WhatSim becomes ChatSim as it expands to apps beyond WhatsApp

Last month, I reported on an interesting new mobile service from Italy’s Zeromobile called WhatSim that promised unlimited WhatsApp messaging anywhere in the world for just €10 ($11.60) a year. Well, a month later — and before it’s even shipped its first SIM card — WhatSim is already changing up its business model to move beyond a single messaging app, but it has also placed some restrictions on the service that make it less attractive to hard-core chatters.

It’s rebranded itself as ChatSim and it’s now supporting QQ, [company]Facebook[/company] Messenger, WeChat, Skype, Viber, Line, KakaoTalk, Telegram, Snapchat, [company]Twitter[/company], [company]Google[/company] Hangouts and [company]Apple[/company] iMessage in addition to WhatsApp. If you want to do anything besides sending text and emoticons on those services, though, you’ll have to buy credits. Each photo, video, voice message costs a different amount of credits, which vary depending on the country you’re in.

Those credits can also translate directly into prepaid megabytes, which you can use for any mobile app or to surf the internet. But be careful: Once you start buying credits, ChatSim removes the blocks on non-messaging internet traffic and a smartphone can eat up those credits (and your euros) pretty quickly.

Zeromobile also added some confusing fine print to its service that places limits on its supposedly unlimited plans. If you’re traveling the world and spreading your usage among different countries, then you won’t face any restrictions. But if more than 60 percent of your usage is in one of six geographic zones, then ChatSim will start throwing up roadblocks.

For instance, in the U.S., which is in a zone that includes 30 more countries ranging from the U.K. to New Zealand, you would be restricted to 25 MB of chat traffic before additional charges kick in. That translates into about 12,500 messages, or 34 messages a day, according to Zeromobile. That’s not a paltry number, but it’s a threshold any committed chat user can easily surpass.

So if you truly are a globetrotter living out of your suitcase, or business traveler who regularly travels between two of ChatSim’s zones, this service is a great deal (though your jetsetting ways would suggest you’re not exactly looking for a bargain). But if you’re generally staying put, then you might find ChatSim isn’t as good of a deal as was originally advertised.