For those who travel internationally, there are few things more agonizing than the wait to see how badly your wireless carrier will hose you for calls, messages and data while you were abroad. Roaming charges can’t die soon enough. T-Mobile’s latest “Uncarrier” move looks to take some of the sting out of international roaming for its subscribers by offering free international low-speed data and unlimited messaging in more than 100 countries, but an Israeli startup is looking to tackle the issue from a different angle.
Cell Buddy will launch next year with a service that looks to simplify international travel for its customers. For $60 per year or $5 per day, customers will get a universal SIM card and access to the Cell Buddy app, which acts as a portal. The SIM replaces users’ current SIM and can be used in any iPhone, Android phone or any other cell phone.
Once a traveller arrives at his or her destination, the app provides information on various local wireless service options. It compares prices, data rates and more, and allows users to purchase service directly from their chosen provider.
“I think the big idea over here is that for the first time we created a marketplace,” Cell Buddy founder Ofir Paz told The Associated Press. “We let customers and operators meet, and from one hand, these operators can publish their plans and on the other hand, the customers can purchase plans in a very simple and straightforward way.”
Among the various caveats is the fact that Cell Buddy will only work with an unlocked cell phone. Any handset purchased under contract in the U.S. is locked to its carrier’s network, and carriers typically won’t unlock them until contracts have finished. There are other options, though; third-party cell phone unlocking services have drawn some fire lately, but many of them continue to operate without issue.
Cell Buddy will focus on the enterprise market when it launches next year, but Paz said that the company will begin offering its service directly to consumers sometime in 2015.