After updating its Red plans to offer complimentary $5 roaming on its top tier, Vodafone has today released the results of their research into how Australians use their phones when overseas. They surveyed over 1,000 smartphone owners to find out whether we roam, or go local.
It seems that as a nation, we’re wising up to historically high roaming charges. 17% of respondents use their Australian SIMs in their phones – using it just as they would at home – while 22% buy a local SIM. 61% are simply not using their phones overseas – 17% even leave it at home. They’re out of touch while holidaying, and while some of us might like it that way it means you could be out of touch if some kind of emergency occurs.
One of the main reasons we’re leaving our phones behind when going overseas is the price. “Bill shock” is a real thing, especially where international roaming is concerned. It’s not been uncommon to find bills running into hundreds of dollars (or even more) incurred when using your phone overseas, and when you add data usage into the equation the bill can skyrocket even faster (in the past, some carriers would charge $20 for 1MB of data).
Roaming charges have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, and with such a large number of Australians simply opting to not use their phones overseas, it’s no surprise that carriers are trying to find a way to encourage us to use our phones overseas. This means we’re finally starting to see some real solutions to make international roaming more affordable after all these years. Vodafone fired the first shots in this new battlefield last year with its $5/day Red roaming plans, now available in 47 countries – we think this is the simplest and the best deal for roaming, as long as you’re roaming to supported countries.
Optus and Telstra have both responded to this offer, but both carriers divide the world into 2 zones and charge different plans accordingly – it’s a far more complex offer. You can find Optus’ offer detailed here, and we wrote about Telstra’s new Travel Pass offer earlier this week.
What do you do while overseas?
Personally, I fall into both of the first groups when I travel – I usually take my Australian phone with me, and keep it roaming for calls and SMS but don’t use data and buy a local SIM for another phone to use apps (yes, including Ingress). Even then, sometimes I need to access Google Maps to navigate to my destination in a foreign country before I’ve had a chance to get a local SIM – I feel myself cringe reaching for the button to turn on data roaming.
I’ve found some great rates in some countries (in 2010 I got unlimited 3G data for two weeks in Italy for 9 EUR), making the local SIM option best for me. I also like the convenience of having a local number that friends at my destination can reach me on, instead of having to make an international call to my Australian phone while I’m down the road.
Given that we’re nearing the end of the year and some of us (myself included) are about to head overseas for holidays, we thought it was worth asking: How do you roam? Do you use your Australian phone or do you buy a local SIM? Tell us the poll below, and give us some more detailed thoughts in the comments.