Taking your Mobile Life abroad
Almost half of Britain’s annual 60 million plus holidaymakers use their smartphone abroad. The wide range of apps and location-based services (LBS) designed for travelling mean smartphones are becoming more synonymous with the holiday experience, helping users to make the most of their time away.
And as the number of British smartphone users abroad increases, so are the numbers of companies recognising the ability of LBS to increase footfall, revenue, customer engagement, loyalty and satisfaction.
However, despite the demand for LBS and the benefits they bring, perceived high roaming charges coupled with limited free WiFi availability are restricting most people from being able to use their phone how or as often as they’d like – meaning smartphones often become ‘dumb phones’.
This article looks at how smartphones and LBS can be used on holiday while overcoming the ever-present problem of high roaming charges and limited WiFi.
Using your smartphone for a better holiday experience
With around 15,000 travel apps for iPhone users alone, there’s an app for every possible travel need. At the airport for example, online check-in and electronic boarding passes save passengers time and hassle, and help boost satisfaction by improving the overall service experience. Of course, these services also help to reduce the associated costs for airline operators.
When it comes to getting around the airport, most of us have walked up and down the corridors looking for the right gate, a pharmacy or an ATM. A LBS such as Airport Maps however is easy to use and can save time and endless walking, as well as supporting sales for retailers and food chains.
App-based tours are a great example of LBS that help you get the most from your holiday destination, whether that be seeing the best sights or eating at the finest restaurants. SCVNGR for example will take you on hundreds of treks across the US. And to add a fun dimension, it even includes location-based challenges where you can earn on-the-spot rewards like free coffee at a local café. Apps such as these not only help users explore what’s around them, but also promote and increase sales for local businesses that may otherwise go undiscovered.
With the right app, the days of going to the hotel’s help desk can also be over. AroundMe for example enables you to search for local businesses, such as hotels, fuel stations and banks. If you’re struggling with translation, an app such as Google Translate, which is used to translate 100 million words every week, will be able to help. And if you want to tap into some local knowledge, Ask Around is a spinoff service from Ask Jeeves that allows you to ask questions and find answers.
Of course, you can also use your smartphone as a way of staying in touch with family and friends. Aside from Facebook and email for example, you can use an app like Skype to make free calls over WiFi.
High data roaming charges and limited WiFi
Despite the benefits and immense range of applications offered by smartphone technology, there’s no hiding from the fact that apps and LBS require a significant amount of data. This is escalating the problem of perceived high roaming charges and limited WiFi, which often forces users to switch off roaming and turn their smartphone into a ‘dumb phone’.
Almost three-quarters of Europeans are worried about the cost of using their mobile phone when travelling in the EU. Although 61 per cent are aware that roaming charges have fallen since 2006, 72 per cent still limit their roaming and 42 per cent of those who do not use their phone on holiday is because of the high charges. While a European cap has limited data charges/use to £42 a month, no such rules apply for the rest of the world.
WiFi, which allows users to connect to the internet for free or an affordable fee, provides an alternative to mobile roaming but with hotspots centred around hotels, towns and cities, it’s not currently widely available.
To help overcome this, the number of public WiFi hotspots is expected to rapidly increase by 350 per cent to 5.8 million between 2011 and 2015. This growth is largely fuelled by operators, as they look for ways to offload traffic from their mobile networks, which are estimated to grow tenfold between 2011 and 2016.
To help users manage their costs, almost all network providers are also now offering bundled call/text/data add-ons for use abroad, which can be as much as 80 per cent or more cheaper than standard rates. The Digital Agenda for Europe has additionally set a target for the differences between roaming and national tariffs to approach zero by 2015.
David Jones, Product Innovation Manger for Lifestyle Services Group, says of the subject:
“The onus is on the network operators to support their customers more in doing what has become default behaviour. If you’re on holiday and see a great photo opportunity, your instinct is to share it immediately with your friends via your preferred social network site. You don’t want to be worrying about how much it will cost to upload the image or even text a comment.”
Lifestyle Services Group currently provide, and are looking to develop, a number of solutions which can support consumers in helping them to lead their Mobile Life in the same way whether they’re at home or abroad. Worldwide cover is a standard feature of our insurance propositions, but we are also investigating the possibilities of delivering replacement handsets abroad rather than waiting for their return to the UK. Or as an alternative fulfilment option, the ability to transfer cash to the customer so they can buy a local PAYG phone.
There is then the possibility of bundling together a range of Travel related products to form a comprehensive proposition which can help consumers to use their mobile devices more effectively when abroad, and have support in place when things go wrong.
Looking to the future
Taking an app-packed smartphone on holiday with you has the potential to transform your experience, giving you local information at the tip of your fingers. Data roaming charges however are still so high they are limiting use of smartphones and LBS abroad.
It’s likely to be another four years before we see full penetration in the use of smartphones abroad. Fortunately, as data roaming costs continue to fall and the number of WiFi hotspots continue to increase, more people will be able to use their smartphone freely on their holidays and more companies will be able to reap the benefits of offering LBS.
Taking your smartphone abroad? Use this handy checklist:
Pre-purchase a suitable data bundle so you don’t come home to an unexpected data roaming bill
Download a data-tracking app so you can monitor how much data you’ve used and plan your usage throughout your holiday
Use an app such as JiWire to use your phone’s GPS and network triangulation capabilities to locate free WiFi access
Protect your data – don’t risk losing all those precious and irreplaceable holiday photos. A product such as Lifestyle Services Group’s data backup and restoration app uses a Wi-Fi connection to remotely backup all the data on your phone
Make sure you’re covered –people who insure their phone on their house insurance don’t realise they’re unlikely to be protected abroad. A dedicated mobile phone insurance policy is the best way to ensure you have maximum protection in the event of loss, damage or theft
If you would like to discuss any of the products and services from Lifestyle Services Group that have been specifically designed for use abroad, please contact our Business Development team on 01270 413000.
World Travel Market Industry Support report. 2011.
Google. 2011. Cited on Wired.com.
European Commission. 2011. Special Eurobarometer Survey: Roaming in 2010.
World Travel Market Industry Support report. 2011.
Informa Telecoms and Media. 2011. Cited on ComputerWorld.com.
Ericsson. 2011. Cited on ComputerWorld.com.