Backpacking · Europe · London · Technology · Uncategorized

Surviving London IV: Common Apps and Plans

This is the final installment of the “Surviving London” Guides!
After talking to fellow Hostel residents and friends living in London, this post will be focusing on cell phone providers and common talk/text apps.

Common Cell phone plans

***It is important to ASK whether the plan you’re receiving supplies international rates for texts/calls. Majority of the plans that list things like, “Unlimited texts”, for cheap prices only cover UK texting.
GiffGaff is a mobile connection that works off of the O2 network in the UK. GiffGaff offers free calling to other GiffGaff members, and has rates as low as £7.50 for unlimited Texts, 200 UK Minutes, and 250MB of data. You can always upgrade for £12 to unlimited texts and data, with 250 UK minutes. The drawback to GiffGaff is that it doesn’t have technical support in a traditional sense, so if something goes wrong you don’t have a Customer Service provider. Instead, there is something similar to a message board in which you get assistance for your phone from other GiffGaff users. Their International pricing is alright, 3p to call a cell or landline phone in America for example. Don’t send photos and texts are rather pricy (8p and 24p for MMS). They offer “pay-as-you-go” rates as well,
GiffGaff is popular here in London though, a number of individuals from various parts of the UK, including visitors and residents, that i’ve met use GiffGaff.
~TalkTalk is a mobile (and internet) network that offers cheap rates for usage. For a month payment plan it’ll run you £5 to receive unlimited texts, 300 UK minutes, and 600MB of data. BUT they don’t offer general Blackberry services. So if you have a Blackberry, you’ll have to sign up for separate services (their Blackberry Boost). They do, however, support iPhone devices fairly easily.
You DO have to be a TalkTalk member to receive these rates though.
~Vodafone is the provider I chose, partially because they are such a widespread phone service (making it a bit easier for me as I travel). The plan I chose cost me £15, the initial plan was a £10 ‘Freedom Freebee’ for 30 days (expiring Oct 5th, and I fly out Oct 6th. So getting a month of coverage made sense). The extra £5 was for international calling, 55 minutes covered. The ‘Freedom Freebee’ allows me: Unlimited UK texts, 150 UK minutes, and 500MB of data.
They offer “pay-as-you-go” rates, and have a bit more versatility for non-UK individuals. If you’re stationed in the UK for a while than one of the cheaper plans above, might make more sense. However, if you’re staying for a month or less, why purchase a long term plan? Or a plan that only allows you free calls to other network members (if those members are only UK members).
It’s more likely that you’ll be calling OUTSIDE of the country, more often than not if you’re simply traveling through.
However, your needs are specific to your trip and maybe you’ll be in the UK for the full length of your tourist visa (6 months), so getting a GiffGaff or TalkTalk SIM card will make more sense.
Common Talking/Texting Apps
These are good apps for international texting and calling (to other users with these apps).
WhatsApp is an SMS free app that allows texting, photos/videos, and group chats. This app doesn’t offer calling features, just features normally associated with SMS data plans. I know of a few people in London who use this app.
Viber is an SMS free app that allows texting, photos/videos, location sharing AND free calls to other Viber users. So if you’re calling someone internationally, call them on Viber! it’s free. Viber requires that all of your phone numbers are integrated with the format: + (country code)(phone number) in order to work. I predominantly use Viber, but I find that a few of my friends in London and Belgium prefer WhatsApp.
**These apps work on Wi-Fi networks, so you don’t HAVE to use your data plan (or have a data plan) in order to take advantage of them. I should know, I put Viber on my Samsung Galaxy before coming to England and I only use this phone for Wi-Fi purposes. I have the data shut off on my unlocked phone (which is an old Blackberry Curve), so I don’t run the risk of using unwanted data.

What plan are you on, and what apps do you use to talk/text?
What’s most common where you are?

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