental United States? Click here to find out exactly what it’ll cost you.

Phone companies have a filthy habit of not being terribly transparent with their mobile plans or landlines, i.e. you have all these fees and taxes you don’t expect on your bill, you aren’t sure what roaming costs and whether you’re doing it, and you never seem to know what you’re going to be charged for calling a random foreign country — or calling from a random foreign country.

I don’t have AT&T and sometimes I send text messages to Norway, and I swear it’s cost me something different every time. It bet costs my friend nothing to text back — it’s probably included in her insurance (darn Norwegians have it so good). (I’m just kidding.)

In any case, AT&T has taken some guesswork out of travel fees. You can visit their site and build yourself a whole itinerary of countries in which you’ll be using one of their phones and specify which phone, or even select the phone you are considering getting and the countries you’re going to. The site will immediately tell you whether or not they have coverage in that country for voice and/or data — they have voice coverage in over 215 countries and data in over 170, which is more than anybody else. They also have voice and data on over 130 cruise ships and 3G in 80 countries.

So, they tell you whether or not voice and data are available, and then you can click a little “details” button and they’ll tell you how much it’s gonna cost to communicate there. Straight up. That’s darn near enough to make me pay the $200 to get out of my current contract. You can also pay AT&T $5.99 per month for their World Traveler plan, which provides discounts on all those little premiums. If you travel a lot, that’ll save you bank.

Here are some additional tips for saving money when traveling abroad no matter who your carrier is:

  • Turn off your data roaming.
  • Use WiFi instead of 3G, GPRS, or EDGE when possible
  • Turn off the auto-check e-mail function
  • Reset your usage tracker to 0 when you get there so you’ll know what you’re spending
  • Don’t go downloading photos and watching YouTube, fool — it’s gonna cost you!

They’ve got international data plans if you need your YouTube fix. Seriously, AT&T wants you to travel. So: www.att.com/travelguide. It’s totally worth your while — and that’s a hint to step it up, other mobile service providers!

SkyMall Monday: Fun Friends Phone Covers

Technology keeps getting smaller and smaller. Televisions are ultra-thin, netbooks let people compute on the go, and, of course, cell phones have gotten downright minuscule. But not all small things are cute. Just ask my ex-girlfriends. Zing! I kid. Seriously, though, we all want our gadgets to convenient and cool-looking. That’s why I’ve clean the SkyMall Monday headquarters with Hello Kitty technology. But when it comes to phones, the only way to jazz them up are with cases. And most cases are drab and practical. Who wants a boring leather case that only douchebags clip to their belts? Other than douchebags, I mean. No, we want some attractive yet pragmatic cell phone cases that show the world that we’re awesome. That’s why everyone needs to pick up a Fun Friends Phone Cover.

Suitable for business and leisure use, the Fun Friends Phone Cover not only protects your phone but will elicit envy from everyone in a 100-foot radius of you. Imagine how easy it will be to find your phone in your purse once it’s enrobed inside that dog (that is a dog and not a guinea pig, right?). If that ambiguous animal isn’t right for you, there are plenty of styles to choose from ranging from Bettie to Larry to Puss Puss.

In case you’re having doubts about why you need a Fun Friends Phone Cover, let’s take a look at the product description for Cheeser:

Cheeser is cute our grey mouse with a white tummy and big ears that will help give your cell phone attitude, while also protecting it from damage.

First of all, I applaud their transpositioning of words. Secondly, I’ve always bemoaned my cell phone’s lack of attitude and had long ago written it off as a bit of a dweeb. But now my phone can have more attitude than Fonzie. And for those of you with bar-style phones, rest assured that there are some Fun Friends Phone Covers for you, too.

Now you’ll be hip and happenin’, and that’s really why we buy gadgets. And you’ll have plenty of friends. Or at least one. A Fun Friend. And that’s all you need, right? RIGHT?!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

The top 10 ways to make phone calls when you are abroad

Welcome to the Gadling top 10 ways to make phone calls when you are abroad. This top 10 list will take a quick glance at 10 ways you can save on keeping in touch with people back home. It’s a well known fact that international calls are quite the racket, and making long calls back home can severely deplete your vacation spending money. Thankfully, technology has opened up all kinds of ways to save on your calls, and I’ll list the 10 that I think are the most important.

Your own phone

The most common way to make phone calls back home when you are abroad is of course to use your own phone with your own plan.

This is all fine and dandy if you only plan to call someone to let them know you arrived safely, but if you plan to keep in touch every time you see a cute giraffe walking down the street you’ll owe your mobile operator quite a lot of money once you arrive back home.

Before you start splurging on the newest technology, decide how often you plan to make a call, and compare the price of those calls with what you’d plan to spend on a nifty new way of making calls. If you only plan to make 20 minutes of calls back home ($20), then spending $50 on a new prepaid card may not be the best solution.
Prepaid mobile phone cards

When it comes to making cheaper mobile calls abroad, the prepaid SIM card is usually the first solution people think of. Prepaid SIM cards are more popular abroad than they are in the US, and you’ll usually be able to find a prepaid SIM card at any store, including kiosks at the airport.

A SIM card is the small chip you slide inside your phone to let your phone know who you are, and what your mobile number is. SIM cards are primarily used in the US by T-Mobile and AT&T (the GSM operators). Verizon and Sprint use a different system, but to make things complicated, they DO have some phones that are GSM compatible, and therefore use a SIM card.

One thing to keep in mind with any SIM card that takes the place of your regular SIM, is that your mobile phone has to be unlocked. You will need to contact your mobile operator to get your phone unlocked and not everyone will be eligible for a free unlock.

Before you consider using a prepaid sim card, it pays to research the rates of the different international operators. The differences in prices of calls back to the US can be staggering. A fantastic resource of all prepaid operators around the world is prepaidgsm.net. It may take 20 minutes to pick the cheapest mobile operator at your destination, but that time could easily save you $100.

For example; if you purchase a Vodafone prepaid sim card in the Netherlands, your standard rate for calls to the US is €0.75 per minute.If you purchased a KPN Mobile sim card, the rate is a whopping €1.45 per minute. With rates like that you’d be better off using your US phone instead.

Where? Anywhere prepaid mobile phone cards are sold
Price? “SIM Only” starter packs usually cost about $20, packs with a SIM card and a phone start around $40

Global roaming phone cards

Global roaming phone cards are not the same as prepaid phone cards – the technology behind them is the same, but these new cards are often issued out of countries with cheaper roaming rates, which allow you to carry the cheaper plan along with you, no matter where in the world you end up. One of the most popular cards on the market at the moment is the MAXroam sim card, offered by Cubic Telecom in Ireland (don’t worry, they’ll gladly ship to the US). The MAXroam sim card replaces the sim card in your current GSM based phone.

The rates on these cards are substantially lower than the rate offered by your own mobile operator. Per-minute rates from most European countries back home to the US are about $0.30.

Of course, you often can sometimes get even cheaper rates with a normal prepaid sim card, but the low rates on these global roaming cards means you won’t have to buy a new prepaid pack in every country you visit.

Another great advantage of these global phone cards is the ability to assign a normal US based number to them, which means you can give your friends and family an affordable way of contacting you when you are abroad, without them having to call an international number.

Where? Research global roaming cards at Prepaidgsm.net
Price? Starts at around $20

MagicJack

MagicJack is a tricky one; they offer a quality product, but cheapen the brand with horrible early morning infomercials and a never ending “buy within the next 4 hours” hard sell.

MagicJack is a $30 USB stick for your PC that provides unlimited local and long distance US calls. You will have to bring your laptop along with you if you want to make a call. Magicjack comes with a local US number, which means your friends and family won’t have to call a foreign number.

MagicJack also offers cheap international calls. I’ve been using MagicJack for some time now, and it’s never let me down. Of course, you will need to be connected to the Internet to get a dial tone. Calls can be made with a regular analogue phone, or by using a headset plugged into your PC.

Where? www.magicjack.com
Price? $39.99 (includes the MagicJack dongle and 1 year unlimited local and long distance phone calls)

Blackberry from T-Mobile

I’ve written about this option before, so I won’t go into too many details. The Blackberry Curve from T-Mobile (along with several other T-Mobile Blackberry smartphones with Wi-Fi) have the ability to roam onto Wi-Fi instead of a foreign mobile network. As long as you can get online, you’ll be able to make and receive phone calls. The advantage of this, is that as far as T-Mobile is concerned, you are “at home”, and will be able to take advantage of the local US rates or minutes included in your plan.

Of course, once you leave the Wi-Fi coverage, you are back on the expensive cellular network. T-Mobile is also the cheapest option for international data because they offer a $20 Blackberry flat-rate and unlimited plan for any email sent or received when abroad.

Where? T-Mobile.com or any T-Mobile authorized dealer
Price? From as little as free on a 2 year agreement + monthly service charges

Skype

Skype is one of the most popular Internet calling applications on the market. It provides free Skype-to-Skype calls, as well as fee based calls to landlines and mobile phones. Skype is available for your computer, as well as several brands of mobile phones, and even on portable devices like the Sony Playstation Portable.

To make a Skype call when you are abroad, you’ll of course need Internet access.

Where? Skype.com
Price? Free Skype-to-Skype calls, $2.95/month for unlimited calls to US based phone numbers

Mobile phone add-on plan

Before you leave, be sure to call your mobile operator. You’ll want to do this for 2 reasons; first to make sure you are allowed to roam abroad, and second to ask whether
they have any international calling add-on plans.

These add-on plans don’t just apply to your regular mobile plan, many foreign prepaid cards also offer options to lower your per-minute rate for international calls. Using Vodafone in the Netherlands as an example again, their normal rate of €0.75 per minute for calls to the US can be lowered to just €0.30 by calling them and paying a one-time fee of about €10.

Where? Your mobile operator
Price? Starts at $5.95 (for example; the AT&T Wireless “World Traveler plan“)

Type, don’t talk

With roaming charges often as high as $4 per minute, it often makes more sense to send a written message instead of a spoken one. Many mobile operators offer add-on plans that add fairly large amounts of international data for as little as $20. Sure, an email may not be the most personal way of staying in touch, but at the end of the trip you’ll have a lot more money to spend on crap at the airport souvenir store than if you had made a bunch of phone calls.

Many mobile phones can be outfitted with instant messaging or Twitter clients that allow you to communicate in real time with anyone who has Internet access.

Just be sure to keep the data to a minimum as international data charges can be even more painful than phone call charges.

Where? Twitter.com or search for “mobile instant messaging client”
Price? From free

Picking the right roaming operator

When you arrive at your destination, your mobile phone picks the strongest signal it can pick up. This may not always be the cheapest provider. When your mobile operator negotiates prices with foreign operators, they won’t always get the same deal. A simple rule of thumb is to always try and stick with partners of your own operator, if you use T-Mobile in the US, pick T-Mobile in the UK and anywhere else you can find it.

Where? Check the international rates of your operator on their own web site.

Not making the call…

This one sounds pretty lame, I know. There is however some logic to it. Before you pick up the phone, always decide whether it’s really worth the money. Sometimes it makes more sense to just drop the folks back home an email. Just 15 years ago people survived fine without a mobile phone, and it can often be quite liberating to spend a week at the beach without the constant interruption of your Blackberry. I would not suggest leaving your mobile phone at home, as it always makes sense to have access in case of an emergency, but you do not need to keep your phone on 24/7.

One other tip to consider before leaving, is to turn off voicemail on your phone before you leave for your destination. If someone tries to call you abroad and reaches your voicemail box, you will actually pay the international rate for them to leave a message.

Do you have any other tips or ways you call the folks back home when you travel? I’d love to hear them, so please leave them in the comments!