GlocalMe U2 review: Cloud Mi-Fi makes getting online anywhere in the world easy
The GlocalMe U2 is an Indiegogo-funded project that offers a mobile Wi-Fi router quite unlike others on the market (see our round-up of the best Mi-Fi routers). It's best suited to frequent travellers who want to quickly and cheaply get online anywhere in the world, but it's a useful device for back home too, especially for business users who are tired of dealing with flaky internet connections while commuting and even in the various boardrooms they visit.
With embedded encryption the U2 also presents a safer method of getting online than connecting to potentially vulnerable public Wi-Fi hotspots.
It's able to work as a standard Mi-Fi device, sharing the data connection of a mobile SIM (the network-unlocked Glocal U2 accepts both full-size and Micro-SIMs) with up to five devices, but what's more interesting about the GlocalMe U2 is its cloud-SIM functionality. You don't need to insert a local SIM in this mobile router in order to get online in over 100 countries - you simply put some PAYG credit on it or buy a data pack and away you go. Also see: Best SIM deals
GlocalMe works with multiple network operators including AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Orange, China Mobile, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2, China Telecom and China Unicom, and supports a wide range of connectivity bands. Because it will automatically connect to the best network wherever you are, you'll often find - as we did - that getting online via the U2 is faster than with your current SIM.
Most data packages last 30 days, and the U2 itself can keep going for up to 12 hours on a single charge, which should easily power you through any working day. When the 3,500mAh battery runs down charging is fast (around 3.5 hours) over a 3A Micro-USB connection.
GlocalMe U2 review: UK price and availability
Originally an Indiegogo project, the GlocalMe U2 is now available via Amazon in the US, where it costs $129.99. If you want to buy one in the UK you can still do so through the Indiegogo page, where your $129 purchase will also get you a bundled €20 top-up. This converts to around £104 in Sterling, plus shipping.
If you want to use the cloud SIM functionality, you have various options available to you for topping up. PAYG data is charged at €0.05 per MB, and can be used in any country you like. The minimum top-up is €20 at a time, which can be made via Paypal or Alipay.
Alternatively, you can buy a 30-day or annual data package that includes a set amount of data for a single country or a group of countries (for example, Europe). Prices differ between countries due to local pricing, for example 1GB in Vietnam will cost you €5 but €7 in Great Britain. You can see some of the pricing in the table below (click to enlarge).
If you use a lot of data watching videos and downloading large apps and games, for example, the GlocalMe U2 isn't going to be a particularly cost-effective solution. In these scenarios you'll quickly gobble through any data you have purchased; but used merely for checking emails and getting online a gig or three of data can get you far. Also see: How to minimise data usage on iPhone and how to minimise data usage on Android
There are a couple of unlimited data packages, but these are not truly 'unlimited', in fact restricted to 2GB per month at which point the speed drops to an all but unusable 128kbps. (The U2 is otherwise very fast, capable of up to 150Mbps downloads and 50Mbps uploads.)
It's worth bearing in mind that if you frequently travel to different countries and are constantly switching SIMs to achieve a cheaper local rate, and perhaps don't even use all the credit you've purchased during your visit, this solution from GlocalMe will be both cheaper and easier to manage.
The accompanying GlocalMe U2 app gives some suggestions on how you can minimise data usage in order to keep down costs. For example, you can ensure Google Play doesn't download any app updates without your permission, or that apps aren't using data in the background. Pleasingly, we found these instructions were specific to the phone model on which the app was installed - here you can see some tips for MIUI 8.0, which we are running on our Mi Mix to test the GlocalMe U2.
The GlocalMe U2 supports a range of connectivity bands, although it still won't work with every network in the world. Supported bands include LTE-FDD 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/17/20, LTE-TDD 39/40/41, WCDMA 1/2/4/5/8, CDMA/EVDO BC0/BC1 and GSM 1900/1800/900/850MHz. For the UK at least, that means it supports all 4G networks (LTE-FDD 3, 7 and 20).
The company claims its device works in over 100 countries, but bearing in mind there are 196 countries in the world there will still be areas that are not covered. For example, I'll be visiting Cuba in the summer, and that's one place sadly not on the list (I hope the venue has good Wi-Fi!).
The current list of support countries is as follows (click to enlarge):
It's worth noting that the U2 is not the only cloud-SIM device offered by GlocalMe. There's also the GlocalMe G2, which is larger and heavier thanks to a built-in LCD screen and 6,000mAh battery that allows the device to also be used as a power bank. By comparison the U2 is controlled entirely by a mobile app. The G2 accepts only full-size SIMs, which isn't much use to us here in the UK without an adaptor, and supports fewer connectivity bands. It's also more expensive, currently priced at $149.99 at Amazon US.
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