2021 Skyroam Solis Review: Using the Skyroam Solis WiFi Hotspot Overseas
As someone who regularly “workations” (or did when travel was still a thing) and relies on a solid Internet connection to be productive while traveling, it’s kind of crazy that I went without a WiFi hotspot for so long. That’s mostly because I had never come across a particular device that jumped out at me. Well, that was until my first CES when I happened to come across the Skyroam Solis. Incidentally, after taking a closer look at the Solis and its bright orange casing, I have to imagine I’d encountered the Skyroam company before. In any case, after speaking to their representatives at the show and later doing some of my own research online, I ended up buying a Solis in anticipation of my then upcoming travels.
Now, having taken a few trips abroad with the Skyroam Solis by my side, I’ve discovered some of the pros and cons of the service. So how did it hold up to my WiFi demands? Let’s take a closer look at the Solis, Skyroam’s international data options, and more.
Purchasing and Setting Up Your Skyoam Solis Device
Since purchasing my Solis device, Skyroam has actually come out with two new models: the Solis X and the Solis Lite. Not only are these devices smaller than their predecessor but also have some new features. Most notably, the Solis X has a built-in camera that you can now connect to via the Skyroam app. Additionally, Skyroam has upped the number of simultaneous connections you can have on these devices from five to 10.
Sadly, Skyroam doesn’t currently have an upgrade program for their devices, so I have yet to try one of these new models out for myself. That said, after seeing it first-hand at CES 2020, I can confirm that they are indeed smaller, allowing them to even be placed inside your back pocket — if not your front. It’s also worth noting that although the Solis X is a bit pricier than the Solis 1 was (retailing for $179.99), the Solis Lite goes for just $119.99.
Because I only own a Solis 1, I’ll be sharing my experience specifically with that model but noting where Solis X and Solis Lite differ when necessary.
Buying the Skyroam Solis
First things first: although Skyroam previously rented hotspot devices (more on that later), I decided to purchase a Skyroam Solis since I anticipated using it on future trips. The device cost $149.99 on Skyroam’s site at the time — but Skyroam no longer offers that model. But, if you do decide to buy one of their current models, you can use this link and enter the code “MONEYAT30” at checkout to save 10%. This brings the cost of the Solis Lite down to $107.99.
If you are interested in purchasing a Solis, I was able to secure a 10% discount for my readers. Just click the button below and enter the code MONEYAT30 to get your discount.
Setting up your device
Once your Solis arrives, getting it ready to use is fairly simple. First of all, the Solis utilizes clever packaging to walk you through how to turn on and activate the device. Most of this is done through the Solis app, which you can find in the App Store or on Google Play. This app is also where you can manage your Skyroam account, monitor your device connection, and more.
I did run into one minor snag when I was attempting to connect my Solis for the first time. As I was trying to login, it was saying it was connecting but nothing happened. Luckily, after closing the app and reopening it, I was able to login without issue and then could easily cash in my day pass and get started on WiFi. Plus, I also discovered that you can access a similar interface for your device by going to a.skyroam.com in your mobile browser.
Connecting to your Solis
As I just mentioned, you can purchase WiFi passes via the Solis app and can activate your connection from the app. Once the network is live, you can connect using the network name and password found on the bottom of your device. The Solis X and Lite now allow you to connect up to 10 devices to the same network, so if you have other travelers in your party feel free to share this info with them as well.
How Skyroam data works
We’ll get into the details about Skyroam’s data packages later, but first it’s important to mention how these devices actually work. Basically, your Solis device will connect to local 4G LTE networks in order to provide you with a WiFi connection. Because of this, if you’re in an area where cellular connection isn’t possible (including on a plane or cruise ship), your device won’t be able to work properly either.
My Experience Traveling with the Skyroam Solis
Not long after purchasing my Solis I had the good fortune of visiting Hong Kong. While this was my first time getting to try out T-Mobile’s free international capabilities, I was also excited to activate the Solis I purchased shortly after CES 2019. As luck would have it, the perfect opportunity to test the device arose while my wife and I were at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Connection speed on mobile
During my visit to the park, I needed to upload a video I had shot of the new Ant-Man and the Wasp ride. Unfortunately, even with my T-Mobile One Plus plan, my regular mobile data speed wasn’t cutting it. So that’s when I knew it was time to bust out my Solis, cash in an Unlimited Global WiFi day pass and see how Skyroam performed. Thankfully, the WiFi the Skyroam provided helped my upload move along at a much faster clip and was completely uploaded within a few minutes.
Although that task was my main concern, with my day pass activated, I figured I’d leave the Solis on to see how the battery would hold up to a day at the park. To my (somewhat) surprise, it managed to last through the whole thing and still had plenty of charge when we arrived back at our hotel room. Specifically, it went from 96% to 30% over the course of 10 hours under consistent use.
Speaking of “consistent use,” I was also impressed by how literally cool the Solis stayed. I’ve heard complaints about hotspots getting too, well, hot — but I kept my device in my bag the entire day and could barely notice a temperature difference when I touched it. Granted, my bag was fairly roomy and airy so it may have been a bit of a different story had it been in my pocket but, nevertheless, it was nice to know I didn’t have to worry about it overheating.
Power bank usage
Something that Skyroam boasts about the Solis 1 is that, in addition to being a mobile hotspot, it can also be used as a power bank. Therefore, when my phone needed a bit of charge, I once again turned to the Solis for testing. At first, I thought I might actually be out of luck as I had forgotten to pack the USB-C to USB adapter that comes with the device, but I actually had an Apple dongle in my bag that did the trick. Still, I have to admit that my experience left something to be desired.
First of all, while I neglected to time my before and after battery level, it seemed that my iPhone charged fairly slowly while connected to the Solis. Conversely, the battery level of the Solis dropped considerably faster while I was charging my phone than when it was only doing single duty as a hotspot. For those reasons, while it’s nice to know the Solis has power bank possibilities if you need them in a pinch, if your main concern is WiFi, I’d pack a dedicated charger instead.
FYI — while the Solis X still supports power bank usage out of the box, users of the Solis Lite will need to purchase a Power Bank Kit in order to use their device in this manner. These kits are $19.99 on the Skyroam site (and the MONEYAT30 promo code works for 10% of those as well).
Connection speed on desktop
When I returned to my hotel room, despite having WiFi, I decided to try out the Solis’s connection on my laptop. While it didn’t feel as speedy as on my phone (probably because I’m more used to waiting for things to load on mobile), it was capable of streaming YouTube without issue. Additionally, this connection test on my laptop came as we also had both of our mobile phones still connected to the network. Admittedly, I didn’t run too many other speed tests as I was exhausted from my day walking around a theme park, but I can report my speed sampling provided satisfactory results.
Other Skyroam WiFi Hotspot Data Options
Day passes, monthly passes, and GoData
In addition to their $9 per day Unlimited Global WiFi option, Skyroam also offers a $99 per month option. Similar to how your day pass is good for 24 hours from when you activate, a month pass is not a calendar month but, instead, allows you to use your hotspot as much as you want during a 30-day timeframe. Doing some quick math, if you plan on using your hotspot for more than 11 days in a month’s time, this plan will save you a bit of money compared to the per day price. Meanwhile, if you’re staying in the U.S. and still need portable WiFi, Skyroam now also offers a $49 domestic monthly data plan.
Another option is Skyroam’s GoData plans. For $9 a month, you can utilize 1 GB of data on your hotspot in any country Skyroam supports. If you need more than that, you can purchase another gig for the same $9. While GoData plans will renew automatically, you can cancel at any time.
What’s even better is that Skyroam introduced GoData plans for the United States, Europe, and Asia. You can choose to subscribe to a 1GB U.S.-specific plan for $6 a month or a Europe-only 1GB plan for the same monthly price. As for the newer Asia plan, it’s only $4 a month for 1GB of data. Of course, for those venturing to other parts of the world, the $9 a month option is also available.
Not to be confused with the GoData plans, Skyroam also now has Pay-Per-GB options. For domestic data, this comes at a cost of $8 per GB while Global plans are $12 per GB. However, if you buy more GBs at a time, you’ll get better pricing. By the way, if you’re confused by this option, I’ll explain why you might choose this over the unlimited one in just a moment when we get to the next section.
For context on how much 1 GB of data is, I used just under a gigabyte during my day in the park — but that’s mostly because I uploaded a 545 MB video. Therefore, if you’re using the hotspot with some discretion and, you know, not Dropboxing HD videos on a regular basis, you can make your $4/$6/$8/$9/$12 worth of data go much further.
Throttling and slower connection speeds
Something important to note about Skyroam’s unlimited plans is that they are subject to slower connection speeds or “throttling” should you consume more than 20GB of data during the month. These limits are apparently not put in place by Skyroam themselves but by the carriers whose networks they utilize. Previously, I was also told that there may also be a 1GB per day cap — though, in less congested areas, users might be able to consume more before experiencing diminished speeds (technically the site says “High-speed data limits are based on the country”). In any case, if you do reach these limits and do not want to deal with slower speeds, you can add additional gigabytes of high speed data for an additional fee.
On a trip to France, I actually encountered this throttling issue for myself. Somehow I blew through my 1GB and, soon after, my connection was rendered all but unusable. Thankfully, things were reset for the next day and my speed returned to normal.
Personally, because of the potential for throttling, I’ve become a bigger fan of the GoData plans myself. This is especially true in Europe where you can get 1GB for $6 instead of the regular $9 (and now only $4 in Asia, although I haven’t tried that one yet). Of course, if you do sign up for a GoData plan, just be sure to cancel it unless you want to renew it for another month.
Meanwhile, this is where Skyroam’s Pay-Per-GB options come in as well. According to the company, data purchased in this manner is always full speed and never throttled. So, if you’re concerned about speed and don’t want to worry about auto-renewing GoData plans, then this may be the best pick for you.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Skyroam previously had hotspot rentals available. Under these plans, you could rent their Solis 1 device for $8.99 a day, which included your data and free standard shipping in the United States. Alas, as of July 2021, Skyroam is no longer renting devices. Similarly, the Solis 1 devices that were used for rentals and returned for sale are not available for purchase anymore.
While it’s slightly disappointing that Skyroam is no longer renting devices, buying a Solis Lite or Solis X was typically a better bet in the long run thanks to the 30 day Unlimited Global WiFi deal as well as the GoData option — the latter of which wasn’t available for rental devices. Still, the discontinuation of this option is a blow to those who like to try before they buy.
After months (if not years) of considering different WiFi hotspot options, I’m glad that I found the Skyroam Solis. While the devices are a bit of an investment upfront, the various data plan options make it so the device can easily fit your travel needs. Personally, I’ve been using the Solis as a backup for the times when my hotel WiFi lets me down or when I inevitably need to work while visiting a Disney theme park. So, if you’re looking for a WiFi hotspot to take along on your international travels and that has plenty of data options, I can honestly recommend Skyroam and their Solis device.
Frequently Asked Questions
Solis devices utilize various cellular networks, allowing users to create a private WiFi network. Skyroam offers data plans by the gigabyte as well as unlimited daily and monthly passes.
Skyroam’s daily and monthly unlimited plans are unlimited. However, users may experience slower connection speeds if they surpass a certain data usage (typically 1 GB) in a day or 20 GB of data in a month.
No. Skyroam relies on cellular connections to offer Wi-Fi, which is not possible on an airplane.
Skyroam has GoData plans starting at $6 a month for the U.S. and Europe. $4 a month for Asia, or $9 a month for worldwide service. Unlimited plans start at $9 a day. There are also now Pay-Per-GB plans that cost $8 per GB in the U.S. or $12 per GB for international data.
Skyroam offers a password-protected, private network so it is secure.
If no cellular connection is available, then Skyroam Wi-Fi unfortunately won’t be able to connect either.
Skyroam supports VoIP (voice over IP) calls but their plans only offer data, not phone service.
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Also published on Medium.