I just took a trip into Canada and thought I would share my experience. Since Republic Wireless does not provide coverage for my Nexus 6P on Sprint and RW V3 plans in Canada, I needed to find options for voice, text, and navigation while across the border. Here’s what worked for me and what didn’t work for me:
First, for navigation I downloaded the free “Here We Go” navigation app. This app is designed to allow you to download maps so that you can have full voice turn-by-turn navigation assistance when you do not have cellular data service. Since I was going to be in both British Columbia and Alberta, I downloaded both maps while I was still at home on my wifi. In general this worked fine.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT “HERE WE GO”:
- It’s free.
- It always got me where I needed to go. I would never have been able to navigate Calgary without GPS assistance.
- It’s very easy to use
WHAT I DIDN"T CARE FORE ABOUT “HERE WE GO”:
- It doesn’t announce street names like Google Maps GPS does. It says “Take the next exit” rather than saying “Take exit 293 for South Maddison Street”. In areas with lots of streets and exits, having the street names spoken is a big plus. You can, however, glance at the screen and read the name of the street or exit at the top of the screen, if you can safely take your eyes off of the road.
- When you need to enter a destination, it does a good job of finding exact addresses, but it doesn’t know very many things by name. This is a bit tough when you want to go to, for example, a restaurant and know the name but not the address.
- I also learned a bit late that I should have also loaded a map for Idaho, since we headed up into Canada through Idaho. We spent the night in Sandpoint Idaho and when we were ready to leave, I tried to enter the address we were going to in British Columbia and it said “no map available”. At first I thought it couldn’t find the BC map that I had downloaded but i soon realized that it was saying that it couldn’t navigate me through Idaho into BC. The solution was to wait until we were actually in Canada and then enter the destination. Definitely my mistake and not a mistake of Here We Go, but something that you need to be aware of.
All in all, Here We Go was a huge asset and I highly recommend it for navigation where you don’t have cellular data available. It’s not nearly as feature rich as Google Maps navigation, but it does the job.
Now for my less successful experiment with talk/text/data in Canada. After doing some research I decided to purchase a SIM card from “iRoam” prior to my trip. The cost seemed reasonable and they had several options for talk, text, and data. The card arrived in plenty of time before the trip and I thought I was ready to have a successful cellular experience across the border. Wrong…
My first bump in the road was in activating the SIM. It wouldn’t activate via the web, which is the recommended method. However, I called iRoam tech support and they quickly activated the card. Kudos to iRoam tech support. With the card activated I soon had full bars of cellular service. I made a short test call and sent a test text and both worked. Terrific!
Well, maybe not. About 10 minutes later I noticed that I had no cellular service. I was not travelling and had not moved from the spot where I had service 10 minutes prior. I rebooted the phone and after rebooting the cellular service was back. Ok, no problem. Just a glitch. I’m ok now.
Nope. About 10 minutes later I completely lose service again. At this point I make the first of several calls over 2 days to iRoam technical support. I will spare you the details, but each time they had me try the same things over and over. Remember the old saying that insanity is trying the same things over and over again and expecting different results? No matter what we tried, I would have service for about 5 to 15 minutes and then would have no service. If I just let the phone sit it would regain service in another 5 to 15 minutes and then lose it again after another 5 to 15 minutes.
After 2 days of calls to tech support and not gaining a resolution, I asked them to deactivate the SIM and return my money. I was told that they could not do this and that the problem must be that the area that I was in had “spotty” and “insufficient” signal. I told them that I was in the heart of Calgary and that when I had signal, it was full bars of signal. They then insisted that the problem was that I was driving around and going in and out of signal, but I re-iterated to them that I was sitting in one place at my hotel and was not moving. We went round and round over 2 to 3 more calls and they remained adamant that a refund was simply not possible. They said that they had escalated the issue and that I should have a response from that team in 24 to 48 hours. I shared with them that this was not acceptable because I was only going to be in Canada for a couple more days, so a solution in 48 hours was not helpful. I again asked for the SIM to be deactivated and for a refund and they again said that this was not possible.
At this point I asked to be transferred to a supervisor and was told that there was no supervisor available. I then asked for a supervisor to call my wife’s RW phone (which was working fine on the hotel’s WiFi) whenever they could find one. A couple of minutes later a supervisor called and after a lengthy discussion, he agreed to refund everything except the few minutes that I had actually used in making the 1 test call and the test text message.
So, all in all, my experience with iRoam was not successful. And although I did manage to get a refund, I’m guessing that many people wouldn’t, because many might have accepted tech support’s repeated insistence that a refund would not be possible.
The next time I will do this differently. While I was in Canada I walked into a few drugstores and a Walmart and they al had various “no contract” SIM card options, at fairly reasonable prices. And most of the providers have kiosks at the malls, so you could get a SIM card there and have them available in person to verify that it worked. Unfortunately for me, by the time I was finished dealing with iRoam my remaining time in Canada was short enough that it didn’t make sense to try another option.
On a different, but related note: In retrospect I wonder if it is possible that the RW app was in some way interfering with the non-RW SIM? I wonder if it would have worked if I had deleted the RW app? Too late to try now, but maybe someone from RW might read this and provide an answer?