Review: GigSky's Data-Only eSIM Service Offers Convenient LTE Connectivity for Travel

Discussion in 'Guides, How Tos and Reviews' started by MacRumors, Jan 2, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    #1
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    On a recent trip to Europe, I had a chance to try out GigSky's new pay-as-you-go cellular data plan that's available through via eSIM on the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max.

    I used GigSky's service across four countries, testing out the ease of use, the coverage, the setup process, and what it's like to use the eSIM to get cellular connectivity in another country.

    Setup

    Setting up the GigSky service was simple, and much more convenient than having to source a physical SIM to go along with a cellular service that uses a standard SIM. I downloaded the GigSky app, opened it up and selected the country I was visiting.

    GigSky recommended that I purchase a plan once I arrived in my destination country (Czech Republic), which I did, and after the purchase was made and the payment confirmed, I was set up and ready to go.

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    The app downloaded the eSIM on my phone, and I was able to select it as a secondary cellular option using the Cellular section of the Settings app on the iPhone.

    Service Requirements

    Using GigSky's eSIM service requires an iPhone that is both unlocked and that supports eSIM, so the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. My carrier is Verizon and I purchased my iPhone outright, so it came unlocked by default and there was nothing else I needed to do. The GigSky eSIM just worked.

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    Potential customers on other carriers may need to make sure their iPhone has been unlocked before the GigSky service will work. It is not available on a device that is locked.

    eSIM Usage

    I activated the GigSky eSIM after arriving in the Czech Republic, and from there, I didn't need to do anything when traveling between country borders. The data plan was active no matter which European country I was in, and I didn't see anything more than a momentary lapse in service crossing borders.

    When first using the eSIM, I did run into a bit of trouble. GigSky's eSIM is data only, which means there's no phone number associated with it, and I didn't think there was enough instruction on how this worked.

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    I initially wanted to disable my Verizon SIM to make sure I didn't actually use any Verizon data or place Verizon calls/texts, but that got me into quite a bit of trouble in practice. After turning off my Verizon number on the first day in the Czech Republic, I got separated from the people I was with.

    As it turns out, disabling the primary number with no secondary number turns iMessage and FaceTime off, and I couldn't get any texts, messages, or calls to go through so I was thoroughly disconnected. There are probably similar issues when changing your main iMessage number, so when using a secondary SIM, whether it's data only or a different phone number, make sure to leave the primary enabled so iMessage continues to work.

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    After that little setup snafu, I re-enabled my Verizon number, set GigSky as the primary data source, and left Verizon as the secondary data source.

    I'm not entirely sure how it works with other carriers, but with Verizon, TravelPass service isn't activated unless I place a phone call or send an SMS message. Because I couldn't turn it off entirely, there was one time where I pocket dialed someone and got myself a $10 daily data charge, but that was my fault.

    For the majority of the trip, once I had the settings properly established, the GigSky data worked without a hitch and I didn't need to activate my Verizon travel plan.

    Coverage

    I tested GigSky's service across four countries in Europe: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Hungary. In most of these locations, except when I was in more rural places, I had reliable, fast LTE service that led me use social networks, check mail, and watch videos with no problems.

    In Hungary, specifically in Budapest, my service switched between 3G and LTE, but I was never left without any connection at all with the exception of remote areas. In the major cities, and even smaller cities, my cellular connection worked well.

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    GigSky's service also worked in the Bay Area of California and Washington DC, two other areas where I was able to test its reliability.

    Connection is, of course, going to vary by country and this isn't a reliable metric for service in other areas, but based on this sample, in urban areas, GigSky's service is decent and comparable to LTE from a standard carrier.

    Costs

    In Europe, and several other countries including the United States, GigSky's service is priced starting at $10 and is available in several high speed (LTE where available) data allotments that last for varying amounts of time, so you can purchase just the data that you might need.

    300MB of data is available for $10, and that data pot lasts for just a day.

    You can get 500MB of data for $15, 1GB of data for $20, and 2GB of data for $30, with all of these data pots available for 15 days.

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    GigSky's most expensive plan is its 5GB data plan, which costs $50 and lasts for 30 days. I picked this latter option, and I used just about 5GB of data over the course of my trip. I wasn't doing anything particularly data heavy, but I was browsing the internet, checking social media, uploading images to social media, and checking and responding to emails.

    Price wise, I think GigSky's options are fairly expensive, but my own carrier wasn't offering anything better. I have Verizon coverage in the United States, and Verizon's travel plan is $10 per day for 0.5GB of data and unlimited 2G data after that, which is little high speed data for a high price tag.

    Some carriers have better deals, but most limit LTE access or charge quite a bit for data. T-Mobile has free unlimited 2G speeds when traveling or charges $5 per day for 0.5GB of high speed data, Sprint offers free 2G data when traveling or offers high speed data passes for $5 day ($25 per week), and AT&T charges $10 per day with LTE speeds limited to your normal data plan allotment.

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    It would have cost me upwards of $100 to have limited high speed data available on Verizon during my trip, so GigSky was definitely the better option. Getting SIM cards in each country or signing up for a European data plan probably would have been the most price efficient, but GigSky was the simpler option that was still better than what my carrier was offering.

    App

    Beyond setting up the GigSky eSIM service and activating it, the GigSky app can be used for troubleshooting and to answer commonly asked questions through a Support section. There's also an account settings option, an inbox for communicating with GigSky if there are customer support questions, and a refer a friend section for referring friends for free credit.

    While using the GigSky service, I didn't really open up the app at all because many of the settings are handled through the "Cellular" section of the main Apple Settings app.

    Available Countries

    GigSky's data service works in more than 190 countries around the world, with a coverage map available here. All North American and nearly all European and South American countries support the GigSky service, as do many Caribbean Islands.

    Service is more limited in Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East, but there are a few countries where it works.

    Bottom Line

    After overcoming a few hiccups that come with using a data-only service as a secondary option on an iPhone, I thought GigSky was simple to use, offered great coverage that rarely left me sans cellular connection, and ultimately, convenient.

    Getting a second SIM or an eSIM plan in the country that you're traveling to is an option and is potentially more affordable than GigSky, but that can be a hassle if you're visiting multiple countries.

    $50 for 5GB isn't the best data deal, but I found that data pot lasted me for nearly two weeks with regular use - uploading photos to Instagram, checking my email, responding to messages, using maps, and browsing the internet - though I did connect to WiFi where available, such as in hotels.

    The GigSky service worked seamlessly even as I crossed country borders in Europe, and I didn't have to hassle with swapping out SIM cards, changing my phone number and fussing with iMessage, or finding different plans in countries where I don't speak the language.

    GigSky was much more affordable than the plans offered via my own carrier here in the United States (Verizon charges $10/day for 0.5GB and then unlimited 2G) and I wouldn't hesitate to use it again on another multi-country trip. I might choose something more affordable if I were going to a single country, but you can't beat the convenience of a cell phone plan you can purchase and get going right on your device.

    How to Buy

    To use GigSky's service through the eSIM on a compatible iPhone XR, XS, or XS Max, you'll need to download the GigSky World Mobile Data app from the App Store. From there, plans are purchased within the app at prices starting at $10.

    Note: GigSky provided MacRumors with a $100 data credit for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

    Article Link: Review: GigSky's Data-Only eSIM Service Offers Convenient LTE Connectivity for Travel
     
  2. itsmilo macrumors 68020

    itsmilo

    Joined:
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    Europe
    #2
    Way too expensive even with its convenience. You can get like 40 GB of data for 10 € in France for example and use it all across Europe.
     
  3. riverfreak macrumors 65816

    riverfreak

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    Jan 10, 2005
    Location:
    Thonglor, Bangkok
    #3
    Wow! That pricing! What’s the point?

    Most places, picking up a SIM is no more hassle then stopping at a kiosk in the arrivals hall. Takes five minutes and most countries have outstanding travel plans for tourists.

    Worse yet is that it seems there is no way to just turn OFF your domestic line, except for Wifi to keep things like iMessage active.

    The eSIM implementation seems pretty half baked at this point.
     
  4. Iconoclysm macrumors 68020

    Iconoclysm

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    Washington, DC
    #4
    I wouldn't fault this on the eSIM implementation, this vendor is just taking advantage of being early to the game.
     
  5. Silver Idaten macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2015
    Location:
    Stratford, CT
    #5
    Completely useless if I use eSIM for my primary line, especially if it’s T-Mobile where they make it an unnecessary pain to put it there in the first place. I’d rather just get a local physical SIM.
     
  6. LukeWorm macrumors member

    LukeWorm

    Joined:
    May 8, 2010
    Location:
    France
    #6
    Wow what prices you are ready to pay! My subscription is 5 euros/month with unlimited calls+SMS plus 20GB of data.
     
  7. sjurjis macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    #7
    GigSky is great. I’m using it now in France while typing this. Yes, it’s a little expensive but a lot cheaper than Verizons international plan.
     
  8. roar08 macrumors regular

    roar08

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    #8
    This. I travel to the UK once a year on average. There's a shop in Heathrow as soon as you exit customs. £30-40 (there are cheaper options) for a relatively large amount of data from a variety of local carriers, a local number, and great coverage. Just swap a SIM card (or use an eSIM-supporting carrier) and PAYG. Just remember to use an app (e.g. 1Password) for your 2fa-enabled services instead of SMS, which is arguably more secure (and I think more convenient, at least as implemented by 1P).
     
  9. sjurjis macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    #9
    I’ve never swapped the SIM card. That’s why I like the esim. Do you lose you mobile number if you swap the sim? What if you need your assigned number for work, family, etc?
     
  10. catean macrumors 6502

    catean

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2013
    Location:
    Timisoara, Romania
    #10
    Gigsky has competiton : Truphone and Ubigi.

    The convenience of having your phone number for sms and voice calls and using this worldwide data only services is priceless. It’s the reason why I upgraded from the X to XS.
     
  11. joshwenke, Jan 2, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2019

    joshwenke macrumors regular

    joshwenke

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2011
    #11
    Apple's eSIM functionality seemed great at launch but there weren't a lot of ways to implement it right at launch. This is an example of a company who is early to the game in a significant part of the new iPhones. I enjoyed the review and thought it was more relevant than a lot of other articles where money/products is exchanged with MR.
     
  12. Christian 5G macrumors 6502a

    Christian 5G

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    Jun 16, 2010
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    #12
    I have Tmobile One and honestly can’t complain as I had coverage all over Europe.

    What’s interesting is the coverage is so much better in Europe than back home in SoCal.

    Still worth the $80/month for two lines. I switched on hookup promo which was $100 initially and $80 with hookup.
     
  13. riverfreak macrumors 65816

    riverfreak

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    Location:
    Thonglor, Bangkok
    #13
    Maybe we’re talking about different things here. From Juli’s use case (and I’m sure many others), the biggest advantage of eSIM is being able to more simply use another number while traveling, without having to worry about accumulating exorbitant data roaming charges. Without a clear cut way of disabling data roaming, you might as well still have two phones.

    I’m still not totally sure what Juli means when she says she was unreachable via iMessage to her domestic line. It still should have worked when she was on WiFi.

    I guess at the end of the day, I want to have two numbers that the device can potentially respond to at any time, and I want to selectively use ONE for data. Is that possible?
     
  14. jclo, Jan 2, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2019

    jclo Editor

    jclo

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    #14
    I mean that when I disabled my Verizon number (in Settings, "Turn off this line") in an attempt to make sure I didn't accidentally use any VZW data, my iMessage stopped working entirely. It did not work on WiFi, and I don't know why. I didn't do further testing on this because I was in a foreign country and because removing my phone number also significantly broke things, so there may be some setup option where this does not happen. I do have email addresses associated with iMessage, but in my case, it just stopped working entirely with my primary number turned off even with GigSky associated with the secondary iMessage line.

    It could have been a bug, or an early implementation issue because GigSky is data only with no associated number (which I suspect was the problem), or something that I did with the setup process. I don't know that everyone will run into this issue, but there are always going to be problems when changing or disabling the number associated with iMessage. I just wanted to make sure people are aware that things need to be set up carefully to avoid iMessage/FaceTime activation issues.

    You can indeed use two numbers that can be responded to at any time while using just one for data if you set your Cellular Data setting to use the "Secondary" number while leaving the Voice line as the primary number and the iMessage line as the "Primary" number.

    --- Post Merged, Jan 2, 2019 ---
    In this situation, there was no kiosk at the airport terminal where I arrived in the Czech Republic, I did not speak the language, and I did not have an opportunity to visit a cellular service store because of planned activities, so eSIM was simpler for me.

    A local SIM you can swap in is DEFINITELY a better deal than eSIM at this point, but I do think eSIM is simpler than having to physically swap a SIM, though. Hopefully prices are going to drop as more and more carriers implement eSIM support and the technology matures.
     
  15. CommanderData macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
    #15
    Hi Juli, I wonder if you could answer a question for me?

    I test drove both GigSky and Ubigi in late November/Early December while traveling in Asia. Was running iOS 12.1 on an iPhone XS at that point, with AT&T as my primary physical SIM.

    Whenever I enabled GigSky or Ubigi I would lose Visual Voicemail. Supposedly AT&T had sorted this out with Apple by 12.1 release, so it was very surprising. Some Apple documentation claims if you have data-roaming enabled on the SIM (eSIM in this case with GigSky and Ubigi) that Visual Voicemail is disabled. But you have to enable data-roaming on them in order to use these eSIMs properly in other countries while traveling.

    Unfortunately at the time I messed up my iPhone so much from fooling around trying to get Visual Voicemail to work while these data roaming eSIMs were active. In the end I wiped and setup my phone from scratch, so I have been hesitant to try again since 12.1.1 and 12.1.2 were released...

    Can you tell me if you had any problems with Visual Voicemail on your trip with GigSky active? I know you were on Verizon, but any info would be helpful before I dare to try again. Curious if its related to the lack of phone number assigned to the GigSky eSIM as well, or maybe if 12.1.2 has improved the experience.
     
  16. haruhiko macrumors 601

    haruhiko

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    #16
    The Hong Kong iPhone XS Max gets dual physical SIM support. IMO it's the best of both worlds solution at the current stage: being able to keep your original phone number online while you can pop in a cheap local SIM card for data.
     
  17. TrulsZK macrumors member

    TrulsZK

    Joined:
    May 1, 2018
    Location:
    Norway
    #17
    Here in Europe most subscriptions offer free roaming in Europe. I.e use included call/SMS/data etc, just like I am in my home country.

    As I rarely travel outside Europe, expensive roaming charges is a thing of the past for me. (Except the satellite networks installed on ships, which is still very expensive and very slow)
     
  18. catean, Jan 3, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019

    catean macrumors 6502

    catean

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    Timisoara, Romania
    #18
    You are right, we as europeans tend to do our holidays in mainland Europe, but do not forget about the Balkans states that are not regulated by E.U. yet. For me, traveling trough Serbia to reach Croatia or Greece, or going to Montenegro means a tariff of 10euros/MB from my network operator. eSIM saved me in those situations when I go to the seaside on my side of Europe.
     
  19. ginkobiloba macrumors 6502

    ginkobiloba

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Location:
    Paris
    #19
    Like others said, we tend sometimes to forget how cheap subscriptions are in Europe. I can have a monthly plan for 60 € with 100GB of data, of which I can use 80GB all over Europe AND the US/Canada .

    For people from US/Canada, wouldn't it be more practical to simply get a used iPhone SE for example on top of your regular iPhone, then put a local european data SIM in the SE and use it to share data with your regular iPhone ? That way, you would get the best prices AND the convenience of keeping your regular number . It also means that you would have to carry another iphone with you at all times while in Europe, but the SE is so small and light that it would be worth it.
     
  20. MarkCollette macrumors 68000

    MarkCollette

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    Toronto, Canada
    #20
    Do you have your iMessage and FaceTime setup to also work with your iCloud email address or only your phone number?
     
  21. PLin macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2003
    #21
    I found Google Fi to be a better option. I have my AT&T Postpaid account on the eSIM on my iPhone XS Max, and I keep my Google Fi SIM in the tray. $10 per GB in every country, and you can get up to 9 free data-only SIMs for use with other devices that share the same data bucket, so I gave one to my wife to use in her iPhone XS. Data charges are capped at $60, so if you use over 6GB, you still pay $60. You do have to pay $20 per month for unlimited voice and SMS, but you can pause the service when you're not using it.

    At least with AT&T, you can have their international department disable roaming completely, so you won't make an accidental phone call, and you don't have to worry about disabling that line on your iPhone, because it will simply have No Service, but iMessage and FaceTime still work for your main phone number. You can also setup call forwarding from your main number, so if someone calls you, your Google Fi number will ring, and you end up paying 20 cents a minute no matter where you are, which is very reasonable.
     
  22. nburwell macrumors 601

    nburwell

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    Location:
    DE
    #22
    Great write up and review!

    I purchased an Orange pre-paid SIM off Amazon before my trip to Europe last year. I had my X which was on T-Mobile, but I placed the SIM in my unlocked SE. My wife and I traveled to France and Italy and the SE worked flawlessly the entire trip. I really only used my X to take pictures. For me, the T-Mobile 2G speeds on my X were way too slow for me (and I was probably impatient too).

    The next time we travel abroad, I'll definitely give GigSky a try on my Xs. Plus, it beats having to carry two phone's around, which is always a plus.
     
  23. justperry macrumors G3

    justperry

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    In the core of a black hole.
    #23
    Not everywhere in Europe, I live in one of the richest countries in Europe, Data is expensive here, don't get it though, surrounding countries have much cheaper data prices.
     
  24. jclo Editor

    jclo

    Staff Member

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    Location:
    California
    #24
    Yep. I definitely had an issue with voicemails while using the GigSky data, even with VZW still set as my primary carrier. I'm not sure if it was because I was overseas, something to do with the eSIM, or something caused by my fussing with settings, but my voicemail didn't seem to work until I got back to the U.S. and reset all of my network settings. Of course, I don't get a ton of voicemail, but the one I did receive on 12/13 didn't show up until 12/16 when I was back home.
    --- Post Merged, Jan 3, 2019 ---
    I've got both enabled.
     
  25. tlkudo macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2016
    #25
    Previously when travelling with just the wife, we used a pocket wifi device. The advantage is that they can be used with locked phones and you only need one as long as you stick together. We would both disable our cellular modems to ensure no roaming charges. Calls, text messages and voicemail all continue to work normally, as if you're still at home, with wifi calling and imessage enabled. Had a $5 skype balance for any local calls.

    There are 2 obvious significant disadvantages to this approach - you have to carry around / keep charged another device, and things get interesting if you accidentally get split up.

    For those reasons I like the idea of having a local esim. My question (and it wasn't completely clear from Julie's write up) - has anyone tried turning off their primary sim with with imessage AND wifi calling enabled? Would the phone use the data connection on the esim as if it were wifi to make and receive calls?
     

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