Use Your Smartphone Abroad As You Do At Home And Have No Surprises Later

While traveling to several destinations in Europe in the last few weeks, I bumped up my calling plan for a period of time. Adding global messaging and an international data plan helped with reducing possible overage charges but it didn’t solve all of my problems. Often, I would find connectivity issues using my smartphone abroad as I do at home. I began my quest for a solution.

The first stop before international travel was to add services or modify my existing smartphone plan, mainly because of bad results in the past. On a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, a couple years ago, I found out the hard way just how badly things can get, almost racking up over $1000 in overage charges for data usage alone.

Ignorant of how it all worked, the resort’s “free internet” was blazingly slow. On domestic travel, the next logical move was to tether a signal off my AT&T charged smartphone, bringing good speed and creating my own Wi-Fi hotspot, which I gladly shared with others having a similar connection problem. Dumb move. After a few days a text message came from AT&T’s international department, advising me that I had incurred $956 in overage charges. The result after they graciously removed those budget-busting charges was an international plan offering comparatively reasonable rates. Still, the cost was high so off I went looking for an alternative.

A friend had gone the “get a sim card that works in the destination country” route with good results. But traveling to different countries produced different results. On this recent trip, with an itinerary of Amsterdam and Italy, that looked to be the case. Looking for the ultimate situation: being able to use my phone abroad as I do at home, I kept looking.

What looks to be the best answer I have found came via Boingo, the worldwide connectivity company that recently added some Japanese airports to its list of 600,000 Wi-Fi hot spots. I like Boingo for one primary reason: it works for me.

Constantly scanning for Wi-Fi hot spots with its finder app, Boingo also provides a level of additional security with its free security VPN to protect data like credit card information when on the road.

What I like is that via agreements with hundreds of Internet service providers, Boingo-enabled smartphones and other devices connect quickly through one secure Boingo account. Loading their apps on a device makes connecting easy and they offer a variety of plans. I am testing the unlimited plan for $9.95 a month, well worth the price to know I can find a hotspot that will connect and be compatible with my smartphone virtually anywhere around the world – or so they say. I have not been everywhere on the planet, far from it, but so far the Boingo service has worked well for me and I will no doubt continue to pay a fee that makes sense.

One of the best parts is that the Boingo program tracks my data usage, avoiding potential overage charges. Boingo is not an ISP though, so picking the right plan for usage is a huge part of controlling expenses.

Still, with my Boingo-enabled devices, there should be no bad surprises when traveling internationally.

[Photo Credit – Flickr user @boetter]

Google And Boingo Provide Free Wi-Fi For Travelers, As Long As They’re Not Using An iPhone

Finding wireless Internet access on the go can be a real challenge at times, particularly if you’re not in the mood to pay an exorbitant fee. But if you’re traveling between now and the end of the month, your search for free access may have just gotten easier thanks to Google Play and Boingo. That is, provided you’re not trying to use an iPad or iPhone.

Yesterday, the two companies announced that they are joining forces to provide free Wi-Fi at more than 4000 Boingo hotspots across the country through the end of September. The locations that will receive this free Internet access include dozens of hotels, restaurants and cafes, as well as malls, subway stations and 15 airports, including JFK and Chicago O’Hare.

This isn’t the first time Google and Boingo have teamed up in this way, but there is a slight difference this go around. It seems that iPhones and iPads, as well as Windows Phones, are being left out of the gratis Internet party. Yesterday’s press release clearly states, “Android phones and tablets, as well as Windows and Macintosh laptops, will be offered complimentary Wi-Fi” as part of the sponsorship program. The specific mention of Android products seems to indicate that the hotspots will be filtering based on device, preventing gadgets from Apple and Microsoft from connecting to the network.

As Android has grown in prominence, Google and Apple have begun to clash more directly in the mobile space. The two companies are now direct competitors with one another and by locking iOS devices out of the free Wi-Fi program, Google is telling users that if they had an Android device they could come to the party too. This short-term promotion isn’t likely to convince mobile users to switch to Android, but it is a subtle jab none the less.

For their part, Apple is being even more aggressive. Later today they’ll announce the next iPhone and the release date of its new operating system. That version of iOS will ship without YouTube, Google Maps or any other kind of built-in Google services as the two companies look to divorce themselves of one another as much as possible.

Free airport WiFi for Nintendo 3DS users from Boingo Wireless

Boingo Wireless and Nintendo have teamed up to bring Nintendo 3DS owners free airport WiFi access in 42 airports across the United States, including Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK, and Houston George Bush Intercontinental.

The Nintendo 3DS is already a great travel companion, with its open-source Internet browser and built-in camera, not to mention a catalog of hundreds of addictive games featuring real 3D graphics. This new feature is one of several included in a system update that became available for download yesterday.

“Nintendo 3DS is our most connected device ever, and this agreement will allow people to stay entertained while they’re on the go,” said Zach Fountain, Nintendo of America’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. “Whether it’s accessing special offers and content, downloading items from the Nintendo eShop, receiving surprise SpotPass content, or automatically receiving 3D videos from the Nintendo Video service, there have never been more reasons to connect.”

Free airport WiFi from Boingo will also include access to Nintendo’s SpotPass feature, which allows the system to detect wireless hotspots and download special content from Nintendo, including exclusive promotions, 3D videos, and add-on game content.

Boingo manages wireless access in more than 400,000 locations around the world, including airports, hotel chains, cafes, restaurants, convention centers, and metropolitan hot zones. Their service generally costs $7.95 per 24 hour period in the United States, with monthly unlimited plans starting at $9.95.

Valentine’s day: Propose to Boingo and win an Apple iPad

Our friends over at the Boingo Blog have a romantic Valentine’s day contest for you – propose to them, and the three best proposals will win an Apple iPad with a year of Boingo access, a Roku XDS player with six months of Boingo or a Beating Heart stress relief pillow.

The contest runs till Valentine’s day at 12PM PDT and proposals can be sent in video, photo or love letter/poem. Once you’ve sent them your entry, Tweet about it using hashtag #marrymeboingo.

And for those that still think Boingo is one half of a popular 80’s band, this Boingo is actually the largest provider of Wi-Fi access in the world. With thousands of hotspots at airports, hotels and more, Boingo is the most affordable way to get online. Plans start at just $7.95 for unlimited global access.

The rules and other fine print can be found over at the Boing Blog, along with an example of a romantic video. Good luck!

10 products for your JetBlue “All You Can Jet” high-tech survival kit

So, you just booked yourself a JetBlue All You Can Jet ticket? 30 days of non stop jetting around the country (and beyond).

You are either extremely smart, or up for a month of hell in the skies. Either way, on your trip, you are bound to run into all kinds of challenges. Getting a good seat is going to be the least of your worries. For the next 30 days you’ll need to worry about packing light, keeping gadgets charged, and what to do if you find yourself stuck at the airport overnight without a hotel reservation.

Worry not – we’ve collected ten brilliant products designed to make your life easier during your 30 days of All You Can Jet.

[Photo credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig]

Suite Arrival deliveries

The idea behind Suite Arrivals is brilliant – pre-order toiletries, snacks and other items, and have them delivered to your hotel or other address. Now, before you leave on your All You Can Jet adventure, order up whatever you think you’ll need, and it’ll be ready waiting for you when you arrive. Prices start as low as a dollar, up to around $20 for a well stocked snack and toiletries set. Keeping toiletries out of your bags means less time messing around at the security checkpoint.

Price: $1 & up
Product page:

Boingo Subscription

When you travel, The Internet can quickly become your best distraction from the otherwise boring hotel or airport. Instead of paying $10 for each online session, sign up for a monthly pass to Boingo, and use a single monthly fee to get online as often as you want. With thousands of locations, you’ll quickly find that Boingo is almost everywhere you are.

Price: $9.95/month for unlimited domestic usage
Product page:

Eye-Fi card

During your All You Can Jet adventure, you’ll (hopefully) be making as many photos as you can – which means your memory card will be filling up at an insane rate. For active photographers, not much beats the convenience of the Eye-Fi memory cards. These 4GB and 8GB memory cards can upload your photos any time your camera is in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Best of all, when you combine your Eye-Fi card with Devicescape and a Boingo subscription, you can turn your camera on as soon as you land at a Boingo airport, and instantly upload your photos. All without having to press a single button. Photos that have been successfully uploaded can be wiped from your card, means you’ll almost never run out of storage space.

Price: from $49.99
Product page:

ZAGGsparq 2.0

During your 30 days of flying, you’ll probably only have a couple of days of access to a power outlet. For the days your phone is away from AC, the ZAGGsparq 2.0 can be your new best friend. Inside this compact USB charger is a massive 6000mAh battery pack, with enough juice to keep your iPhone or other phone going for almost a full week.

Its own AC charger is built in, so as soon as your are near an outlet, plug it in, and get it back to 100% in a few hours. With its two USB ports, you can charge two devices at the same, as long as your remember to bring the right USB device cables!

Price: $99.99
Product page:

HotelPal, FlightTrack Pro, TripIt

This trio of smartphone software provides the ultimate in travel support. With TripIt, you can gather all your flight plans, FlightTrack Pro keeps track of your flight status, and HotelPal lets you search and book local hotels. Seriously, load these three on your phone, and you’ll have everything you need to prevent, avert and resolve flight delays and cancellations.

To use the apps, simply forward all your confirmation emails to TripIt. TripIt will then translate all the information in the emails, and load your itineraries into its system. FlightTrack Pro then syncs with TripIt and constantly monitors for delays, cancellations, gate changes and more. FlightTrack Pro and HotelPal are available for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Pro-users can even setup shared TripIt calendars, so friends and family always have easy access to their itineraries.

Price: TripIt (Free), FlightTrack Pro ($9.99) and HotelPal (Free)
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Briggs & Riley BRX luggage – 22″ Upright

If you are a smart planner, you’ll try to minimize your time in hotels, along with the weight of your luggage. The new Briggs & Riley BRX line of luggage takes the luxury side of Briggs & Riley, and turns it into a super-lightweight adventure style line of bags. The 22″ BRW Upright weighs just 7.5lbs, features wide all-terrain wheels, a sturdy handle and four compression straps. Its front zippered compartment holds a 16″ laptop, and thanks to its outer handle assembly, the inside is nice and flat, perfect for keeping shirts wrinkle free.

Price: $290
Product page:

Griffin Travel Stand for iPhone and iPod

Sure, JetBlue may offer live TV and radio, but at the end of the day, there is only so much you want to watch on TV. If you’d rather sit back and enjoy your own programming, consider the compact Griffin Travel Stand for iPhone and iPod. Don’t let the name fool you, this smart gadget works with almost any smartphone, and combines a device stand with a neat headphone case.

Price: $14.99
Product page:

Monster Beats Tour High Definition headphones

I don’t care how much of an aviation buff you are – after a couple of days, the jet noise will get to anyone. Even pilots wear good headphones, but your lightweight packing procedure won’t have enough space for a pair of bulky headphones. So, unless you want to leave your clean underwear at home, consider a pair of good quality headphones.

The Monster Beats Tour headphones block out a good amount of outside noise, while providing fantastic audio and bass. Best of all, their connector is ultra low-profile, which means it won’t stab you in the side when plugged into the seat audio jack.

Price: $179.95
Product page: Monster Beats Tour

Smartphone, iPad, netbook or laptop

Picking the best device for your trip is a tough one – everyone has different needs, and not everyone will want to be connected all the time. If you just want an affordable media player, you could consider the affordable Archos 5 series or 7 series Android tablets. For a lightweight laptop without compromises, check out the Toshiba T135. For a lightweight media tablet with fantastic app support, you’ll obviously get a lot of love out of an iPad.

Price: from $199

Monsoon Multimedia Vulkano placeshifter/streamer

This is the only product in the list that doesn’t actually travel with you. The Monsoon Multimedia Vulkano stays home, connected to your TV and cable box. With it, you can remotely watch and record anything you receive at home.

Want to watch the latest episode of your favorite show when you wait at the airport? Watch it live over the Internet, or download it to watch on your device during your flight. Want to watch live TV in your hotel room? Connect your laptop to the hotel TV and forget the lousy channels the hotel provides. Landed at your destination, and want to setup a recording? Browse the electronic program guide, and tell the Vulkano to record what you want, when you want. On-the-road entertainment doesn’t get much better than this.

With the Vulkano, you’ll be able to stop spending money on movie rentals or streaming video purchases, and get to enjoy the content you want.

Price: From $259
Product page:

[Wi-Fi sign photo from Flickr/Futureshape]