Skyroam and Always Online Wireless offer two simple options for international 4G data roaming, one being in the form of a 4G hotspot device and the other as a prepaid SIM card that works almost anywhere in the world. In my comparison guide on the Best Mobile Wifi Hotspots for Travelers, both options have proven to be very popular for travelers, so today I'm going to further breakdown and compare the two services to help you determine which is best for your needs when traveling abroad.
DEVICES: Winner – It's A Toss-Up
Always Online Wireless offers a 4G World SIM Card that works in your existing unlocked mobile device (phone or tablet) and sells data plans by the day, hour, or megabyte. They also work with iPad's Apple SIM Card. And with their prepaid SIM card plans, you are allowed to tether your phone/tablet and use it to provide Internet for your other devices as well, as long as you're willing to pay for the data.
Skyroam on the other hand offers a mobile hotspot called the Solis, which doubles as a 6000mAh power bank, lasts more than 16 hours on a single charge, and can power up to 5 devices with Internet at once, while simultaneously charging one of them.
In the device category, it's a toss-up because each company offers a different type of solution for mobile Internet. If you don't want to carry an extra device with you, then Always Online Wireless is worth checking out since you're simply replacing the SIM card in your existing phone or tablet. However, if you don't mind carrying an extra device with you (they're pretty small anyway and double as a battery pack), then Skyroam will be the way to go.
PRICE: Winner – Skyroam
You can BUY the Skyroam Solis device for $149.99 + shipping and pay $9/day for unlimited Internet with Skyroam, and that price includes 1 Free Day Pass. Or you can RENT a Solis for $9.95/day + shipping in both directions, which includes the device and unlimited Internet access.
Always Online Wireless offers data plans by the day, hour, or megabyte, but vary per country, and their International SIM card costs $14.95 upfront. Essentially they are a data broker, selling you an individual plan with different prices for each country using the same SIM card. Their international rates average about $1.99/hour for 20mb, $9.99/day for 200mb, and $49/GB but can differ drastically per country. AOW has agreements with multiple carriers in almost every country, so their SIM will actually jump from carrier to carrier to give you the best signal/speeds wherever they are. They do not offer a single rate worldwide plan.
In regards to pricing, I'm giving the win to Skyroam for offering a worldwide daily flat rate versus Always Online Wireless whose rate differs by country. In terms of devices, Always Online Wireless's SIM card is only $14.95 versus Skyroam's $149.99 hotspot device, but AOW's daily unlimited can cost more than Skyroam's in many countries. On the flip side of the coin, however, Skyroam doesn't offer the ability to purchase smaller packets of data, which may be a more cost effective solution for travelers who don't require unlimited Internet each day and instead only plan on using data on occasion or for emergencies.
Since their pricing structures are different, it's tough to compare. However, apples to apples for their unlimited plans, Skyroam comes out a couple bucks cheaper for daily use, which could more than pay for the difference in upfront costs for the device after a while. (Also, don't forget that you can save an additional 10% off at Skyroam using our exclusive TRAVELISLIFE promo code at checkout.)
4G DATA THROTTLING: Winner – Always Online Wireless
Hotspot devices that offer unlimited data like Skyroam and Always Online Wireless have to abide by international data roaming agreements and Fair Use Policies, which limit the amount of 4G service a subscriber can use in a given day on unlimited plans. Skyroam limits your 4G usage to 500mbs per day before reducing you to 2G/3G speeds.
Always Online Wireless, on the other hand, does not throttle your speeds on their per-hour or per-megabyte plans, since they are essentially charging you per megabyte to be used within a window of time, but they do throttle you on the unlimited daily plan depending on the country.
In the data throttling category, Always Online Wireless wins for offering an option to buy non-throttled 4G plans. It can get expensive to pay per megabyte, however, if you require a high speed connection every time you access the Internet, and you're willing to pay for it, then AOW will be a better choice. If you're just looking to access e-mails, messages, and social media on your trip, and aren't too concerned with being speed throttled after you hit 500mbs in a day, then Skyroam would be more cost effective.
COVERAGE: Winner – Skyroam
Skyroam advertises that they work in 110+ countries and destinations around the world, whereas Always Online Wireless advertises 90+ countries. So technically I have to give the win to Skyroam here. However, before I sway you in one direction or another based on coverage, let me ask you this… Does it really matter how many countries it works in? Or is a better question, Does it work in the specific countries where I'm ACTUALLY GOING? Because what good is an extra 20+ countries if you have no intention of visiting those countries?
The best thing you can do before a trip is view the coverage pages on Skyroam and Always Online Wireless and see what their coverage is in the specific areas you'll be traveling.
OVERALL WINNER: Always Online Wireless vs Skyroam
Skyroam wins for folks who require unlimited Internet but aren't overly concerned with their 4G data being throttled after 500mbs each day. Their flat rate daily pricing is easy and attractive and removes the hassle of having to count your gigabyte usage in order to keep your data bill down – and it comes at an average of $1 less per day than Always Online Wireless's unlimited daily plan.
Always Online Wireless wins for travelers who would like to be able to purchase smaller data packages than daily unlimited, and who don't want to carry around an extra device on their trip.
And there you have it! I hope this article helps you make an informed decision regarding your next international mobile hotspot and whether to go with Skyroam or Always Online Wireless. Also, don't forget that you can save an additional 10% off at Skyroam using our exclusive TRAVELISLIFE promo code at checkout.
If you need more options, check out my post on Best 4G Hotspots For International Travelers.
Feedback/Questions? Drop a comment below. And enjoy your trip abroad!
SEE ALSO: Best International Data Plans from US Cell Phone Carriers