Review: Skyroam Solis Portable Wifi Device

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If you’d like to try Skyroam, One Mile at a Time readers can get 10% off by following this link and using the promo code “OMAAT” at check-out.

Skyroam is a company that rents and sells portable WiFi hotspots for use around the world. Nick reviewed the old Skyroam device a few years back, so when Skyroam launched their new product, they offered to loan one to One Mile at a Time to test out, along with a discount code for readers.

Given that I was going to be spending time in a few different countries, including China with Ben, it seemed like a good opportunity to test the Skyroam Solis in various places.

Skyroam Solis

Ben has written about connecting to international cellular networks on T-Mobile, and Tiffany has written about the joys of Google Fi.

But Google Fi requires an Android phone, and I’m a Verizon loyalist with an iPhone, so what options do I have for cellular data service when traveling abroad? Well, Verizon does offer international data in many countries for $10 per device (and AT&T has similar options). But what else is out there?

If you want to connect multiple devices, you should look into a portable wifi device. And if you want one that you can just turn on and use when you arrive in a foreign country, consider the Skyroam Solis.

What is it?

The Skyroam Solis is a portable wifi hotspot. Basically when you arrive in a country, you can turn it on and be ready to connect to the internet from your phone, laptop, tablet, or whatever.

Skyroam Solis packaging and case

In the past, I’ve used a portable wifi device like this one from Huawei. It works well, but it requires you to purchase a SIM card in the country where you want to use it. This means stopping at a wireless store, hoping they have a SIM card that will work with a data-only device (not to mention reasonably-priced data plans), and an employee who is willing to activate the device for you (usually it requires you to put the card in a cell phone and call a number).

I’ve also occasionally had to mess around with the Huawei device’s settings to even get it to work in certain countries. Plus it has very limited battery life, and won’t survive a full day of regular use without a battery recharge.

The Solis (which I affectionately refer to as the “orange hockey puck” for obvious reasons — Skyroam just sounds like a James Bond movie to me) has the advantage of simplicity: turn it on and you’re connected, in over 100 countries.

You can connect up to five devices to it (so if you are traveling with several people or using multiple phones/tablets/laptops, this saves you money over Verizon/AT&T’s $10 per device fee).

The Solis can also function as a charger through its USB-C cable.

Skyroam Solis Cost

The Solis “device” costs $149.99, plus $9 per “daypass,” with each daypass entitling you to 24 hours of use.

You only pay the $9 on the days you use Skyroam, and that $9 is good for 24 hours of use. You can also buy 5 daypasses for $40.

You activate a daypass from this screen, which loads when you turn on your device and connect your device to it via wifi.

There are no data overage fees: you get 500 MB of data per day at the highest network speed available (usually 4G-LTE), and then it drops down to a 2G speed.

Skyroam also offers rentals of the devices if you don’t want to purchase one.

Setting it up

The Skyroam Solis comes with a quick setup guide, but basically you connect it to your home wifi network, type in the registration URL, and set up an account.

It was pretty easy.

Once you’ve done that, you can purchase day passes, and you’re good to go.

Using the Solis

Overall I’m a fan.

The hockey puck has a battery that lasts all day and then some (in fact, you can use it as a charger for USB-C gadgets).

In China, Ireland, and Panama, I was able to acquire a cellular signal just by turning it on.

Skyroam Solis enjoying a scenic vista near the Panama Canal

When I tested the data speeds, they varied from quite slow (especially when I was in China and also had to use a VPN) to very fast (when I was in Panama).

Still, I was always able to do what I needed to do using the Solis.

Sometimes the speeds were pretty slow.
And sometimes the speeds were really fast.

Battery life was really impressive – I could go through a couple days of moderate use without having to recharge it. (There is a battery charge indicator on the device itself.)

The lighted circle shows that it’s at about 75 percent battery.

Some drawbacks: occasionally it took quite a while to connect to a cellular network after I turned it on – sometimes up to 15 minutes. And a few times it spontaneously disconnected and the only thing that seemed to work was turning it off and on again.

It’s also not exactly tiny or weightless. I had it in my pocket most of the time, and that didn’t leave room for much else. (If you’re carrying a bag with you, this obviously isn’t an issue.)

Bottom line

The Skyroam Solis is a good option for people who don’t have T-Mobile or Google Fi, and especially for those who have multiple devices that they’d like to connect. The battery life will get you through a lot of use, and the convenience of just turning it on and being good to go was really nice.

This is a more expensive option than purchasing local SIM cards, but was also vastly less complicated. I can see this being a great option for people who don’t travel enough to warrant an international phone plan, or those who are going to be in multiple countries in a short period of time and don’t want to mess with buying SIM cards every few days.

If you’d like to try Skyroam, One Mile at a Time readers can get 10% off by following this link and using the promo code “OMAAT” at check-out.

Has anyone used Skyroam? What was your experience?

Comments

  1. Hi Andrew – Interesting. I’m on T-Mobile, but I have many friends on Verizon who are always looking for advice. Can you use the Skyroam with Wifi calling on Verizon and are there any extra Verizon fees associated with that? I don’t know how compelling the cost savings are for one person, but if you have two Verizon customers traveling together, that would be 20 USD a day to roam on Verizon so maybe the Skyroam is worth it if one can also make calls?

  2. That is crazy expensive.. Understand the convenience, but I’d just pick up a project fi SIM for the time that you need it. It is really pretty easy to activate and cancel. Additionally you can get extra data only SIMs which are certified to work with iPhone, and you can have up to 10 of them. I’ve used them for all my family – it’s just $10 per gb, no cost for the sims.

    https://fi.google.com/about/plan/

    If you are interested in getting $20 off your first bill (which may be your only bill if you are just using for a trip), feel free to use my referral code. I would appreciate it too: https://g.co/fi/r/RYR014

  3. @Unhoeflich: Good question. Yes, wifi calling works with the device, and Verizon won’t charge you extra for it. In the screenshots above, see how my phone says “VZW Wi-Fi?” That’s what it says when wifi calling is available.

  4. Do you think it’s worth upgrading from the last SkyRoam device ? The new one seems to have better speed and battery ?

  5. This is insanely bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! unlimited data scam…. its only 500mb which is worthless!! 2G speeds is like tmobile free data roaming. heck for extra $10 you can get tmobile one PLUS which comes with 3G speeds unlimited !

  6. “But Google Fi requires an Android phone, and I’m a Verizon loyalist with an iPhone, so what options do I have for cellular data service when traveling abroad”
    Google Fi just needs to be activated in a nexus device once, you can then remove the sim and use it in any phone, I suggest getting a SIM, activating when you have a friend nearby with a nexus and then freezing the account immediately till you need it and then popping it into your verizon iphone, it should work!

  7. @Matt: It is faster, and the battery life is definitely way better (I think it’s about twice as good — 3000 mAh vs. 6000 mAh for the Solis). But keep in mind that it is also bigger and heavier than the old Skyroam. If you’re interested, I think they have an upgrade program for people who have the old Skyroam. Check their website.

    @Elias: Hmm, 500mb/day on a monthly basis would come to ~15gb/month. I tend to use less than half that, which leads me to believe that 500mb isn’t a problem for me. But to each his own!

  8. Expensive. I bought a portable WiFi spot on Cathay Pacific inflight duty free and it was around USD 130 with 5GB pre loaded. Works in 60+ countries and $15 to reload 5GB with the expiration. Much better value. FYI, it’s pokefi.

  9. @david and @Fi User and @Andrew:

    I’m an iPhone user on Project Fi. While I can’t use the iPhone as a Hot Spot, which would solve this issue altogether rendering this article moot, I did buy a cheap, used Android phone on eBay for not much more than the cost of the SkyRoam. That allowed me to set up my “normal” SIM for use in my iPhone. Now I just use the Android phone with a data-only Project Fi SIM as a hotspot when I’m travelling internationally with friends who don’t have international plans or when I’m working remotely and need my own hotspot. The Nexus line of phones are fairly slim and fit well in most backpack pockets to just carry around worry-free and you don’t have to worry about another account to setup and maintain, or another bill to pay.

    I haven’t used the SkyRoam, but this seems cumbersome comparatively.

  10. I pay GBP20 for “all you can eat” data and voice for 30 days use in the UK. I have an active SIM card and I add GBP20 every time I go there. Now that roaming is gone in Europe I can use that anywhere I go.

  11. If you don’t need 500 MB per day (but more like 1 GB or so over a week or two, which should be enough for basic web surfing, navigation, etc), this is way more expensive than Flexiroam ($30 for 1 GB over 90 days, plus $6 shipping). Flexiroam gives you a sticker to put on your phone’s sim card, and you can switch between your normal network and Flexiroam’s at will (requires rebooting the phone). Flexiroam only provides a data connection (not phone and text), and it allows you to use your phone as a wifi hotspot. It works in a long list of countries, and most reviews report very good connectivity and speed (which reflects my own experience). And it’s much lighter than Skyroam, assuming you’re also going to be carrying a phone around.

  12. I was excited until 9 dollars a day with 2g/3g boy speeds that’s extremely slow now adays and really expensive. Popping in a local or google fi sim will only cost 10-20 dollars for 2gb of data or more for a fifth of the price and faster speeds. I understand the conveniece, but local sim set up should only take 10 minutes max this is crazy prices.

  13. I would take Verizon $10 option. You can turn on and off the Verizon roaming so it usually doesn’t cost you 10 * days
    I got burned by Verizon once though. I assume China was on the list but it wasn’t at the time, my wife took an emergency call from one of her client, it cost us a little less than $100. Fortunately now China is on the list.

  14. @David,

    Thanks very much for explaining the freeze (fi calls it pause) feature on fi. I’ve been keeping my account open for ~$25 a month with taxes for the times during the year when I travel internationally. Good to know I can pause the account for up to 3 months at a time between uses. It’s a fantastic ‘feature’ which will save me for those months where I’m not aboard.

    Cheers!

  15. The haters are funny….

    Effectively, “You can get the same for a marginally lower price by just going somewhere and getting sim card for your phone assuming it’s unlocked, for each of your phones unless you want to be tethered to your companion, and then you just need to do that in each country…”

    Please… this looks like a nicely convenient option for those who want a consistent online experience abroad rather than having to reinvent the wheel and potentially overpay each time.

  16. Surfroam is usually the best deal. You install their SIM card in your phone and pay by the MB. In most countries the rate is .02 euros per MB. If I stay more than a few days, I will usually purchase a local SIM but for short trips it works just fine. Customer service is via email but they always answer in less than an hour. I do not earn anything for recommending them, im just a satsified customer. I consider flexiroam but is is considerably more expensive. Do check their rates first. Some countries are prohibitively expensive like Vietnam.

  17. It’s not remotely possible for me to understand how a hockey puck I have to carry is better than just paying Verizon $1/per day extra (no $150 startup fee, so I figure I’m ahead for the next decade or so).

    I mean this might make sense if you’re on a carrier that isn’t T-Mobile and isn’t Verizon and doesn’t offer something similar to those two.

    But a Verizon user? I don’t see this as an option. At all.

  18. We started using TEP as an alternative to AT&T because their plans are SO bad for international data. It works really well… and you don’t have to buy the device, which I think is a bonus since technology changes so rapidly. You might check it out!

  19. For me 500mb is simply not enough and 2g speeds after that are unusable, like the product but in my view not usable irrespective of price, It’s a pain at times but local SIM card in my own MiFi for me, eg South Africa this week and $30 for a 5gb package that lasts up to a month (or until the 5gb has gone), great idea though and would buy if it was practical

  20. I am a nomad, and my favorite connectivity hack is to pick up a very reasonably priced 3 UK sim that works in more than 20 countries for each my phone and tablet, plus two top ups for each, as they are only good for 90 days. That gives me 3 months of excellent data in the U.K. and 2G everywhere else.

    When I go to a non-included country, such as Morocco, I just stop in to pick up a SIM, have the employee activate it, step outside and make sure it’s working, then return to the employee if it’s not. The one time I’ve had a problem, rebooting the device eliminated it.

    I just don’t find buying a SIM that complicated. I’ve done it in multiple countries quickly and easily. Far more quickly than picking up a T-Mobile PayGo SIM in Las Vegas.

  21. Bought it, bought everything with it, cases, day passes,…. can’t even register, don’t get ANY customer service. Had a text sent to me in Chinese! Give me a break, haven’t had a chance to use but really dissatisfied

  22. Appreciate the review and hearing the responses. I used the older Skyroam device in Japan, Singapore, and Angkor Wat area back fall 2016, and had a good experience. We do currently have AT & T and can pay a $10 per day international use fee, so I’m not totally sold on the new Solis yet in terms of cost saving.

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