(Pocket-lint) - A Japanese gymnast apparently didn't think about getting an international data plan before catching all the Pokemon in Rio.
Kohei Uchimura, the reigning gold medalist and world champion, is addicted to Pokemon Go. (Listen - we all have our vices). He's in Brazil preparing for the Rio Olympics, but when he's not swinging on bars and rings, he's scouring the countryside trying to catch 'em all. Unfortunately, however, that resulted in him getting slapped with a 500,000 yen (£3,700) bill in roaming charges.
Uchimura didn't have a flat rate plan for overseas data usage. His teammate, Kenzo Shirai, told Phys.org that Uchimura "looked dead at the team meal" the same day he discovered how much his bit of fun had cost him. Don't feel too bad for the athlete, however, as he managed to sweet-talk his phone company and got out of paying most of his bill. The final damage was just 3,000 yen (£20).
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Uchimura said he "really lucked out". Yeah, no kidding. But for those of you who don't have such pull with your network, here's some quick tips on how to avoid roaming charges and still get away with playing Pokemon Go while traveling.
How can you avoid roaming charges abroad?
Get an international data plan
This one may sound pretty obvious, but it's worth mentioning. Call your phone company and see if it offers an affordable fixed-rate plan that will let you consume lots of data while abroad. Simples. Check out Pocket-lint's guide on which is the cheapest network for EU and abroad. You could even pick up a travel-only plan through companies like MTX Connect. It's a mobile operator that provides data-only, pay-as-you-go plans for US travelers going to specific European countries. Simply request a free MTX SIM card for your unlocked tablet or smartphone, and a basic plan will cost you about 10 cents per megabyte, while a 1GB plan is available for $50 (£40).
Use an unlocked phone
Make sure your phone is unlocked so it can be used on any cellular network. Some phone companies, like AT&T in the US, will let you unlock your phone permanently once your contract expires, while other companies, like Verizon in the US, even sells some unlocked. Google Play also sells unlocked Android Phones, and so doesn't Amazon, Best Buy, etc. Just browse around and see what you can find. Once you have an unlocked phone, get a local SIM card when you reach your destination and use the phone on that local network. The SIM card and pre-paid rates will be cheaper than international roaming charges. Check out Vodafone, too, as it sells SIM cards for data use that work anywhere in its Europe Zone.
Rent a new phone
Rent a new phone that works in the country you're visiting. It's doesn't have to be anything fancy. It just has to be able to download Pokemon Go (and don't worry, you can download the app, then log into your Google Account, and all your achievements and hard work will be there, waiting for you). Companies like Cellular Abroad offer a range of phones you can rent for around $40 to $70 a week. Cellular Abroad specifically promises that its pay-as-you-go data rates are a "small fraction" of what the major carriers charge. The idea is that renting and paying-as-you-go should be way cheaper than racking up tonnes of international roaming charges from using your own device while abroad.
Stick to Wi-Fi
Here's another obvious one: just turn off your cellular data. To remain connected, enable a Wi-Fi connection and only access the internet using hotspots in your destination.
What are some data-saving tips and tricks?
- Download all app updates and in-app purchases over Wi-Fi.
- Set a mobile data limit for yourself. On Android, go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data Usage > Data Usage Date Cycle > And select a date range. On iPhone, you'll have to either ask your carrier to contact you or download a free data-tracking app. On iPhone, you can disable the app from using data altogether by going to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Usage.
- Avoid downloading/streaming videos, music, and media while playing.
- Close out of other open apps that may be sucking up data.
- Restrict background app data. On Android, go to Settings > Application or Apps > Pokemon Go > Data Usage > Restrict Background Data. On iPhone, you can stop apps from refreshing in the background by going to Settings > General > Background App Refresh> Pokemon Go.
- Disable notifications under your phone's Settings app. Email and push notifications from various apps also eat into data.
Does Pokemon Go use a lot of data?
No. According to The Wall Street Journal, Verizon said that Pokemon Go, which has become one of the top downloads since it was released in the US last month, makes up less than 1 per cent of its overall network data traffic. A separate network analytics firm, called P3 communications, reportedly also determined the app only consumes between 5MB to 10MB of data per hour. If the game sucks at most 10MB per hour, you would have to play for about 7 hours a day for 30-days straight to consume a standard 2GB data plan, which costs $55 a month. CNET ran a test as well and found that, on the iPhone, Pokemon Go is a battery hog - but not a data one.