Today, LightSpeed Retail announced their new product LightSpeed Cloud, a dramatic new offering released as an evolution of their longstanding LightSpeed Pro, Mac OS-based point-of-sale software solution.

LightSpeed Retail has been producing retail point-of-sale software for the Mac for nearly a decade, and moving to a cloud-based solution is a natural evolution of this product.

Unlike the LightSpeed Pro product, LightSpeed Cloud was not written from scratch.  LightSpeed Cloud comes to LightSpeed Retail via an acquisition of the pre-existing Merchant OS cloud-based POS solution, which was then re-tooled to LightSpeed Retail’s look-and-feel and other specifications.

I’ve been both a user and a reseller of LightSpeed’s Mac OS-based “Pro” product for many years, so I was surprised and excited to see their press release today.  I dove right in to sign up for a free 14 day trial to take the new product for a spin.

After establishing your account, there are a few brief screens to complete in order to set up your account.  You’ll need to provide LightSpeed Cloud with some basic info such as business name and address, categorization of your businesses’ industry, and you’ll need to tell it whether you’d also like to activate some of the Optional Modules such as Service (if your business needs to record service repairs for clients), Advanced Item Types (such as serial numbers on your inventory items), Gift Cards (which you can issue and track with an unique number), or the Time Clock (employee time tracking for payroll).  After that you’ll just need to record your sales tax rates.  LightSpeed Cloud, incidentally, does allow you to track multiple sales tax rates for those jurisdictions, like mine where there is both a Federal and Provincial sales tax.

Once the initial setup is completed, LightSpeed Cloud will ask you to schedule an optional appointment with one of their employees (AKA “Customer Heroes”) to answer any questions you may have.

Add a few inventory items, then you are ready to begin invoicing.  It’s not unrealistic to say that you can begin generating invoices within minutes of signup.

Generally speaking, LightSpeed Cloud allows you to manage and invoice your inventory, print invoices, purchase and receive inventory, print price tags, manage your customer database, track employee work hours, and generate a myriad of reports.  Its Multi-Shop feature allows you to manage inventory in, and sell inventory from, multiple warehouses/stores, and its Service module allows you to manage customer service repairs.  Additional add-ons are available to integrate with Quickbooks accounting, Shopify ecommerce, Perkville customer rewards and social networking management, and Mailchimp email marketing campaigns.  There is also a Public API available to allow you to build your own custom add-ons or integrations with existing solutions.  The full feature set is available here.

LightSpeed Cloud can also be used with bar code scanners, credit card swipers, and cash drawers, to provide a complete POS solution.

As a cloud-based application, LightSpeed Cloud runs via any HTML5-compliant web browser.  Unlike its Mac OS-only predecessor, this means LightSpeed Cloud will operate on any platform – Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Android Tablets, Chrome Laptops, etc.  There is also an iPad app available on the App Store which appears to offer the same interface and feature set as the web browser version, with the main difference being that it is touch-driven.

LightSpeed Cloud does not have the broad and robust feature set of the venerable Mac OS-based LightSpeed Pro app (yet…) and there is no official upgrade path from the Mac OS app to Cloud.  LightSpeed Cloud, as it currently stands, would be well-suited to small-to-medium sized businesses that are just starting out, or are transitioning from an older and less-robust POS solution.  It is possible to import your existing Inventory and Customer databases in to LightSpeed Cloud.

The initial [low] costs of setting up a LightSpeed Cloud installation are the major benefit over the LightSpeed Pro (Mac OS) app.  I have performed plenty of very basic single-user LightSpeed Pro installations in the past that would have been well-served by the new Cloud version.  LightSpeed Cloud carries an price as low as $69/mo for a single cash-register with 3 employees.  Compare this with the single user version of LightSpeed Pro at $1098, plus an additional ~$1200 for the entry-level iMac the software would need to operate on.  Thus it would take 33 months to reach cost-parity with the Pro version.  We can also presume that Cloud will receive ongoing feature enhancements – new fields and buttons will simply magically appear on your browser window from time-to-time.  [Incidentally, receiving new feature upgrades in Pro requires an ongoing renewal of a Maintenance subscription, starting at $399 per year for a single user.]

Bearing in mind that this is a Cloud-based app, this means you’ll lose access to inventory and invoicing temporarily if your Internet connection drops or if LightSpeed experiences technical problems in their data centre – but it also means you don’t have to maintain your own server and you don’t have to deal with the technical challenges associated with that (including remembering to perform local backups, and the possible theft of your server).

The only other thing I’ll mention as a caveat is that MerchantOS appeared to use Amazon for their hosting, so I presume that practice will continue under LightSpeed Cloud’s oversight.  For those of us not operating our businesses in the United States, this means that under the terms of the Patriot Act, the US Government has the legal right to look at your data without a warrant (because it physically resides within their boundaries).  Some of us outside of the US are not comfortable with a foreign government reviewing our private customer data and financial info, so be aware of that.  If your data resides on your own server, only you have access to it.

As many business applications transition from proprietary OS-based applications to the platform-agnostic Cloud, it has been a foregone conclusion for some time that point of sale software would follow this trend.  While LightSpeed Retail isn’t the first company to enter the cloud-based POS space, their longstanding experience in building a feature-rich and graphically robust solution will surely make them a leader in this new space.

For the past couple years I have been blogging about how to save money while roaming internationally with your mobile phone, by providing instructions on how to obtain cheap domestic SIM cards, and by pointing you in the direction of smartphone apps that enable cheap or free voice calling.

I have been a business owner for over 20 years and have a great deal of experience with finding more efficient and inexpensive ways to run a business, so I figured it was time I broadened my horizons a bit and talked about more than just data roaming.

In the coming days and weeks you’ll see more frequent posts, covering a much broader range of business topics.  Thanks for watching!

For the past couple of years I have been blogging to Canadians and others about how to save money on international data roaming by obtaining foreign SIM cards in advance of traveling.  I had expected that for us Canadians, the bulk of my posts would become redundant with the CRTC’s introduction of the Wireless Code yesterday.  Outrageous international roaming fees were a core topic of discussion when designing the Code, so it was presumed these would be addressed and brought down to earth.

The purpose of the Wireless Code, as stated by the CRTC, is threefold:

  1. make it easier for individual and small business customers to obtain and understand the information in their wireless service contracts;
  2. establish consumer-friendly business practices for the wireless service industry where necessary; and
  3. contribute to a more dynamic wireless market.

The CRTC includes very specific elements in its new Wireless Code, but the component that is relevant to this blog is that which discusses international data roaming.

Section E.2. of the new Wireless Code, entitled “Cap on data roaming charges” specifically states:

  1. A service provider must suspend national and international data roaming charges once they reach $100 within a single monthly billing cycle, unless the customer expressly consents to pay additional charges.
  2. A service provider must provide this cap at no charge.

Many of the national and regional newspapers carrying the story are reflecting that this new standard will eliminate bill shock and limit data roaming fees to a single maximum fee , implying that international roamers could surf with abandon knowing that they would only pay $100 extra upon return.  Even the title of this section of the Code implies that.  But as far as how I interpret the code, this is not really the case.  All the Code says is that wireless carriers are legally obliged to disable data roaming on a consumer’s account once their bill reaches $100.

Canadian consumers have been complaining about the high cost of data roaming for some time, and it was hoped that the new CRTC code would actually regulate these fees and bring them in line with international roaming fees that consumers in other countries pay.  All this new rule achieves though is to force wireless carriers to shut off data access once a consumer has accumulated a $100 roaming bill, which could take as little as a few seconds in most regions.

The other kicker is that these new rules apply only to new consumer contracts signed after December 2, 2013, so it does nothing to protect those of us already under contract.

Want to continue to surf economically when roaming?  Stick to our plan:

  1. Buy an Unlocked phone, or pay to have your subsidized phone unlocked, so you can use any mobile phone carrier’s SIM cards
  2. Buy a domestic SIM card when you arrive in the country you’re traveling to, or buy one in advance
  3. Use a VoIP app on your smartphone (Fongo, Skype) to bypass the traditional telephone network to make and receive traditional telephone calls
Fongo iOS

I’m a bit late on the draw on this one, but last month Fongo made a bid to acquire recent mobile entrant WIND Mobile for $1 plus 49% equity in Fongo.  It’s hard to say whether this was a serious offer, or whether Fongo was posturing for publicity.  Nonetheless the offer was quickly rebuked by WIND, with their Chief Regulator Officer countering with an offer to buy Fongo for “…$1 plus half of his sandwich…”.

I’ve written quite a bit about Fongo over the past two years, as it is at the forefront of the Canadian market insofar as the convergence of VoIP over mobile data is concerned.  I’m also a believer in the software and an active user of it.  They produce apps for Android and iOS, and they also provide a home phone adapter so you can continue using your regular home phone over your Internet connection, instead of the more costly options available through the traditional phone company.

Fongo states that their goal is to ultimately become or partner with a national mobile data carrier to become a “4th option” to the big incumbent national carriers.  Their stated target is to offer a voice and data plan for $15/mo by the end of 2013.

The irony is that we’re already there.  I have blogged extensively about how you can ditch the voice aspect of your Canadian mobile phone plan by opting for one of the many inexpensive tablet or iPad (data-only) plans currently available, side-stepping their traditional voice network by using a VoIP app such as Fongo (or Skype, or TextPlus, or another option).  Data-only plans start at just $5/mo with some of the big-three.  Couple this with Fongo’s free services, and you have a mobile phone plan for just $5/mo if you’re a super-light user.  $15/mo is more realistic for regular voice users though.

Ultimately our mobile phone carriers will morph into pure wireless Internet providers, since voice is just another service that is carried over Internet Protocol.  It takes a company like Fongo to disrupt the market and force those changes though, because our big three carriers know that once they lose the ability to bill for voice and its myriad of options and surcharges, they’ll lose a huge part of their revenue.

The newswire is abuzz with the latest gouging story, at the hands of Canadian mobile phone carrier Rogers.

Burnaby, BC resident Matt Buie recently returned from Mexico and discovered that his son’s active video-viewing while away, generated 700MB of data roaming with a resulting bill of $22,000.  Even though Buie was aware of the high cost of roaming, his son managed to switch his iPhone out of Airplane Mode, and in to data-roaming hell.  Rogers did eventually reduce this bill substantially, but only after significant effort on Buie’s part, and ultimately after he went to the media to make his case.

Many of us have been in Buie’s situation.  I initially began seeking out roaming options, and blogging about it, after being faced with a $700 bill after failing to properly calculate the math on a miniscule amount of usage in Mexico, and Fido’s subsequent lack of respect for my 11 years of customer loyalty in reducing this.

For some of us, we can’t simply shut off our connection to the Internet while traveling.  Many of us need to at least check in with the office from time-to-time, and throwing up a wall may have unintended consequences.  We have also become accustomed to constantly being connected and sharing our experiences with our friends and family in real-time.

The best way to travel is to remove your home SIM card from your phone altogether, and only roam on a domestic SIM issued in the country you’re visiting.  In the case of Mexico, you can either prepare this in advance through one of the services I have blogged about – Travelers Telecom or, or set one up upon arrival in Mexico.  Using a domestic SIM, Buie’s usage would have cost less than $40.

And if you’d like to avoid the cost and inflexibility of Canadian carriers’ voice plans and contracts while at home, ditch your voice plan altogether by setting up a cheap data-only account and making voice calls through an app.  You can reduce your mobile phone bill to as little as $5 per month.

Many of the readers of my blog arrive here as the result of an online search for SIM cards for Mexico.  A new SIM card service was brought to my attention today, so I thought I should let everyone know about it. is a new service that provides SIM cards on either the Telcel or Iusacell networks.  They appear to have a variety of SIM cards available, including Regular SIMs (for iPhone 3G/3GS), microSIMs (for the iPhone 4 or 4S or iPads) and nanoSIMs (for the iPhone 5).  You also have a choice of pre-loading the SIM cards with a fixed amount of airtime.

I have written in the past about how you can purchase a Telcel SIM card after you arrive in Mexico, however I am always keen to pre-purchase my SIM cards prior to visiting a new country, so I can begin using my phone the moment the plane touches down. appears to be another service that accomplishes this.

Prices range from US$19.95 for a Iusacell SIM pre-loaded with 50 Pesos (about US$4.00) worth of airtime credit, up to US$59.95 for a lusacell SIM with 3GB of Data and 450 Pesos (about US$36) worth of airtime credit.  Prices include shipping (to you in advance of your trip) and payment is via PayPal.

I have no affiliation with this company, I have not tried them yet and they are not paying me for this mention or any sort of affiliate credit, so I can’t vouch for them at all.  If you try them and have a comment about your experience, whether good, bad, or neutral, please post it in the comments section so we can all learn from your experience.

Since payment is made by PayPal, you do get a certain amount of protection if things go bad for some reason though.

One thing to keep in mind when you review their web site is that they use the same symbol for Pesos as we use for Dollars ($) so when you see a SIM that includes $70 MXN of airtime, this is 70 Mexican Pesos.  The conversion rate at the moment to US (USD) or Canadian (CAD) dollars is approximately USD/CAD$1=12.5 Pesos, thus $70 MXN = $5.60 USD/CAD$.

You can also contact on their Twitter account at @mexicosimcard.

Rogers announced today that they will be changing their unlocking policy, which is great news for travellers and International SIM card users.

Rogers customers who pay the full unsubsidized price for an iPhone (as in a pay-as-you-go activation) are eligible to have their iPhones unlocked immediately.

Beginning some time in March, Rogers customers who are under contract can have their iPhones unlocked 90 days after activation.  Previously these customers had to wait until their full term (usually 3 years) had ended.

Unlocking still incurs a fee of $50 in either case, and it can be done at any of Rogers’ retail stores.  Previously, unlocking could only be done by calling their customer service phone lines.

The CRTC will be holding hearings next week with regards to their draft of the potential Wireless Code, and it’s widely believed that they will be instituting limits on carrier unlocking, so this move seems to be preemptive of that.

According to Rogers’ Community Management Specialist, this policy will also extend to their Fido and Chatr brands.

Rogers also announced a new United States data roaming rate today, offering 50MB of data over a 1 day period for $7.99.  While this is still more expensive than roaming with an international SIM card as I’ve described in my prior posts, this is a significant discount relative to past roaming rates.

If you purchased your iPhone for less than $300 when new, or if you didn’t consciously purchase an “unlocked” phone, you can pretty much guarantee that it was subsidized by the carrier, and is therefore “locked” and can only be used by their network and their SIM cards.  Not only does this limit your ability to move between domestic carriers, it also prohibits you from using SIM cards for carriers in other countries while traveling.

Locked iPhone

Results from GSX for a locked iPhone

The easiest way to tell whether or not your iPhone is locked is by simply inserting a SIM from a different carrier.  If it’s locked, you will receive an error message.  Short of this, there is also another way to tell whether your iPhone is still locked. offers a service that allows you to type your IMEI number in to their web site, then they’ll tell you whether or not it’s locked or unlocked.  You can take their service one step further however. ultimately uses Apple’s Global Service Exchange (more commonly known as GSX) web site to obtain information from

Unlocked iPhone

Results from GSX for an Unlocked iPhone

Apple’s servers to determine whether or not your iPhone is locked or unlocked.  GSX is not a public web site, but is rather a system used by every Apple Authorized Service Dealer in the world, including the Apple Store and Apple Authorized Resellers, to manage repairs of Apple products.  You can therefore contact your local Apple Store or Apple Dealer to obtain this information.  I’m sure your local Apple Reseller will even do this by email for you – they’ll just need either your iPhone’s serial number or IMEI number.  I have attached a couple sample screen shots to show you exactly what data GSX will provide.

If you have a locked iPhone, there are services and add-in circuit boards to allow you to circumvent the carrier locking, but I have never been a fan of them as they are only successful for a short period of time before Apple creates a new software update to disable them.  I’m also very suspicious of the third-party services that offer unlocking of the IMEI.  From what I’ve read, some of these services involve having a mole working at the carriers on their behalf, and therefore the unlock could be reverted by the carrier if the leak is discovered.

The better way to go is instead to pay your carrier directly to unlock your phone.  Depending upon how deep you are in your contract, you may or may not be allowed by your carrier to do this.  This engadget article outlines the costs for each carrier (ranging from $35 to $75) and links to instructions.  For US readers, AT&T has a handy unlock request form here.  To have the freedom to switch from the carrier you bought your phone from, to another carrier, your iPhone must be “unlocked”.  Your carrier collects your fee, presses a few buttons in their system, and your phone is permanently “unlocked” and able to be used with any carrier’s SIM cards.

If you intend on traveling internationally, shell out the extra money (usually about $500 on the iPhone) for an unlocked iPhone, and the freedom of being able to roam with international SIM cards will easily pay for itself on your first trip.

Last year I first posted about how foreigners travelling to Mexico might obtain a SIM card in advance, through a service offered by a company called Travelers Telecom.  While I still stand behind my usual method of paying a slight premium to obtain a pre-activated SIM card prior to departing for a new country, I did receive a lot of feedback on that post and felt it was prudent to provide an update.

The purpose of my blog is to inform how one might pre-purchase SIM cards for any given country, so you can begin using your phone the moment your airplane hits the tarmac, without paying the onerous data roaming fees levied by your home carrier.  I have a surplus of frequent flier miles and often travel vast distances for short periods of time, and simply don’t have time to waste hunting around for SIM cards after I land.  It’s also important to me to be briefed in the latest cat même’s before I get off the plane.

Not everyone is as crazy as I am however, and some of you vacation for 2 or 3 weeks at a time, providing plenty of time to set up an account after you arrive.  There have also been some recent changes in Mexican law that make it easier for foreigners to set up mobile phone accounts on their own.

Until 2011, the Mexican government required that all mobile phone (technically, SIM card) registrations needed to be supported by a CURP number.  A CURP is functionally similar to a US Social Security Number or Canadian Social Insurance Number.  Unlike a SSN or SIN though, CURPs can be issued to foreigners who are seasonal residents of Mexico.  A foreigner would obtain a CURP by visiting the local city hall where they’re residing in Mexico, and show their passport and FM2 or FM3 Visa.

Having said that, a CURP is no longer legally required to activate a SIM card, however it is necessary to show your passport to activate it.  I use Telcel, but I presume a similar process will work with the other carriers.  SIM cards in Mexico are available at a number of sources – grocery stores, Oxxo, etc.  Normally these are activated through the phone itself or online, but those processes require a CURP.  To activate with a passport, you’ll need to actually visit the local dealer’s office.  You can find the local Telecel offices here.

If the office is in a major tourist centre like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, you may be fortunate and be able to speak to someone in English, and you may also be dealing with someone who is used to activating accounts for foreigners without CURP ID’s.  If, however, you encounter an office that refuses to accept anything but a CURP even though it’s not required anymore (according to postings by expats in Mexico in related online forums, this is common) or if you don’t speak Spanish and they don’t speak English, you may be out of luck and should have instead pre-planned based on the info in my earlier post.

Either way, whether you buy your Telcel SIM before you leave, or after you arrive, you’ll save a fortune relative to what your home carrier would gouge you to roam there.

Over the past couple years I have blogged about a number of individual methods you can employ to avoid data roaming charges, avoid SMS roaming charges, eliminate long distance charges, and reduce cellular voice charges.  Now, a number of elements have converged to make it finally possible for you to ditch your cellular voice plan altogether.

1. Flex-Rate Data Plans

With the advent of iPads and tablets, many of Canada’s mobile phone carriers have made it possible for you to purchase a data-only plan with a flexible rate that automatically up or down-scales depending upon your monthly usage.  Both my voice and data usage vary from month-to-month, but a traditional mobile phone data/voice plan charges you a fixed rate for a minimum amount of usage, forcing you to pay for something you don’t often use.

2. Free or Cheap iPhone SMS/Voice Apps

There are several free iPhone apps that now offer free or cheap voice and/or SMSing.  Many of these started out offering SMS or voice or an inbound number, but most of these have converged now to offer all of the services of a traditional phone line.

3. Network Quality

In the past, the quality of voice-over-IP used to be inferior to traditional land line or cellular voice calls.  Now, due to improvements in bandwidth and codex’s, I find the opposite to be true.

4. No longer US-centric

iPhone apps offering free US-based inbound phone numbers have been available for some time.  It has only been during the last year that some of these apps have begun to offer free phone numbers in Canadian rate centres.

In 2010, Canadians paid, on average, $57.86 per month for mobile phone and data service.  That was about $1 less than 2009, and some of the credit for that reduction was given to new low-cost carriers that launched that year – Wind Mobile, Public Mobile, Moblicity and Videotron.  The new low-cost carriers come with a caveat though – many of them operate on different frequencies, so they don’t allow you to use popular handsets like the iPhone, and their networks tend to be centred around the major downtown areas of Canadian cities, so coverage is spotty at best.

The fact is, its difficult to get away from using a major carrier in Canada due to their vast coverage.  There is an easy way to reduce your monthly phone bill to as little as $5 with just a little leg work, and few trade-offs.  (My recommendations are purely for iPhone users by the way – I’m sure similar apps exist on Android, however I’m an Apple fanboy.)

1. Start with a VoIP app

There are two apps that I’ve been working with (and have written reviews for) for a year or more now, and they have both grown to include robust feature sets.


Formerly known as Dell Voice by Fongo, the free Fongo app truly replaces any existing voice phone line, whether landline or mobile.  Its features include:

  • Free Local Canadian Inbound Phone Number
  • Unlimited Free Calling Across Canada (700 cities within 30 major metro centres)
  • Unlimited Free Messaging to other Fongo Users
  • Free Voice Mail and Caller ID
  • 911 Calling

Optional Add-on Features Include:

  • Visual Voicemail (99¢ per month)
  • Unlimited Canada-Wide SMS Texting ($1.99 per month)
  • Unlimited Canada/US-Wide SMS Texting ($2.99 per month)
  • Low Worldwide Long Distance Fees

All fees are collected in-app through your iTunes account, so there’s no need to provide a credit card.

An additional important feature of Fongo is its support of Local Number Portability.  For a one-time $25 fee, Fongo can port your existing home or mobile number over to your Fongo account, so your friends and family can continue to contact you seamlessly using the same phone number they always have.

The Fongo app truly replaces the full feature set of your existing phone line, and it works equally well over 3G/4G or WiFi.


text+ is another app I have used extensively.  It was the first one to offer a free inbound Canadian phone number and free SMS texting.

Fongo has surpassed text+ in its feature set in recent months, however text+ still offers a number of compelling features

  • Free Canadian inbound phone number
  • Free Canadian/US inbound and outbound SMS texting
  • Free Outbound Calls to US numbers

One major feature currently lacking is voice mail, and only a limited number of free minutes are included.  You can earn additional free minutes by viewing ads, or by purchasing them (a bundle of 75 minutes is $1.99).

If you primarily receive inbound calls, and are an avid texter, text+ may be more suitable than Fongo for your needs.

Because both of these apps can run concurrently with your voice plan, try using them for a while first before taking the plunge.  Set your mobile phone call forwarding to your Fongo or text+ number to get a true feel for how effectively the switch will work.

2. Establish a Data-Only Plan

The only difference between a tablet/iPad plan and a regular mobile phone plan, is that the mobile phone calling side of the account is not active.  All of the regular Internet-based features will function properly, but the indigenous “Phone” app will not.

Once you have decided that Fongo or text+ can provide your voice calling needs, it’s time to change your mobile phone plan.  The most cost-effective way to accomplish this is to establish an iPad or tablet plan.  All the major carriers have similar competitive offerings:

Bell’s Tablet Flex Data plan offers 10MB of data for $5/mo, 250MB for $15/mo and 5GB for $35/mo.

Rogers’ Flex Rate Plan offers 10MB of data for $5/mo, 250MB for $17/mo and 5GB for $37/mo.

Telus’ Flex Data Plan for Tablets offers 10MB for $5/mo, 100MB for $10/mo, 500MB for $20/mo or 5GB for $35/mo.

The great part about flex plans is that you only pay for usage, so if you leave the country for a month and don’t use your plan, you only pay $5.  If you have a month of heavy usage, you only pay $35 for that one month.  You aren’t paying unnecessarily for data you aren’t making use of, like you would with a normal month-to-month plan.

Rogers’ Fido subsidiary, Bell’s Virgin Mobile and Solo subsidiaries, and Telus’s Koodo subsidiary all offer similar data-only plans.

With a data-only plan, your carrier will provide you with a SIM card that you will install in your iPhone.  If you do not have an unlocked phone, you will need to purchase a SIM and sign up for a data plan with the carrier from whom you originally purchased your phone, otherwise you will need to pay the carrier to unlock your phone to accept other companies’ SIM cards.

One other caveat is that as of the date of this post, the SIM they provide will be suitable for an iPad, which means it will be a microSIM.  This SIM is compatible with the iPhone 4 and 4S.  The iPhone 5, however, uses a nanoSIM.  You can either ask your carrier to activate the account using a nanoSIM, or you can use a SIM cutter to trim the larger microSIM down to the smaller nanoSIM’s dimensions.

How much data will I need?

The rule of thumb with voice-over-IP is that a 1 minute phone call typically takes 0.5MB of data.  So, if you currently spend 200 minutes per month on voice calls, you should plan for 100MB of data consumption for voice calls.

How much will I save?

Obviously depends upon your current plan, but lets compare with Fido since they have a fairly compelling unlimited plan offering right now.

For $57, Fido’s Talk, Text and Data plan includes unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and unlimited Canada-wide long distance and 2GB of data.  If we use 300 minutes as a baseline for the average amount of mobile phone calling per month, we can fit that amount of calling into the major carriers’ $15-$20/mo data plans, plus an additional $2/mo for Fongo texting.  Thus for a similar feature set as Fido’s $57/month plan, we can achieve the same capabilities and usage for $22/mo or less.

Also remember that whenever you are within coverage of a WiFi network- at home, at your office – Fongo will traverse that Internet connection rather than consume your carrier’s data plan.  If most of your calling is done at home or the office, you may barely make a dent in your mobile data flex plan.

One other caveat to be aware of is that applications like Fongo and text+ require a constant connection to a central server.  This means the app is always running, and as such is always consuming processor time.  This means that using a VoIP app will slow your iPhone and consume more of your battery than the traditional cellular voice capabilities of your iPhone.  Plan to have chargers or backup batteries wherever you go.  I typically always carry a mophie slide-on battery pack for my iPhone 4S.

The added benefit of all of this is, if you are an avid traveller and have followed my prior instructions to obtain inexpensive SIM cards for other countries, all of your Fongo/text+ services carry with you wherever you are in the world.  Thus, if you’re relaxing on the beach in Mexico or are travelling on the Underground in London, you can initiate and receive phone calls through your Canadian phone number with no additional charges, other than those related to the local carriers’ data usage.

Do NOT roam on your Canadian carrier’s data flex plan, as their international roaming charges are horrendous.  If you haven’t read my prior blog posts about obtaining SIM cards for the US, Mexico, Spain or the UK, go back and do it now.