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ZIPSIM is a US prepaid SIM card for travel and EDC

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

I have written about the virtues of RoamMobility countless times (hereherehereherehere). I have written about them because roaming fees are the scourge of travelers. Regardless of what roaming plan your carrier offers, you will likely be limited to slow speed, data caps or other conditions which mean you have to think twice very time you pickup your phone. RoamMobility was a nice easy solution that offered an affordable way to get virtually unconstrained normal use.

Then came with their travel SIM sticker, which offers good global pricing and coverage but costs more if you travel to the US. 

RoamMobility and KnowRoaming are excellent for travelers to the US but require some planning:

  • RoamMobility - You have to buy the SIM, activate it and load it with your preferred plan specifying your travel dates and times. I once made a mistake and started the plan too soon and there was no way (according to support) to fix it once an order is placed online. Did I mention SIM cards expire if not used for 6 months? Plus you have to manually configure your smartphones data connection.
  • KnowRoaming - KnowRoaming requires that you purchase their kit and install their sticker on your SIM. Then using their app  you register the virtual SIM and load money into your account. Then once you travel and arrive in your destination, you open the app and it configures your phone for local use.

Welcome ZipSIM to the world

Otono, the company behind RoamMobility USA, RoamMobility Canada also created ReadySIM. ReadySIM was a burner style SIM card and wireless service that only required a ZIP code for activation (any US zip code). 

According to the company, ReadySIM was an instant hit with travellers and large corporations. Why wouldn't it be. You can purchase a stack of them in varying configurations and activate them only when needed. (Good for travelers or EDC practitioners). 

To keep up with demand, Otono partnered with a global electronics distributor and rebranded ReadySIM to ZipSIM

Our approach to cellular plans has always been innovative and progressive, and this rebrand highlights those characteristics within ZIP SIM. Our customers and partners all love our patented self-activating SIM cards and we’ve brought that front-and-center with this rebrand.
— Oren Chervinsky, VP Global Sales & Marketing for Otono

So ZipSim is also a good choice for US citizens looking for a quick and easy burner service that doesn't collect personal information (such as name, address and credit card information). Remeber that your smartphone itself leaves a breadcrumb of information so you'll want to be careful there.

we will continue to put customer privacy at the core of our business while being 100% compliant with government regulations for the wireless industry
— Oren Chervinsky, VP Global Sales & Marketing for Otono

American lawmakers would like to pass laws forcing carriers to identify buyers of "burner" prepaid services but these laws haven't passed yet. Additionally I reached out to the company asking about their customer data protection rules and how/when they turn over data to law enforcement but I have not received a response yet. Will update this post when a response is received.

The technical stuff

Like RoamMobility, the ZipSIM service runs on-top of the T-Mobile network. The network has dramatically improved over the last 2 years and call drops and slow data are things of the past. I have tested T-Mobile service (in the last 3 months) in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Chicago) and service has been exceptional.

Additionally you need an unlocked smartphone to use ZipSim (or any other carrier's SIM) but your phone's should always be unlocked. Most carriers will do it for customers in good standing for a nominal fee.

Comparing ZipSIM and RoamMobility

How does the little brother compare to its older sibling? ZipSim is more expensive for less data:

  • ZIPSIM - A 7 day ZipSim card costs $US25 and includes 500MB of data, unlimited US talk, unlimited global text & voicemail
  • RoamMobility - A similar 7 day plan costs $CAD34.65 (~$US26) and comes with unlimited US/Canada talk, unlimited global text, voicemail, 3.5GB of LTE data.

There is one other important distinction. With RoamMobility, if you consume all of your allotted LTE data, you continue to get unlimited data at 2G speeds while on ZipSim you are cut-off. 2G isn't great but it is fast enough to send emails, text messages and use asymmetric instant messaging (Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, etc).

ZipSIM Pricing

  • 7 Day Talk+Text+Data with 500MB 4G LTE — $25
  • 14 Day Talk+Text+Data with 1GB 4G LTE — $35
  • 21 Day Talk+Text+Data with 1.5GB 4G LTE — $45
  • 30 Day Talk+Text+Data with 2GB 4G LTE — $55
  • Data-only 500MB 4G LTE — $15
  • Data-only 1GB 4G LTE — $25
  • Data-only 2GB 4G LTE — $40

Includes nationwide calling anytime. Text includes incoming and outgoing text to over 200 countries. Talk+Text+Data plans include voicemail, call waiting, and call display. 4G LTE data is unthrottled and includes hotspot tethering with other devices. All prices in US dollars.

Conclusion

If you are an EDC prepper, this is a good solution to keep a secondary, instant activation, no registration SIM card ready.

If you are an infrequent traveler to the USA and have modest data requirements, this is definitely and easy solution.

If you have spontaneous last minute travel to the US, this is a good solution.

If you don't need the privacy of ZipSim and have planned trips to the USA, I still believe RoamMobility is the best option. Better pricing and more flexibility. As I write this, they have a promo on their SIM cards and offer international shipping.