4 out of 5 stars. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
So the Skyroam Solis has two different data plans available:
Option A: $9/day “unlimited”. First ~350MB of transfer is fast 4G, but then they drop you to 2G so it feels like dial-up after a while
Option B: $9/GB. Always 4G speeds- no performance penalty, but you pay for what you use.
I went with option B. In reality, my wife and I are probably using 300-500MB/day while traveling in Europe. Plenty of places have free WiFi, but when walking around town it’s nice to be able to look something up. Since a GB lasts 2-3 days, it’s actually cheaper then Option A and we don’t ever get throttled.
Buying more data is easy using the app on your phone and it won’t let you buy more data until you run out. Wish you’d could get a small discount by buying more than 1GB at a time like some competitors offer, but oh well.
That said, the hardware is a bit large- especially compared to other solutions on the market. A big reason seems to be the use of 2x 16550 Li-Ion batteries instead of a more custom battery pack. 16550’s are popular for high-powered flashlights, vaping, etc and if you already have some 16550’s like I do, it’s nice to be able to swap batteries if you need more juice. By they’re pretty large and I’m a bit confused why they went with this hockey-puck design as it doesn’t seem space efficient.
The only other nit I have is that booting up the unit takes a few minutes. Not sure why it’s so slow- similar products I’ve used are able to be used much faster (seconds). It also doesn’t have an LCD display to show data usage, etc which is sorta lame (especially considering how large it is). It does have a simple battery life indicator which honestly, isn’t that easy to read, but it’s good enough. In reality, it’s designed to be managed with their iOS/Android app and all the functionality you want is there, but it would of been nice to not have to boot up the device, wait, connect to the wifi and start the Solis app on your phone to get an accurate battery level reading or check how much data you have left.
Before I bought this I reached out to customer service online chat and via email. Definitely was an overall positive experience so if I ever have problems with the service/device I suspect they’ll be able to take care of things.
Honestly, the lack of LCD display is a minor thing. It doesn’t charge its battery really fast, but it should last all day and so you only need to charge overnight while you sleep. Worst case you can carry a spare set of 16550’s which is useful if you plan to use this also as a USB charger. But the size is IMHO a significant issue and is worth nocking a star off. Hence the 4 star rating.
So I tried using my Solis tonight and surprise! It didn’t work. Couldn’t browse the web or even view my account settings in the iPhone app. Ended up having to get another Internet connection and contact Skyroam support who told me they had an “backend issue with my account” and even though they had charged me, my service was deactivated. On top of that, tech support couldn’t fix my problem, but had to escalate to a different team and of course they’re only 9:30-5:30 Pacific time M-F. Hopefully, they’ll fix it tomorrow (Friday), otherwise I’ll have have to wait until next week? Knocking two stars off because if you’re going to charge me a monthly subscription it should “just work”.
Took another trip- to Buenos Aries & basically all over Uruguay for two weeks. The “orange puck” as I’ve come to call it, worked most of the time really well, but I did notice network issues a few times while driving where it seems to have lost 3G/4G signal even though my cell phone showed it was able to connect to the cell tower. So probably lost signal for about 3-5 minutes a handful of times that I noticed (it may of happened more???). Not sure what was causing it- definitely were in areas with less cell coverage when it happened, but it didn’t happen enough were it was a real issue.
Also, I gotta say that the iOS app is pretty clunky and slow. Always seems I’m waiting for things to connect/boot or whatever. Sometimes the app will tell you to reboot the device to install the latest firmware and you end up having to reboot 5 or more times for the firmware to upgrade.
Gonna bump my review back up to 3.5 stars… overall, the service works well and is the price is a whole lot cheaper then paying AT&T international roaming rates. But there’s clearly some refinement that needs to happen.