When I lived in Canada, I didn't realize how developed, and stable, the network technology actually is.
My cellphone plan was 16Gb/mo which I shared with my sister, she used 5gb and I'd use 10gb. At home, I had a 100mbps internet package, which usually sat around 75mbps, and could download as much as I wanted. I forked over a boatload of money each month for it, but, it was pretty near as advertised (in terms of speeds). My iPhone had a pretty solid connection all throughout downtown Toronto, and pretty much whatever I wanted to do, I could and did.
I made a video for you guys like 7 different times, each shorter than the previous, to try and make it small enough to upload to a post for you, to no avail. I couldn't even send an email with a 85mb PDF attached. Apple Mail Drop didn't even work -- which is when I send the email, but the attachment sits on the iCloud servers so as to make it a smaller email.
When at home (in TJ), I chalked the slow data speed up to my housemates torrenting a ton of videos, and gaming which caused the network to lag. Regarding my iPhone speeds, I was on EDGE, 2G, and that network is just super slow. After going out and getting a new phone to "tie me over" until the new iPhone comes out, I learned now matter which device I purchased the network speed is slow due to the network itself.
After downloading the Apple Music app on my new Hauwei P8Max, I "downloaded" the songs to be saved offline to avoid streaming interruptions (I'd mostly stream my music in Toronto so I didn't have to save it to my phone). Even this wouldn't work without issues.
What advice would I give my fellow Westerners before travelling abroad?
1. Sign up for a VPN at home, just don't drop a bunch of cash thinking it's gauranteed to work -- It may not. Go for free VPN's, or at least one with a money back option. Some of my colleagues have paid for VPN's only to have the government shut them down afterwards. I downloaded this random VPN called Hexatech on iOS and it seems to work quite well. Haven't tried it on Android yet because it's not on the lesser known app stores.
2. Make sure to check the LTE bands on your device to match the frequencies/bands used in your destination country. iPhone users, see www.apple.ca/iphone/LTE for more information. If you're thinking of buying an iPhone and heading abroad, don't bother with anything older than a 6S/6S Plus/SE, they don't have the bands for SE Asia, and perhaps other countries to run on LTE.
3. Obviously make sure your device is unlocked? Do you actually have a locked phone?!
4. Don't bother with anything less than 64 GB of storage. If you run Android, managing SD cards is a pain, and it's just another thing to lose. If you run iOS, 64GB is a minimum. You'll take a ton of photos, don't cheap out on the storage. It'll be 100% worth it once you arrive. And you'll end up downloading local apps galore once upon arrival for various things. Portable, wireless hard drives fall into a similar category. They offer strong benefits, but carrying that on top of an extra battery or solar charger, just adds weight and something valuable to get lost or stolen. Preferably, go with the 128GB option, or consider the 256GB now available on iOS. 256 may get pricy, but consider this when wondering if the extra $100-$150 is worth it (for 128 or 256)-- would you pay that amount to save the weight, avoid losing extra pieces to carry and not have to worry about device and storage management? On major trips like this, LESS IS MORE.
5. Skip the laptop, go with a tablet. Unless you have a specific program you need to run, a tablet is the way to go. Get an external keyboard for long documents (like these blog posts), and use that. If Tim Cook can use an iPhone and iPad and run a $500B company, surely you can blog and do social media on it as well. Furthermore, the dead weight of a laptop will kill your body and your trip. Laptops also mean more issues at the airport, larger power cables and are less portable than tablets. Laptops don't have access to the cool apps tablets do (like Skywalk for looking at constellations). If possible, I'd even suggest getting a cellular iPad/tablet for a few reasons: 1. If you cellphone battery dies, you can toss the sim in the tablet and still get data access for maps, translations, communications and social media access. 2. You may want to ditch the cellphone all together if you're ultra portable but want more screen real estate, 3. Having worked at Apple I heard people say "I'll just use the wifi for free" ALL THE TIME! Which in theory sounds great -- unlimited internet access at every coffee shop. Ya. No. In China, there literally is wifi everywhere, but you're a fool if you use it unsecured. Back to VPN, see above for data speed issues, they're worse on wifi by itself, let alone with the increased lag of a VPN. VPN's are like those sketchy torrent sites you're friend recommends. They say "the site has everything, and all in perfect HD". You start using it only to discover it's slow as sh*t, nowhere near HD, and now your computer is slow. People here in China have told me specifically not to use the WIFI even with VPN running. And sticking to wifi means you anchor yourself to that location (in which case, you're no longer mobile), at which point, why bother visiting your destination location?! Or, you're forever scanning and connecting to new wifi networks which drains your battery like a mofo and prevents you from enjoying your trip. Either go LTE, or shut off your access to the Internet.
6. Make sure to download everything you think you could use, or even want, BEFORE you leave. This includes, books, movies, games, songs, audiobooks, data in apps like Dropbox or other cloud storage (especially if you have photos of your travel documents as back ups on there). You may not have access to a fast enough connection, or the service may not be available in that country thereby limiting or removing your access.
Great accessories for travel:
1. Folding keyboard with case - for iPad. This offers some physical protection, is a great mount for watching movies or reading in landscape, and the keyboard comes in handy for replacing the laptop.
2. 2M cable - iPhone/iPad. Travelling around may mean you're somewhere with limited access to plugs/outlets. Having a longer cord could mean the difference between the cable reaching your bed/table/chair without you sitting on the ground, or worse, having it like a foot away from the bed and you can't lay down on your back and look at IG, you have to do it stretched out on your side. Pro tip, bring one more cable than you have devices. This can be a cable for your bag if you are being more stationary ie. Staying somewhere for a few weeks/months. If you are completely mobile, having a back-up separate from your electronics could mean having an extra cable if your primary ones get wet, damaged, lost or stolen. And if that happens, it'll be the best $30 you've spent. Nothing like a dying phone when you need directions.
3. Plug bug world travel kit - iOS/OSX. This adapter allows for easy changing of electrical socket plugs. It also has the strong benefit over the Apple World Travel Kit of being able to charge two devices off one socket. Not every place you visit may have a two socket plug system like in North America. Note, this is only possible if you have a 12W plug (don't bother with a 5W iOS plug anyways since it only charges iPhone and not iPad). Case and point below (yes, I have three plugs, but I don't use these because they aren't near my bed, which only has 1 socket):
4. Water-proof plastic bag. For documents, chargers and devices.
5. Solar charging external battery pack. This should be obvious, however, I haven't committed to one yet. I've seen some on Amazon, but, a 12,000 mAh battery (huge) combined with a solar panel, LED light and clip for $22 seems little too good to be true. They claim it charges the iPad at 2.1A, however, I'm not sure I believe that. And if it screws up my iPad Pro battery, it'll cost me more than $22 to replace it. There's a difference between saving money and being naïve.
6. Selfie stick. This is something I've noticed I've been wanting. It obviously allows for selfies but can capture more background content at many more angles than your arm. They can be used to capture a photo from a higher vantage point like at concerts or if you're leaning over to the side, it can extend further.
7. Joby tripod. I tested one of these a while ago and should have kept it. I got the model with the arm on it to allow for easy and consistent panning and titling. This would be great for capturing myself doing yoga, taking selfies even the selfie stick can't handle.
8. I'm thinking of getting a GoPro. I'm not in extreme enough conditions for one yet but considering the models. If anyone has one please let Melanie the model, what you use it for and what you would change.
If you have any other suggestions, please either comment or send them to me. Hope you found this helpful! Cheers!