When all you need is text

WhatSim sells a WhatsApp-only mobile plan on the cheap

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WhatsApp is now capturing a good deal of the world’s texting traffic, so an Italian company figured it was time to create a WhatsApp data plan for the world. The people behind Italy’s Zeromobile have launched a new venture called WhatSim that sells a €10 ($11.60) SIM card that lets you chat on WhatsApp for free in 150 countries for a year.

When it comes to text messaging alternatives, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is already a bargain. It’s a free download, and after the first year you pay only 99 cents a year. That, however, does not include the cost of mobile data, which can be exceptional high if you’re trotting the world outside of your home network. So WhatSim has created plan that levels the playing field across the globe. You buy the SIM card for €10 and aren’t charged any data fees as long as you use WhatsApp’s basic text messaging features. After a year, you can continue the service for another €10.

If you want to use more advanced features like sending pictures or video, recording voice messages or sharing your location or contacts, then you have to pay more. You buy “recharges” that give you different allotments of pictures or videos — the charges vary based on what country you’re in — based on a credit system.

It’s an interesting concept because it essentially allows anyone to maintain a lifeline communications service anywhere in the world for very little investment (WhatsApp itself is trying to tackle the same issue by providing a web client for Android users). When you travel outside of your home country, you merely replace your carrier’s regular SIM card in your GSM phone with the WhatSim. I still have plenty of questions for WhatSim like whether it will be sold in the U.S. and what happens when you try to access another app besides WhatsApp. I’ll provide updates once the company gets back to me.



7 Responses to “WhatSim sells a WhatsApp-only mobile plan on the cheap”

  1. I’m assuming that you put this SIM in an unlocked phone that’s already configured with whastapp. Can you still use your phone normally when connected to WiFi? Their site mentions you cannot use the SIM for other apps or make calls. Will they shut them down? This is not a whatsapp product, can they use their name? Has anyone tried it? It’s a good idea, I’m gonna try to get one to test.

  2. Joris Witteman

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think these types of plans are legal in the EU. Net neutrality laws dictate that you either offer all of internet, or no internet. Singling out WhatsApp as a network protocol, for example, would be illegal in that regard.

    • James Body

      Hmmmm – I am not sure about this. WhatsApp is an application – and with this package the end user is signing up to a service which serves this app only. I see no issues with this from a legal perspective.

      This is a good example of a clever app-centric bundle where the TRAFFIC is given away. It fits into the same product area as the Amazon Kindle data bundles.

      If there is an legal issue, it is probably in the ‘Know Your Customer’ and Legal Interception areas.

  3. I also wonder what happens when you try to use other apps. Also it is not entirely clear to me if beside the unlimited whatsapp access, you can also use it as a regular sim card for calling and normal texting. Or do you have to start switching sim cards?

  4. Humberto Saabedra

    The site launched not too long after the PR went out and it looks like the company is offering worldwide shipping for the SIM and splitting the credit system into four distinct “zones” based on blocks of countries — the US being included in “Zone 1”

    Also, the video and voice message length is dependent on how many credits are available, in effect making them more expensive than audio or video MMS. Voice and video messages longer than 10 seconds can use up to 1,800 additional credits depending on which zone you’re in. The idea is sound, but the credit and recharge system heavily penalizes users for sending pictures and video when many carriers are already bundling zero-rated WhatsApp access with full access. This would be great as an alternative to carrying an international SIM, but that also assumes you travel to countries where WhatsApp is the clearly dominant messaging platform.