Most business travelers are used to lugging around their laptop. It's bulky, but necessary. But with the rise of mobile technology, smartphones and tablets can do much of the same things laptops can in a much smaller and more convenient package. You might think equipping your traveling employees with mobile tools will incur expensive roaming and international charges, but there are ways to efficiently and affordably get great coverage and stay connected to the office while traveling with a smartphone.
Tablet vs. Smartphone
There's not much difference between a tablet and a smartphone these days. Many tablets even have video or voice calling options. The biggest difference is the screen size. Most phones have a screen that is 5 inches or smaller while most tablets have a screen that is 7 inches or larger. As you are traveling, the best choice will depend on your packing requirements and your technology needs. Typing a project report on a cell phone is the definition of hell. However, holding a 10-inch tablet up to your head when you want to take a call will make you get some strange looks.
Think about where you're going, what you're doing and how you'll be using your technology. Will you be writing long documents or just looking up information and staying connected with the office? Do you need a small device that fits into your pocket or do you have room for a larger screen in a briefcase? Perhaps you need a phone AND a tablet. Don't forget that many destinations will have Internet cafes with computers you can use by the hour.
Which Is Best?
The best device is the one that works where you're going. If you're taking a short trip, you may be able to use a 4G phone with an international plan. These services are great if you plan to be traveling for a week or two. However, longer stays may require you to buy a local SIM card. Rather than looking up the frequency used in each country you'll be visiting, you should buy a quad-band phone that will work in every region. This way you can simply install a new SIM card when your plane lands.
Turn Off Roaming
If you don't have cellular coverage in the country you're visiting, it's best to turn off roaming. Better still, you can put your phone into airplane mode but turn on Wi-Fi. This is possible with the latest 4G LTE devices that work in 100+ countries. Older devices may require an app to enable this option. When the phone is in airplane mode with Wi-Fi enabled, the cellular radio is turned off. This will stop your phone from receiving text messages and calls while roaming. However, if you're using Skype, Google Voice or another VoIP setup, you can do all your calling over Wi-Fi.
You can also use Wi-Fi instead of risking international roaming charges. The first step in calling via Wi-Fi is to find a wireless network to connect your call. This is one factor where Android users have an advantage over iPhone users. There's an app for Android devices that allows you to use your device like a metal detector and track down open Wi-Fi locations. Launch Wifi Analyzer on your Android device and follow the signal to the nearest open hotspot.
iPhone users will need to rely on Wi-Fi directories to find the nearest open hotspot. These directories are updated by users and they are often unreliable, but they're better than nothing. Some popular directories include:
- Wi-Fi Free Spot
- Open Wi-Fi Spots