Monday, February 17, 2014

eKit International Phone

If you sign up for an eKit phone, they send you this disposable dual-sim unlocked "burner" to use.

I bought an eKit phone when we went to France and Spain last year and rented a canal boat.  I figured I might want to check a credit card balance or call someone back home, and would need a phone.   The phone was $79 and I put $100 worth of time on it.  How many minutes that buys, of course, depends on what country you are in.  We ended up using about $50 worth of time on it.  We used it as much as we wanted to, but just didn't need any more time than that.

A tossable cell phone can be handy, as if you are in a foreign country, you can get socked with some pretty steep fees, and when you get home, you may be shocked to find that your cell phone bill is astronomical.   Supposedly, new regulations have changed this, as cell companies are required to tell you when your bill goes over a certain amount.   Perhaps the days of $10,000 surprise cell phone bills are behind us.

But don't count on it.

If you are going overseas, call your cell phone company and find out what the deal is.  They may have a roaming plan for the country you are going to.  When we had a regular AT&T plan, we used this when we went to the UK for a relaxing barge holiday.

However, since then, we have dumped our regular AT&T plan in favor of a minimalist GoPhone plan, which we are very happy with.  It gives us 1000 minutes a year for $100, and we've renewed it for a fourth year now, still not using all our minutes!  About $16 rolled over this year.

GoPhone coverage is limited to the US, Mexico (it actually worked in Cozumel!) and some areas of Canada served by Rodgers Wireless (sadly, not Montreal).  So for traveling overseas, some other alternative was needed.

So we bought the eKit phone.  I was a little nervous about this, as doing business with these types of deals, over the internet, is a sure-fire recipe for being fucked royally.   And to their credit, eKit didn't fuck me.  Not at all.   Thank you eKit for not fucking me.   It is a rare thing, these days.

And you know, that is all most consumers want, really.  Just don't fuck me too badly, eh?  But most American companies can't resist the urge, it seems.   And they wonder why consumption is down.

eKit has been very decent.   No, really.   Maybe someone has better prices or whatnot, but the basic bargain they made, they kept.  Amazing in this day and age.

But wait, it gets better.   The minutes (dollars) on the phone expire after six months if you don't use the phone or recharge it (monetarily, not electrically).   They actually sent me a reminder on this, via e-mail.   I just now made a short call on the phone to keep my $47.50 active another six months.   Why?   Well, we are going to Canada this summer, and it will be handy to have a phone that speaks French.

The phone itself (one of their lower-end units, pictured above) is not a bad piece of work.  It supports dual SIMs, so I can put my GoPhone SIM in one slot, and the eKit SIM in the other.  Kind of handy to have two phones in one.   The only bummer is that it does not have bluetooth, so I can't sync it with the car.  Big deal.  If nothing else, I will keep the phone as a "spare" for the time when one of our hoary old Motorola flip-phones bites the dust.

Do they offer texting and internet?  For Internet, you can get a fancier phone.  I chose not to.  The basic phone does text.  Indeed, it sends you a lot of messages, telling you, for example, what your local number is.  Your US number is re-assigned if you do not use the phone for a few months.  When you use the phone, a new number is assigned to it, and a text message is sent to you telling you what it is.  They also text you with how much is left in your account, after each call (just like GoPhone).

When you make a call, it is a little weird, as you make the call, and then they text you to say, "please wait" and then they call you and when you answer the call, it connects to your party.    A little weird, but it works - reliably.

It also has voicemail, and other stuff.  You can also link the phone to your Facebook page, so it will post to your page where you are, based on cell phone tracking.   Not a feature I used personally, but one our friends used.  And yea, you can send texts with it.  I actually sent one, if you can believe that (what is the big deal with texting?  Subject for another post).

So, overall, I can say I am very happy with this product and their service.  They provided everything they promised - and more.   And their communication with their clients is excellent.   It would be in their best interest to let my time 'expire' after six months and keep my $47.50 - and then make me buy more time to recharge the phone.   They could have "gone there" like many other telcons would have done - in a heartbeat.  But they didn't.

And that is a very rare thing these days, in the wireless business.