Global TV Tech Buzz: How To Travel Smartly With Your Smartphone

The news cycle is littered with stories of people who take their smartphones on vacations only to come back to bills worth thousands of dollars for the data they consumed abroad.

Alanna Fero, for example, took her iPhone to Egypt and downloaded about 1.6 gigs of data while pyramiding. She came home to a $37 000 bill.

Yes, that’s ridiculous. The best part of the story is Telus turned her data off because of the high usage while roaming, and she asked them to turn it back on. She cried poor to the news media when she returned and got little sympathy from savvy internet users.

There are ways, however, to travel smartly with your smartphone: make sure data roaming is turned off, prebuy a travel data plan for your trip, unlock your phone and buy a local plan, or simply leave the phone at home.

First and foremost is to turn off data roaming. It should be off by default, but check your settings to make sure that roaming is turned off. If you live near a border town, you might have your phone skip to foreign towers. When you’re flying, the phone will be trying to connect to the ground, and the moment you land all those emails will come flooding in. Having data roaming turned off will keep the dam the flow data until you are ready to let it loose.

If you’re just taking a quick trip to Las Vegas, or Phoenix for the weekend and want to have enough power to phone your friends on the trip, send texts, and grab a few tweets, look into a prepaid plan. I spent $100 on one when I went to Vegas in January for CES. It was enough for me to last the week and get my emailing, tweeting, and texting done from the show floor.

Prepaid data, text, and voice plans aren’t cheap, but they’re cheaper than coming home to a huge phone bill. The rates for each carrier vary, call your customer service rep to ask them what they can offer you based on what you plan to use while away.

iphone sim cardUNLOCK YOUR PHONE
Unlocking your phone changes the baseband of your device to work with any mobile carrier. When you first buy your phone, it is locked to the provider.

Canadian providers will now unlock your mobile phone with a simple phone call to customer service. Each provider has different rules. Some will only unlock phones on contract. Some will only unlock phones out of contract. Some will require you to pay the remaining subsidy. On average, a base rate for unlocking your phone is $50.

Call your provider’s customer service representative to find out the requirements for your specific phone.

Once your phone is unlocked, you can now replace the SIM with a pre-paid one at your destination. Many travel forums are filled with advice on how to find a local provider with a good plan, sometimes you’ll even be able to find them in the airport of your destination. Buy the SIM, load up with pre-paid minutes or data, and you’ll even get a local phone number to blend right in.

For example, my travel data package to Iceland would be $225 for 75 megabytes of data. By paying the $50 fee to unlock my iPhone 3G, I’m now able to buy a prepaid SIM card data plan from Siminn, for $15 including 3 gigs of data.

Of course the simplest solution is to leave the phone at home. Enjoy your vacation, the email can wait.

parks canada learn to camp appAPP OF THE WEEK: Parks Canada’s Learn To Camp
If you really want to unplug, it’s time to go camping. If you’re new to the ‘sport’, check out Parks Canada’s Learn to Camp app.

It’s the ideal app for first-time campers who want to plan a trip to Canada’s national parks. It is packed with the information you need to make your first camping trip a success: camping basics and insider’s tips, packing checklists, national park information and recipes and cooking advice. This app is the perfect companion to the annual Learn to Camp events that take place at national parks and national historic sites across Canada.

Global TV: Lifeproof iPhone Cases

Each week I join the Sunday Morning News on Global Calgary to talk the latest in tech, gadgets, and to walk you through the ways you can make the gadgets you already own work better.

Here are the segment notes and links from March 25, 2012:

The Lifeproof iPhone 4/4S Case [$79.99] means business. The first thing you see opening it up is a serious CAUTION sticker across the back of the case. While $79.99 may sound like an expensive price to pay for an iPhone case, if you live an extreme lifestyle and take your iPhone with you, it’s a small insurance price to pay versus the replacement costs of your iPhone. Heck even if you don’t live an extreme lifestyle, this case will protect you from the everyday accidents that could see you facing almost $200 just to replace a cracked screen.

The Lifeproof Bike and Bar Mount [$39.99] will let you use your iPhone as a bike computer. The bike and bar mount is simple to install and promises to fit everything from road and mountain bikes to quads, snowmobiles, and jetskis.

The Lifeproof Belt Clip [$29.99] is a little old school, from the days when phones were too bulky to fit in your pocket, but if you need it handy and don’t want to fish through a bag or pocket to find your phone, it serves a purpose.


Draw Something [Free] is The Hunger Games of the app store. It’s is the #1 app in over 80 countries. The user base has sky rocketed the past few months, to the point where Zynga (the makers of Word With Friends, Farmville, etc) have offered to buy the app maker for $200M. You draw pictures, friends have to guess what they are. It’s that simple.

If you missed the segment, here’s a recap:

Your iPhone Is Disgusting

The commercial for HTC‘s phones has a great line about our phones being the only thing that’s with us everywhere.

You change your clothes, shoes, underwear, jewelry .. the only constant and consistent accessory is your phone.  It’s in your pocket on the bus, on your bedside table when you sleep, in your purse at work, in your hands at the club.

It goes with us everywhere.

So imagine what’s on that phone.  The germs, dirt, grime, bacteria and more.  A recently released report did some legwork, testing phones to find out exactly what we’re touching when we’re touching our phone.

Out of the 30 phones, seven were classified as dirty, i.e., they had high levels of environmental bacteria. 

They had alarmingly high levels of environmental bacteria, which can be highly injurious to humans. One of them even contained faecal coliforms, which can pose serious stomach problems to its user.

“The levels of potentially harmful bacteria on one mobile were off the scale,” said UK hygiene expert Jim Francis. “That phone needs sterilising.”

It contained almost ten times the acceptable level of TVC, while another had 39 times the acceptable level of enterobacteria, which are a group of bacteria that live in the lower intestines of humans and animals and include bugs such as Salmonella.


As the world moves to a touch interface (iPads, ATMS, iPhones etc) can you imagine how disgusting our interactions with technology are going to be?

Keeping your gadgets clean is a simple as squeezing some sanitizer on a tissue and wiping the screen and back.  If you want a more detailed detailing, check out this piece from Gizmodo for tips on getting into every crevase. CyberClean is a putty type subtance that claims to de-germ your gear.  Apple has also weighed in to the fray with an official page on cleaning your Mac products.

You wash your hands, make sure you scrub your phone too.

catch the buzz … pass it on.

buzz bishop future shop tech blogThis post was originally published at The Future Shop Tech Blog.

Turn Your iPhone Into A Radio

buzz bishop future shop tech blogWhile one of the big steps with the release of the new iPod Nano this fall was to add a video camera to the unit, the other big push was the inclusion of a radio.

It almost seems like a backwards step in the evolution of the iPod. Many hail as the iPod as a harbinger for the death of radio. I mean, why would anyone listen to a radio station “playing what they want” when you can have your iPod plugged in with a personalized Genius Mix of your favourites?

The iPhone still doesn’t have a radio in it, but there are numerous radio apps to get streaming on your device. CBC, NPR, official radio station ones, bulk streaming. Some are only in the US iTunes store blocking you out of a long list of stations, but I’ve found a brililant global radio streaming app that will also double as a clock radio.

[read the rest of this article]
This article has been submitted to Future Shop’s Tech Blog where I contribute Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

iPhone Competition In Canada

buzz bishop future shop tech blogIt’s finally coming, iPhone carrier competition.

The Globe and Mail’s report of yesterday was confirmed this morning when Bell and Telus announced they’ll be carrying the iPhone as well.

So what does that mean for iPhone users?

There is going to be honest to goodness carrier competition on the most popular smart phone.

[read the rest of this article]
This article has been submitted to Future Shop’s Tech Blog where I contribute Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

iPhone In The US

buzz bishop future shop tech blogA weekend in California’s Wine Country was just what my life needed. A chance to unplug from reality and drink in the harvest season at a few wineries. Notice I said unplug from reality and not the web.

When traveling with your iPhone, a few steps need to be taken to make sure you don’t come back with an $11 000 Twitter bill the likes of Adam Savage from Mythbusters recently experienced.

[read the rest of this article]

This article has been submitted to Future Shop’s Tech Blog where I contribute Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

iPhone 3GS Augmented Reality

buzz bishop future shop tech blogWith the release of the new iPhone firmware this week comes the “official” unlocking of augmented reality in the iPhone 3GS.

I say “official” because some apps, like Yelp, had a work around for the feature to unlock it in the phone.

[read the rest of this article]
This article has been submitted to Future Shop’s Tech Blog where I contribute Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Crime Fighting iPhone

If you’ve ever lost your cell phone, you know the pain of having to replace it, especially if you didnt back up all the data in the phone in the first place. With upgrades to the iPhone in the past year, it now has a mechanism to be found, should you lose it or have it forcibly removed from you.

The latest testimonial comes from a man in Pittsburgh who was robbed at gunpoint by two men who asked for his credit cards and the PIN numbers.

He turned over his wallet, PIN numbers, and his iPhone. Later the man used his computer and MobileMe to find the location of the phone, and police located the crooks at a gas station. Officers recovered a pellet gun, stolen ID cards, credit cards and cash.

That’s the secret, if you have location services turned on, and a Mobile Me account, you can track your iPhone wherever it is. Some parents use it as a homing device on their teens, you can track if it was robbed or even discover you left the phone in a movie theatre or restaurant.

Three men have been charged in the incident with device fraud, conspiracy, receiving stolen property and possessing instruments of crime.

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