Useful if you don’t want to switch out SIM cards

If there’s one thing we can’t do without whenever we leave the country, it’s internet access. We usually purchase a SIM card whenever we land in foreign soil since nothing makes you feel like a local more than the ability to translate, access to maps and just Google unfamiliar stuff on a whim.

But purchasing a local SIM isn’t always feasible for everyone for many reasons: maybe you’re in an multi-country tour, maybe you have an iPhone and can’t physically insert another SIM in your phone, etc. Well, for those cases you have devices like Cherry Mobile’s Roam – a pocket WiFi of sorts that gives you mobile data no matter what country you land in.

What is it?

The Cherry Roam is basically a pocket wifi that’s capable of connecting to almost any network in the world without requiring a SIM card. It’s similar to devices like SkyRoam, which utilizes virtual SIM technology to tap into countries’ local networks. While it has two SIM slots inside of it, it actually doesn’t use a physical SIM when it’s connecting to worldwide networks. The Cherry Roam can connect to around 100+ partner networks around the world. Most of the countries that the service can’t connect to are in mostly in far-flung regions in Africa like Mali, Namibia, Congo, Malawi and so on and so forth.

That’s a big screen for a WiFi hotspot.

Yeah, it is. The Cherry Roam is basically a GlocalMe G3 WiFi hotspots and sports a 4-inch LCD touchscreen display. The Cherry Roam is quite substantial for a pocket WiFi device, weighing in at around 240grams. It has a large 5,350mAh battery inside so it has enough juice to run all day while providing data for up to five devices.

How hard is it to set up?

It’s not extremely difficult, but it’s not what you’d call dead simple either. To be able to use Cherry Roam you’ll need to download the accompanying app in Google Play. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to create an account and pair the physical unit you have with your account. You can do that by scanning the QR code on the device, or via manually entering your information on the display.

Once you have your account set up, you’ll need to purchase a data package. You can do that through a number of ways: through the Cherry Roam website itself, PayPal or by emailing the folks behind the service so you can talk to a live person to facilitate it for you.

The setup process is a little clunky, and device pairing isn’t 100%. We had to log-in our account manually on the device once we used the voucher code that Cherry Mobile gave us to test the device out. We also didn’t know you had to purchase or get a data plan at the beginning so the device would connect, so there’s that as well.

What kind of data plans can you get?

All kinds. There’s the traditional pay-as-you-go option that charges you per MB of data that you consume, though you’d probably want to grab a data plan specific to the place you’re heading to instead. Some of the data plans make sense, though some don’t – the plans for both Asia and South Asia give you the same amount of data (1GB) for the same amount of time (3 days), yet the one for South Asia is Php 250 more than the one for Asia, which is priced at Php 350.

How well does it work?

It works extremely well. Once you get through the initial hiccups in setup and get your data plan sorted, the device gives you extremely fast internet – as fast as possible through whatever network GlocalMe has partnered up for that particular network. In Thailand where we are currently, it’s Advanced Info Service or AIS. Our Cherry Roam device tapped into AIS’ 4G LTE network and gave us very fast speeds while we were roaming around Bangkok and Koh Samui.

What’s nice about having an LCD on your mobile hotspot is that you know exactly how much data is left in your current data plan, which allows you to plan accordingly. Running out of data? Either purchase a new plan or hold off uploading those travel photos and videos until you get back to your hotel’s WiFi.

The Cherry Roam can also pull double duty as an emergency power bank if your phone suddenly runs out of juice while you’re out exploring.

So how much is it?

The Cherry Roam is priced at Php 6,990. That’s quite steep for a mobile hotspot, and not everyone can justify paying that much for a device that they’ll use for one or maybe two trips abroad. To address that, Cherry Mobile is allowing people to rent a device to use, though you’ll have to drop them a line first before you can do that through their sales channels.

If you travel enough to different countries to necessitate a purchase, know that you can use it as a traditional hotspot in the Philippines by putting in data SIMs from either Smart or Globe via its two micro SIM slots.

Should you buy it?

It depends on whether you travel enough overseas to necessitate a purchase, and if you’re willing to buy a local SIM for your data needs. In countries where data is expensive (like the US or Europe), buying or renting the Cherry Roam is a good idea since its data plans are cheaper than buying a SIM.