Tech Insight : Avoid Getting Stung With Roaming Charges

In the wake of the recent news that Scotland’s Health Secretary, Michael Matheson, received an £11,000 roaming charges bill from his holiday, here we look at some of main ways you can keep data roaming charges down.

What Are Data Roaming Charges? 

Data roaming charges are fees that you incur when using your mobile phone’s data connection (like for internet or email) while you are in a different country from where your mobile service is based. These charges exist because when you’re abroad, your mobile phone company has to use the networks of other companies in the country you’re visiting. This is known as ‘roaming’.

The foreign networks charge your home mobile company for the use of their networks, and these costs are often passed on to you as ‘data roaming charges’. These charges can be quite high because they include the costs of international agreements and network usage between different companies in different countries.

Roaming Charges Cost More Outside The EU 

Roaming charges are generally higher outside the European Union (EU) due to the lack of EU-regulated caps on these charges. In non-EU countries for example, mobile operators set their own rates, often influenced by international agreements, network costs, and market dynamics.

How To Avoid Or Minimise Roaming Charges

To minimise or avoid roaming charges while on holiday, you can use several strategies. For example:

– Check your plan and any roaming arrangements in good time before you go. Some plans include roaming allowances for certain countries which may already cover your basic needs. You may also be able to buy a reasonable plan for the country you’re going to visit. Your mobile plan may also give you the option to put a spending cap on – i.e. your data will stop working (and you’ll stop getting charged) when you exceed the limit you set.

– Turn off data roaming. You can disable data roaming in your smartphone settings. This prevents your phone from using mobile data abroad, thus avoiding roaming charges. However, you won’t be able to access the internet via your mobile network when roaming is off, but you can (as shown in the next point) use the hotel Wi-Fi (most holiday accommodation now provides Wi-Fi). You can also take the precaution of downloading your favourite music, TV shows and podcasts to your device before going on holiday in anticipation of turning off roaming.

– Use Wi-Fi for internet access whenever possible. Hotels, restaurants, cafes, and public places often offer free Wi-Fi. You can make calls, send messages, and browse the internet over Wi-Fi without incurring roaming charges. However, although the hotel Wi-Fi may be safer (networks with passwords are often safer), it’s best to careful when using public Wi-Fi in areas such as cafes and public places. Some ways you can protect yourself when using public Wi-Fi include using a VPN and keeping your device’s antivirus up to date, not using your banking app or sharing personal information, turning off file sharing and AirDrop options, and by always logging out of accounts when finished.

– Get a local SIM card, i.e. purchase a local SIM card in the country you’re visiting. This gives you a local number and access to local rates for calls, texts, and data. Ensure your phone is unlocked and compatible with the local network.

– Use an international/travel plan from your provider. For example, many mobile service providers offer special international or travel plans that include reduced rates for data, calls, and texts abroad. Check with your provider before travelling.

– Use communication apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger to communicate over Wi-Fi. With these apps You can make voice and video calls, send messages, and even share photos without using your mobile network or your data.

– Before leaving a Wi-Fi zone, download maps, travel guides, and any other information you might need. This way, you can access them offline without needing mobile data.

– Monitor/keep track of your data usage. Some smartphones have built-in features to monitor data usage, or you can download third-party apps.

– Limit time spent online. If roaming is expensive on your plan, you could designate a certain time of day to go online and if travelling with others, consider rotating who uses their phone to check directions/look at recommendations, thereby spreading the cost between you.

– Use a temporary SIM card / consider using an international SIM card or an eSIM with plans that offer better rates for multiple countries if you’re visiting several places.

– Avoid data-intensive activities like streaming video or music, and downloading large files when not connected to Wi-Fi. For, example, the Scottish Health Secretary attributed his £11,000 roaming bill to his sons usage of their iPads to stream content. For example, on your smartphone, you can often set a data limit warning that alerts you when you’re nearing a specified data usage threshold.

– If you feel you’re able to do so, switch your device off altogether on certain days. For example, in popular holiday countries outside the EU, such as Turkey, you may find that you incur a whole daily charge if your phone is on at any time between midnight and the following midnight.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The realities of data roaming charges, especially the higher costs outside the EU, have significant implications for both mobile networks and individuals travelling abroad for business or holidays.

For mobile networks, the evolving landscape of data roaming presents both a challenge and an opportunity. Networks must balance the need to cover the costs incurred through international agreements and network usage while remaining competitive and customer friendly. They have an opportunity to innovate by offering tailored international plans, roaming packages, and features like spending caps to appeal to global travellers. This not only enhances customer satisfaction but also helps in maintaining a loyal customer base who might otherwise seek alternatives.

Business travellers and holidaymakers need to be increasingly savvy about managing their data usage abroad. The hefty bill incurred by Scotland’s Health Secretary highlights the potential financial pitfalls of unchecked roaming. For businesses, this underscores the importance of having clear policies and education for employees traveling abroad. Implementing best practices like using secure Wi-Fi, opting for local SIM cards, and utilising data management tools can lead to substantial cost savings.

Also, there’s a growing need for awareness about network security, especially when using public Wi-Fi, which is critical for protecting sensitive business information. Businesses can invest in VPNs and educate their employees on digital security measures.

While roaming charges present a cost challenge, therefore, they also encourage both mobile networks and travellers to adopt smarter, more cost-effective strategies. For businesses, this means being proactive in managing data usage and security for employees traveling abroad, while for mobile networks, it’s an opportunity to innovate and provide value-added services that cater to the needs of global travellers.

Tech Tip – 6 Ways To Speed Up Your Phone Charging

If you would like to save time and speed up your phone charging, here are six easy ways you can do this:

1. Switch To Airplane Mode

Switching on Airplane mode stops the cellular, Bluetooth, radio, and Wi-Fi features which all drain the battery, and in Airplane mode your phone loses less power. Turning on Airplane mode (via Settings in Android and Control Centre in iPhone) can save you a few minutes in charging time. Remember to turn Airplane Mode off afterwards.

2. Turn The Phone Off While Charging

It sounds obvious, but turning the phone off while charging means nothing else is drawing power from the battery, therefore, the phone charges faster. The downside is possibly missing calls.

3. Limit Phone Usage (App Use) While Charging

You may want to leave your phone switched on while charging but continuing to use power-hungry apps will slow things down (and potentially damage the battery with heat). Therefore, close apps while the phone is charging.

4. Use A Wall Socket

Using a wall socket rather than USB socket on a device makes for more efficient, faster charging.

5. Use a Fast Charger

Such chargers have the potential to promptly deliver up to 30W of power to a mobile phone or a tablet, which is six times swifter compared to a conventional charger, on average! With such a rapid charging device, your phone will attain full battery capacity swiftly.

Note – there’s been debate about the potential dangers of fast charging for mobile devices, due to the sudden influx of a large volume of electricity into the battery. Nonetheless, batteries are designed to quickly assimilate significant amounts of charge initially, so the consensus is generally that fast charging doesn’t result in any lasting damage. However to be sure, perhaps only use fast chargers when it’s really necessary.

6. Keep the Phone Cool

If your phone becomes (excessively) warm or hot, it could trigger your battery to malfunction, given that electronic components are susceptible to high heat. Moreover, if your phone is already overheated, the battery charging process will take considerably longer to avoid further temperature increase.

You can maintain an optimal temperature for your phone by not using it incessantly, avoiding placing it in hot environments like vehicles or enclosed containers, and understanding how to charge it in the right way (for instance, avoiding charging to 100% or leaving it to charge overnight).

Tech Tip – Force Your Android Screen To Be Bright – Even When You’ve a Low battery

If you’ve less than a minimum threshold of battery life left, Android Phones typically automatically dim the screen (making it almost unreadable) sometimes when you need to be able to read it the most! If you want to force it to be bright (even at the expense of rapidly draining the last of the battery-life) here’s how:

Open Settings: This is usually represented by a gear icon on your home screen or in your app drawer.

Navigate to Display: This is where you’ll find all the settings related to your screen, including brightness.

Adjust Brightness Level: There should be a slider that allows you to manually adjust the brightness of your screen. Slide it all the way to the right to maximize brightness.

Disable Adaptive (or Auto) Brightness: This setting automatically adjusts your screen brightness based on the ambient light. You’ll want to turn this off to maintain a constant brightness level.

Battery Saver Mode: Go back to the main settings menu and find “Battery” or “Power”. If your phone has a battery saver mode that’s turned on, it might be reducing your screen brightness to save power. You can usually adjust the settings of this mode, or turn it off entirely, to prevent it from dimming your screen.

Please note that keeping your screen brightness at maximum will drain your battery more quickly, which could be a problem if your battery is already low. Also, these instructions might vary slightly depending on the make and model of your Android phone, as different manufacturers sometimes use different names for these settings or organize them differently.

In an emergency, it’s also worth considering other ways to conserve battery life, such as closing unnecessary apps, turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and disabling background data for apps.

Tech Insight : Considering Refurbished Mobiles?

In this insight, we look at what refurbished phones are, their pros and cons, things buyers may wish to consider when purchasing one, examples of where they can be purchased, and how refurbished phone retailers could help customers to choose their ideal refurbished phone.

What Is Meant By ‘Refurbished’?

A refurbished phone is a pre-owned device that has been restored to a like-new condition. These devices typically go through a refurbishment process where they are thoroughly inspected, repaired, and cleaned to ensure they meet certain quality standards.

During the refurbishment process, various parts of the phone may be refurbished or replaced, depending on their condition. The specific parts that are refurbished can vary, but commonly include:

– Exterior: The phone’s outer casing, including the back cover and frame, may be refurbished to remove any scratches, dents, or other physical imperfections. This process often involves repolishing or replacing the casing.

– Display: If the phone’s display has any scratches or damage, it may be replaced with a new or refurbished screen. This ensures that the visual quality and touch responsiveness are restored.

– Battery: In some cases, the battery of a refurbished phone may be replaced with a new one. This is done to ensure optimal battery performance and longevity, as batteries naturally degrade over time.

– Internal Components: Various internal components, such as the motherboard, processor, memory, and cameras, may be tested and repaired if necessary. If any components are found to be faulty, they may be replaced with new or refurbished parts.

It’s important to note that the extent of refurbishment can vary depending on the seller or manufacturer. Some refurbished phones may undergo more comprehensive repairs and replacements, while others may focus primarily on cosmetic improvements. It’s advisable to check the specific refurbishment process provided by the seller or manufacturer to understand what parts are refurbished and the warranty or guarantees associated with the device.

The Pros and Cons Of Buying A Refurbished Phone 

Buying a refurbished phone has its pros and cons. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider. For example, the pros of buying a refurbished phone include:

– Cost savings: Refurbished phones are typically sold at a lower price compared to brand new devices. This can provide significant savings, allowing you to get a high-quality phone at a more affordable price.

– Quality assurance: Refurbished phones undergo a rigorous refurbishment process, including testing and repairs. This ensures that the device is in good working condition before being sold. Reputable sellers often provide warranties or guarantees on refurbished phones, giving you some peace of mind regarding the device’s quality.

– Environmental impact: By purchasing a refurbished phone, you are helping to reduce global electronic waste. Extending the life cycle of a phone through refurbishment reduces the need for new devices and helps conserve resources.

The cons of buying a refurbished phone include:

– Limited availability: Refurbished phones may not always be available for the latest or most popular models. If you have specific preferences or requirements, you might have a more limited selection to choose from compared to purchasing a brand-new phone.

– Cosmetic imperfections: Refurbished phones may have minor cosmetic flaws, such as scratches or scuffs, even after undergoing refurbishment. While these imperfections are generally only aesthetic and do not affect the phone’s functionality, they may be noticeable or irritating to some buyers.

Uncertainty about history: Refurbished phones are typically pre-owned devices. Although they are repaired and restored, you may not know the full history of the device. It’s possible that the phone has had previous issues or been repaired multiple times. It’s essential to buy from reputable sellers who provide transparency about the refurbishment process.

– Limited warranty: While refurbished phones often come with warranties, the warranty period may be shorter compared to new devices. Additionally, some warranties may have limitations or exclusions, so it’s important to review the terms and conditions to understand the extent of coverage.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a refurbished phone depends on your budget, preferences, and priorities. It’s advisable to research the seller, understand the refurbishment process, and consider the pros and cons before making a purchase.

Potential Security Issues? 

Buying a refurbished phone could, in some circumstances, have some security considerations. Here are a few examples of potential security issues you may wish to consider:

– Data remnants. When a phone is refurbished, it typically goes through a data wipe process to remove the previous user’s personal information. However, there is still a small risk that some residual data may remain on the device. It may, therefore, be better to consider buying from reputable sellers who follow strict data erasure protocols to minimise this risk.

– Software vulnerabilities. Refurbished phones may not always receive the latest software updates and security patches. Depending on the age of the phone and the refurbishment process, there could be a delay in receiving critical security updates. It’s important to regularly update the phone’s operating system and apps to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.

– Malware and pre-installed apps. It’s possible that some refurbished phones may come with pre-installed apps or software that could be malicious or compromise your security and privacy. These apps might have been installed by previous users or could be part of the refurbishment process. It’s advisable to review the installed apps, uninstall any unnecessary ones, and run a security scan on the device.

– Warranty and support. If a refurbished phone has limited or altered warranty and support options compared to a new device, this could impact the buyer’s ability to receive assistance or replacements in case of security-related issues. It’s worth checking the warranty terms and any available support channels provided by the seller.

It’s important to remember that just because a phone is refurbished, this does not mean that it comes with extra security risks compared to new. Most reputable refurbished phone retailers are very thorough when it comes to the security of their phones.

That said, as a precaution and/or to mitigate any potential security issues when buying a refurbished phone, actions you may choose to take include:

– Purchase from reputable sellers or certified refurbishers who have strict data wiping protocols and follow security best practices.

– Reset the phone to factory settings before using it to ensure any residual data is removed.

– Keep the phone’s operating system, apps, and security software up to date.

– Review the installed apps and uninstall any unnecessary or suspicious ones.

– Use reputable antivirus and security software on the device.

– Be cautious when downloading apps from third-party sources and only use official app stores.

By taking these precautions, buyers could reduce any foreseeable potential security risks associated with buying a refurbished phone and be able to enjoy a secure and reliable device.

Legal Considerations? 

When buying a refurbished phone, there are a few legal considerations to keep in mind. While these considerations can vary depending on the buyer’s country or jurisdiction, some common legal aspects buyers may wish to research or consider include:

– Any warranty and guarantees. Understand the warranty terms provided by the seller. Refurbished phones often come with limited warranties that may differ from those offered for new devices. Review the warranty duration, coverage, and any exclusions or limitations. Ensure that the warranty meets your expectations and provides adequate protection.

– Return and refund policies. Buyers may wish to familiarise themselves with the seller’s return and refund policies. In some cases, refurbished phones may have different return windows or refund conditions compared to new devices. It may, therefore, be worth buyers ensuring that they understand the terms and conditions regarding returns, exchanges, or refunds in case there are any issues with the refurbished phone. It could, of course, be argued, that buyers of new phones may also be advised to check refund policies.

– Seller reputation and authenticity. Purchasing from reputable sellers or certified refurbishers to ensure the authenticity of the refurbished phone may be a good idea. Ways to check this could include looking at customer reviews, and ratings. Authentic refurbished phones should not have counterfeit or illegally modified components.

– Software licensing and activation. When buying a refurbished phone, it may be a good idea to ensure that it is properly licensed and activated for use. Unauthorised or illegally modified software can, for example, cause issues and may be against the law. Verifying that the operating system and pre-installed apps are legitimate and properly licensed could be a worthwhile exercise.

– Import and export regulations. If the refurbished phone is being bought from another country, buyers may wish to check to make sure that the phone complies with customs regulations, including any restrictions, taxes, or duties associated with importing or exporting electronic devices.

Where Can You Buy (SIM-Free) Refurbished Phones?

Just some of the many places to buy refurbished phones include (for SIM-free):

Amazon Renewed – 

Music Magpie – 

Backmarket – 

Envirofone – 

Handtech – 

Refurb Phone – 

The Big Phone Store –

This is simply a small selection – there are, of course, many other places to but refurbished SIM-free phones (search Google for other sources).

Some of the many places to buy refurbished phone on a contract include:

Giffgaff – – 

O2 Like New – 

Vodafone – 

Again, this is just a selection for the purposes of this article. Find more and any current deals via Google for example.


The best refurbished phone makes and models can vary depending on individual preferences, budget, and specific requirements. Some popular refurbished phone brands and models known for their reliability, performance, and availability of aftermarket support include:

– Apple iPhones – they retain their value, which is partly why they are popular as refurbished phones plus Apple’s commitment to software updates and long-term support adds to the appeal of refurbished iPhones.

– Samsung, e.g. Samsung Galaxy phones, known for their high-quality displays, powerful performance, and feature-rich capabilities.

– Google Pixel: Google Pixel phones – Google also has a commitment to timely software updates also makes refurbished Pixel phones appealing.

These are just a few examples, and there are many other reputable brands and models available as refurbished options as well. For the buyer, it’s a case of considering the specific needs, budget, and desired features when choosing a refurbished phone. Researching a seller’s reputation, warranty options, and customer reviews can help buyers to make an informed decision.

How Can Refurbished Phone Retailers Help Customers? 

Refurbished phone retailers can take several measures to reassure customers and help them choose the right refurbished phone for their needs. Here are a few examples:

– Clear and Detailed Product Descriptions. Retailers should provide clear and detailed descriptions of each refurbished phone, including its condition, any cosmetic imperfections, and the refurbishment process it has undergone. This transparency helps customers make informed decisions and manage their expectations.

– Quality Testing and Certification. Retailers can reassure customers by implementing thorough quality testing procedures. They can conduct comprehensive inspections, functional tests, and certification processes to ensure that the refurbished phones meet specific quality standards. Communicating these testing procedures and certifications to customers instils confidence in the reliability of the devices.

– Warranty and Return Policies. Offering warranties and flexible return policies can go a long way in reassuring customers. A warranty provides customers with a sense of security, knowing that they can seek assistance or replacement if any issues arise with the refurbished phone within a specified period. Clear and fair return policies also demonstrate the retailer’s commitment to customer satisfaction.

– Customer Reviews and Ratings. Displaying customer reviews and ratings on the retailer’s website or platform allows potential buyers to gauge the experiences of others. Positive reviews and high ratings can build trust and reassure customers about the retailer’s credibility and the quality of their refurbished phones.

– Expert Customer Support. Providing knowledgeable and responsive customer support is crucial for helping customers choose the right refurbished phone. Retailers can offer live chat, phone support, or email assistance to address customer inquiries, provide guidance, and offer personalised recommendations based on individual needs and preferences.

– Refurbishment Process Transparency: Retailers can outline the refurbishment process on their website or in product descriptions, explaining which parts are refurbished, how repairs are conducted, and any replacements made. This transparency helps customers understand the extent to which the refurbished phone has been restored and instils confidence in the device’s functionality.

– Extended Return or Exchange Periods: Offering longer return or exchange periods than traditional retail stores can further reassure customers. This allows them to thoroughly test the refurbished phone and assess its performance, ensuring it meets their expectations.

– Customer Education and Guides: Retailers can create educational materials, guides, or blog posts that provide insights into the benefits of refurbished phones, tips for choosing the right device, and information on refurbishment processes. This content can empower customers with knowledge, helping them make well-informed decisions.

By implementing these measures, refurbished phone retailers can build trust, reassure customers, and guide them in selecting the right refurbished phone that aligns with their needs and preferences.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

If you’re a business buyer looking to save costs, purchasing refurbished phones can be a smart move. You can get high-quality devices at more affordable prices. Just make sure to do your research and buy from reputable sellers who offer warranties and guarantees. Understanding the refurbishment process and what parts are refurbished is essential to ensure you’re getting a device that meets your expectations.

As a business selling refurbished phones, it’s crucial to prioritise quality and compliance. Reassuring buyers should be a priority, so clearly communicate your refurbishment process, including the specific parts that are refurbished or replaced. Offering warranties and guarantees can provide confidence to buyers. Additionally, maintaining strong customer support and addressing concerns promptly can enhance customer trust and satisfaction.

In the end, the refurbished phone market presents opportunities for both buyers and sellers. Businesses can benefit from cost savings while still obtaining reliable devices. However, it’s crucial for sellers to ensure that quality, compliant refurbished phones are being sold. By being transparent, providing warranties, and prioritising customer satisfaction, businesses can build trust with buyers and ensure a positive experience.

So, whether you’re buying or selling refurbished phones, remember to approach the process with care. Understand the pros and cons, research sellers, and consider the potential security issues. By making informed decisions and taking necessary precautions, you can navigate the refurbished phone market successfully and enjoy the benefits it offers.