KnowRoaming review: This SIM 'sticker' makes it easy for travelers to save on data

Thanks in no small part to T-Mobile's free global data initiative, US carriers have begun to lighten the fee load when it comes time to roam. But you'll still pay an arm and a leg in many countries, and discounted plans from AT&T and Verizon, while more reasonable than they once were, require a monthly subscription that can be a hassle to add and remove. If you're expecting to use gobs of data abroad, KeepGo's disposable-SIM program is probably your best bet, but an intriguing alternative from KnowRoaming will keep leisure travelers and other casual users connected in 220 countries without the need to worry about coming home to an enormous bill. That solution, an incredibly thin card with passthrough leads and an adhesive back, simply sits atop your existing SIM, springing into action whenever you arrive in a foreign country. Join me as I travel to Europe and beyond to see how well this sticker works.

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If you're of the sort that likes to plan those otherwise impromptu encounters, Facebook has just announced a optional new feature that will certainly help with that. Nearby Friends will show you if your friends are close by, so you can reach out about meeting up. This isn't automatically turn on inside Facebook's apps though, as you'll have to toggle it on and your friends will have to decide to share their location for it to work. However, there's the ability to broadcast coordinates for a certain amount of time -- the hour or two that you plan to be at your favorite bar, for example. You can also see when folks that have opted-in are traveling, giving you the opportunity to send any ramen or burrito recommendations their way. As you might expect, the feature will beam push notifications to your mobile device to alert you when your best mate is nearby. This news is certainly interesting in the context of the outfit's push for its own location services, along with recent news of Instagram testing the in-house Places for tagging photos. While there's no official arrival date, Nearby Friends is rolling out to both Android and iOS in the weeks to come.

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​Today Yahoo is rolling our Flickr "3.0," a completely redesigned approach to its photo-sharing apps on Android and iOS. In addition to offering improved sharing through Dropbox and Google+, Flickr on mobile now features Instagram-like filters and in-depth editing tools. We especially like the new option to view each photo's metadata, including which camera an image was shot with, aperture setting and more.

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Eyefi Mobi SD card

There are plenty of cameras that send their photos to your phone, but you frequently have to transfer those pictures yourself -- and it's another hassle to get the pics to other devices. Eyefi thinks it can solve these headaches by launching its own online service, Eyefi Cloud. If you're using one of the company's WiFi-equipped Mobi cards in your camera alongside new Android and iOS apps, any photos go both to your mobile device and Cloud right after you've hit the shutter button. You only need a browser to manage your shots, so you're not stuck if you want to see your photos on a new PC.

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Samsung seems to be on a roll with bagging media partnerships for its Galaxy line of phones and tablets. First music streaming service Deezer, and now it's getting a custom-built Kindle book store in a deal with Amazon. Announced this morning, the service also gives Galaxy owners referred to the service (starting with the GS5, but more to follow) 12 free books a year. Users will get four "prominent" titles a month to choose from, which have been "chosen specifically" for Galaxy owners (whatever that means). Samsung's already laden with bespoke services, such as its Milk internet radio platform, its own custom app store, and there's even an existing Samsung Books app. Of course, let's not forget the existing Kindle app for Android. However, if you want to snag yourself those free libros, Kindle for Samsung launches in the next two weeks.

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Shazam for iPhone

It's easy to track down iPhone apps that name catchy tunes, but it now looks like Apple wants to spare you from having to search in the first place. Bloomberg sources claim that a future version of iOS will incorporate Shazam's song recognition in the same way that the existing mobile platform integrates Facebook and Twitter. While built-in music detection wouldn't be a new idea (just ask Windows Phone users), you could ask Siri to tell you what's playing rather than hit a button. There aren't any clues as to when the feature would reach iOS. However, Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference begins in early June -- if the rumor is accurate, there's a good chance we'll get the full scoop in a matter of weeks.

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One of the big promises that came out of Microsoft's Build conference this year were apps that'd work across a number of Windows devices with a single purchase, and Redmond is using Halo to lead that charge. The first group of applications includes Halo: Spartan Assault and Skulls of the Shogun, both of which recently made the conversion to universal games -- making them playable across Windows Phone, Windows 8 and RT devices for one price. If you'd rather not pay for your entertainment, though, Microsoft also converted the likes of Wordament, Minesweeper and Hexic too. However, as Windows Phone Central notes, buying the universal version of Skulls doesn't grant access to the Xbox 360 version, nor does Spartan Assault's universal purchase unlock the Xbox 360 or Xbox One versions. Given that the Xbox division is still pretty separate from everything else though, that isn't exactly surprising.

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Cheesy moniker aside, Sprint's newly minted Framily plan is not one to be ignored. It allows you to save money by sharing an account with, well, friends and family, all while being billed separately on up to 10 lines. Following in similar footsteps, AT&T's prepaid subsidiary Aio Wireless has now announced Group Save, which allows users to get a maximum monthly discount of $90 per account. It's simple, really: the more lines you add, the more cash you save every month on your bill total, not per line. With Aio's Group Save, you can have up to five lines; the first two get you a $10 discount, while lines number three, four and five knock off $30, $60 and $90 per month, respectively.

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SONY DSC

With all the modular phone concepts, balloon internet projects, robots and drones it can be easy to forget Google's main business angle: search and advertising. Google reported its first quarter earnings today and didn't have much to say about our favorite topics -- we'll hear more about those at Google I/O in June -- or even its pending sale of Motorola to Lenovo. Responding to an analyst's question, Google execs Patrick Pichette and Nikesh Arora mentioned the need to "keep evolving (search) results," as it increasingly serves up info (sports scores, TV listings, restaurant menus) on its own website instead of just providing links. That's probably also behind its push for Google Now results that bring up relevant info before the user even asks, on the desktop and mobile. In a brief reference to the Chromecast, Pichette called the $35 device a hit, mentioning the over 3,000 developers had signed up to build apps since the launch of the SDK.

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We already know Apple is working on improving Siri, but gosh dangit, the folks in Cupertino just aren't moving as fast as some would like. That's why a quartet of freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania decided to try making Siri do more on their own... at a hackathon, no less. They wound up taking third prize for the hack -- called GoogolPlex -- and after some fine-tuning, Alex Sands, Ajay Patel, Ben Hsu and Gagan Gupta are ready to help you make your virtual assistant do more. The setup process is trivial: you just have to change your WiFi connection's proxy settings (seriously, it'll take five seconds). Once that's done though, you can invoke Siri and ask GoogolPlex to play tunes in Spotify, crank up the heat on your Nest thermostat or even start your Tesla.

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Cortana on Windows Phone

Don't despair that Windows Phone 8.1's signature virtual assistant, Cortana, doesn't officially work outside of the US -- as it turns out, there's a fairly easy way to try it in other countries. Pocket-lint notes that early adopters can chat with Cortana by choosing US language, region and speech in their phone settings. Provided you can live with American spelling across the interface, everything works as expected -- you can find local shops, call friends and set reminders using only your voice. You'll still have to wait until later in the year to get a truly localized version of Microsoft's digital companion, but you can at least see what all the fuss is about right now.

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If you have any documents (or e-books acquired in a "non-standard" way) stored on your Kindle, now you can access them anywhere via Amazon Cloud Drive. Starting today, documents uploaded to your e-reader via your browser, mobile device or email will automatically be stored in a new "My Send-to-Kindle Docs" folder within Cloud Drive. Unlike previous document uploads that were automatically converted to Kindle format, new additions will be saved in the cloud in their original format. That means you'll be able to edit the Word doc for your book on show ponies (might we suggest a working title of Pageant Ponies: America's Real Beauty Queens?) from your desktop seconds after catching a typo. With the move, Kindle owners can combine their existing 5GB of free cloud storage with the 5GB offered to Cloud Drive users for a total of 10GB of space. You know what that means: plenty of room to store sequels to your equine masterpiece once you hit it big.

Image source: Flickr/Zhao!

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Project Ara is primarily focused on building a modular smartphone in the hopes of changing the industry, but is that the only type of mobile device on the drawing board? Absolutely not. An executive at Toshiba, one of Google's partners on the project, just revealed that his company's vision of the concept goes beyond smartphones. Shardul Kazi, Senior VP and Technology Executive at Toshiba, posited that devices like smartwatches (and beyond, he says) could also take advantage of Ara's blocky component modules, which allow you to mix and match whatever features and components you want to have.

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While we'd seen rumblings that it was in beta testing, Google's Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android made its official debut today. This means that those who fancy Mountain View's mobile OS can take a gander at files that reside on a Windows or Mac machine that's safely docked in the office. The Remote Desktop app has been available on the desktop for quite some time, and now the same access is available through Chrome on Android smartphones and tablets. For those who prefer Apple's devices, an iOS version of the software should be on the way soon.

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While Google has continued to toss new features into the camera app shipped on its Nexus devices, many Android phones replace it with something else. But just as we revealed a few weeks ago, now it's available in the Play Store, ready to run on any phone or tablet using Android 4.4 KitKat. Beyond bits like Photo Sphere that we've seen before, Google is filling in the blanks on its new "Lens Blur" option. Meant to emphasize the subject while blurring the background for an impressive depth of field effect, it uses algorithms to simulate the large camera lens and aperture your phone or tablet doesn't actually have. Taking the photo requires an upward sweep to capture multiple images, used to estimate the depth of objects for a 3D map that lets the software re-render the photo later and blur specific items based on where it thinks they are. Google's Research Blog has more details on how it's all done, including the Lytro-like ability to change which object is in focus after you take the shot.

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