Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Orange Internet Max (France)

As a very cheap person and proud of it, I rarely run my Nexus One in data mode when I'm at home: I'm usually within wifi range, and I refuse to pay the exorbitant $3/day or $35/month prices that local US providers charge me for. However, when traveling, I value data plans highly and would be willing to pay that price even if asked.

Last year, I had trouble getting even regular voice SIM cards, let alone Internet capable SIM cards. This year, however, we started our trip in Paris, albeit on a weekend. On a Monday, however, I went to an Orange store and got an prepaid SIM card. It cost EUR 9.95. I bought a 10 EUR refill right away so I could subscribe to the Internet Max plan (which was 9 EUR, but the Sim card only came with 5 EUR credit, and the minimum refill was 10 EUR). It's an unlimited data subscription plan that's good for a month and automatically turns off if you don't have enough credit to resubscribe! The worst part of the experience is that part where Orange tries to pretend to be Apple. You walk into the store, and are greeted by a pretty woman dressed in Orange uniform, who will put your name in a queue (driven by an iPad) so you can browse the store until a customer service rep is ready to talk to you. Unfortunately, they did this Apple-emulation strategy wrong: they had too many pretty women, and not enough customer service rep, so I ended up cooling my heels for at least 25 minutes before being able to complete an incredibly simple transaction. I would have preferred standing in line like at a normal store.

What an awesome plan it is. Most of the time, the speed is fine. Much faster the the iPhone 4G that I got as part of the home exchange program we participated in. And of course, any Android phone runs circles around the iPhone as a matter of practicality. Being able to get turn by turn navigation saved our bacon several times while driving (or walking!) around France. We were also able to tether the phone to the laptop whenever we were at a hotel without internet. Try this with your post-paid plan in the USA for less than $25/month!

The best part about this is that while Orange will try to charge you separately for e-mail, if you're using an Android phone, there's no need to pay for the e-mail plan separately. That's because the Gmail app on Android uses http requests, so it looks like browser traffic to Orange, rather than IMAP/POP, which is what Apple products use.

As an aside, after using an iPhone side by side with a 2 year old Nexus One running Android 2.3 (no I haven't bothered to upgrade the default OS yet, and probably won't --- I'm cheap with my time as well as money), it's no contest. I'd rather have a 2 year old Android phone than an iPhone when I'm in a foreign country and in need of navigation, search, and making phone calls.

Recommended. An Orange store should be the first thing you look for when you land in France.
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