When it comes to cellular service, predictability often reigns. No one wants to be surprised by a huge bill or not be able to count on a certain level of wireless speed. That said, a whole host of gadgets, cell plans and even carriers can offer a degree of flexibility that create a low-priced wireless on-ramp, allow globetrotters to take advantage of low rates, or even dramatically increase connection speeds.

1. ChatSIM. A good option for tweens or those with the most basic communication needs, ChatSIM enables the exchange of text and emoji via popular chat apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, Messenger and others for the rock-bottom price of $10 per month. This would be easy to handle if we lived in the textual world of old BlackBerrys, but photos, videos and lots of other app usage tends to creep into smartphone usage and the fees can pile up fast for those who stray far from smileys.

2. GoodSpeed. Many of the lowest-cost smartphones for people in developing economies have two SIM slots to take advantage of favorable rates from multiple carriers within the same country. But having access to multiple SIMs can also be helpful to travelers. GoodSpeed takes the concept to the extreme with a portable 4G hotspot (a device that shares cellular connections over Wi-Fi) that can support 10 SIMs so you'll almost always have access to low data rates when you land. It can serve up data for up to 12 hours and for up to 15 devices (for far less time)

3. TextNow and Republic Wireless. Many carriers and phone makers seek to lighten the load on cellular networks by offloading wireless traffic to Wi-Fi in settings such as the home. Republic Wireless and TextNow, however, start with Wi-Fi as their primary network, hopping on to cellular networks only when they have to.

While Republic Wireless pioneered the model, TextNow has the advantage of letting, say, a first-time smartphone user experiment with an app on a Wi-Fi device and then graduate to cellular while keeping their phone number. While both services require their own specially modified phones for best functionality, TextNow can use work with some Sprint iPhones and Android phones with some caveats.

4. Karma Go. As the name implies, this 4G LTE mobile hotspot rewards you with free wireless traffic for the good deed of sharing your Wi-Fi connection (and helping the company acquire new users in the process). However, if your karma is running low (or those around you have alternate Wi-Fi sources, you can still use the hotspot using a pay-as-you-go or flat monthly fee plan

5. KnowRoaming. Infrequent travelers dropping into a country for a short stay may not want to hassle with purchasing an extra SIM. The KnowRoaming Global SIM Sticker overlays your existing SIM card, helping to save up to 85% on all data, texts, and voice calls in over 200 countries.

6. T-Mobile Music Freedom and Binge On. T-Mobile has reaped the rewards of positioning itself as the rebellious consumer advocates of U.S. wireless service. While it offers many programs under its Un-Carrier umbrella, two of the most popular allow unlimited consumption of streaming music and video on your device. The plans covers a range of music and video services although some obscure ones may not be covered.

The Binge On service is particularly handy because video can consume the limits of a monthly data plan very quickly. T-Mobile's compromise is to downgrade the video quality to manage network traffic

7. Verizon FreeBee. Taking an alternative approach to cutting back on paid bandwidth consumption, Verizon's sponsored data program lets advertisers subsidize part of your wireless data. For users who don't mind the ads, you can use the service on mobile devices for video, audio, Web browsing, and apps on its LTE network.

8. Speedify Mobile. This VPN combines multiple network connections like Wi-Fi and 4G, to deliver a faster, more reliable connection to your Android or iOS device. You can seamlessly switch from your existing connection to cellular without losing connectivity so

9. Project Fi. This Google initiative is a virtual network operator available to certain Nexus mobile devices that provides data and voice services by choosing dynamically between Sprint and T-Mobile Wi-Fi and cellular networks, ensuring optimal coverage. Google offers a low basic monthly fee or a pay per GB option.

10. Krimston Two. For those who want to easily switch between two SIMs while traveling but won't give up their iPhone, this dual SIM card case offers hotspot connectivity, power bank charging, and the ability to text message and use voice calling from either SIM. Because the iPhone isn't designed to use multiple SIMs, though, an app to switch back and forth.

Published on: Mar 31, 2016