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Roam Mobility Breeze unlocked GSM phone review

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

As a Canadian that travel to the US once in a while, I fell in love with Roam Mobility's US roaming services. They offer very competitive easy to understand plan to save you real money anytime you are in the USA.

I have actually written about them very often (some examples):

Since they are a reseller of T-Mobile connectivity services, as long as T-Mo has good coverage, you'll get good Roam Mobility coverage. I have tested and liked their Liberty hotspot and their SIM based service. During my last trip to Burlington Vermont, I decided to test their Breeze unlocked GSM phone.

The physical device

The device itself is fairy solid, is lightweight and is built with soft cheap plastic. It's features are:

  • Dual-SIM 
  • Quad-band GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900) unlocked
  • Qwerty keyboard
  • 2.2" color LCD screen
  • Bluetooth

The $49.99 device looks like a Blackberry-esque smartphone but in reality is is a dumb phone. As I played with the device to learn how it works, it really reminded me of my old Nokia 3310 phone. 

It has a basic menu system that will remind you of those 1990 Nokia menus. After playing with it for a couple of minutes, you'll quickly understand where everything is and how to configure it just the way you want. 

There is a built in battery which should provide a full day of heavy use and is recharged using a standard micro-USB plug (which is great since you don't need to carry another proprietary cable).

The fact that it is unlocked and has 2 SIM ports means you can use the Roam Mobility SIM card (for US roaming) but also insert your Canadian one (if you just want to take 1 device) but personally I just used it for US roaming. 

Unlocked means you can take it anywhere where a carrier offers compatible bands (like the UK, Hong Kong, etc).

The Kit includes

The kits comes with

  • The device
  • A Wall USB charger
  • A short USB cable
  • A small manual
  • The Roam Mobility SIM card

How does it work?

Once the nostalgia of using something that brought back my 1990 memories wore off, I sometimes found myself frustrated with the device. Everything seems to require 3-4 clicks (seeing missed calls, sending a text message, etc). The truth is we are not used to modern smartphones where every user interface design is closely scrutinized and a $50 phone just can't compete. 

Once you get over this expectation of efficiency though, the device works fairly well. Even in locations where their Liberty hotspot had 1-2 bars with slow data connectivity, the Breeze phone had a solid voice connection that never died or cut-out. Every call I made went through and sound quality was on-par with no HD voice standard cell calling.

The device has a couple preconfigured alert modes and I found I had to leave the device in Outdoor mode to hear it. Otherwise I would sometimes miss calls (small alert speaker means lower than smartphone ring volumes).

My personal cell is an iPhone 5s and my work phone is a Blackberry Q10. The Breeze kind of looks like it has a Blackberry style keyboard but doesn't perform like one. I found typing on the device less than optimal and it really slowed me down (also no autocorrect). So the keyboard get's a 2/5 rating from me. Functional but frustrating.

Verdict

I typically use Roam with my personal unlocked iPhone 5s or the Liberty WIFI hotspot and only used the Breeze to review performance for this article. Would I use it on my next trip? Probably not. Although it is functional, I found myself frustrated too many times. I wasn't frustrated by the performance of the device itself but frustrated when I compared how different and less intuitive its use was [compared to my iPhone].

I think this is a great device for users who only need voice plus text messaging but don't have an unlocked phone [or don't want to go through the trouble of unlocking their phone with their carrier].

Another use case is for a family that wants to take a beach vacation and can carry this with them without worry. Even if it is stollen or breaks, you are only out $50.

For moderate users who are regular smartphone users (iPhone or Android), forget about this device.