Product Review Update: ChatSIM – Unlimited Worldwide Instant Messaging Service (Not Really Unlimited!)

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Back in November 2016 we featured a review about ChatSIM, a service that allows you to use the instant messenger texting service of your choice worldwide for as little as $20.00 per year – it’s time for an update!

In the past few months we received a couple reader emails after they had problems with the service and I have also had some issues with them including a recent email that my data use was ‘abnormal’.

There were relatively few issues during the first few months of using this card and in fact I was pretty satisfied with how it worked. Then the reception became spotty and I often wasn’t able to properly connect for hours at locations where it worked very well previously.

If you like to read up on the review from last year see our article here.

To quickly recapitulate here is why I decided to try this service:

… If you live or visit Asia a lot you might know that it’s almost impossible to stay away from WeChat, LINE and Kakao but Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are two services that are worldwide mainstream.

Before I ordered this product I was skeptical especially because it wasn’t exactly cheap. There used to be a basic fee of 15$ plus the annual fee of 15$ plus shipping (another 5$). Then back in early September I came about a promo code to waive the base fee and said ‘why not’ let’s try it!

So long story short, I used the card and a few months in me and others started to get the first emails that the data use was exceeding the allowed limit even though we (at least in my case) simply used the chat apps that were designated by the company. They then downgraded the speed.

Of course everybody who has a cellphone knows that there are always apps running in the background and try to use data. Yes, you can shut that off but I won’t go through each app and disable it because I’m not on Wifi for an hour. It seems ChatSIM has simply no way to limit the data use exclusively to the apps they advertise.

Even though slow I’ve been using it again these past few weeks and sure enough this morning I got the following email:

I have a problem with this sort of ‘customer service’ for a variety of reasons. For one, when you order the card it doesn’t give any instructions that you have to completely reconfigure your phone every time you use ChatSim. The website also did not make any mention about ‘excessive data use’ and that they would disable your card etc.

Plain terms & conditions were simply missing back then (not sure if they have added them in the meanwhile or if any come in printed form with new packages that are sent out).

Of course it will cost them quite a bit of money if customers are using large amounts of data and at the same time not purchasing their expensive Multimedia credits but that’s not really the customers problem.

Also one should note that none of the other apps ever worked while using ChatSim. Whatever Data they are talking about clearly didn’t benefit the user in any way. Occasionally images that chat partners sent me on Facebook messenger got through, that might explain extra data use but again, not my problem if this kind of thing shouldn’t work with the product in the first place.

Or maybe it’s all just a hoax to get rid of customers who don’t buy additional packages – who knows.

Conclusion

There is simply no way anymore to recommend this ChatSim product in good faith because I think the company is dishonest in describing what they are providing and how the customer is supposed to use the product. It would be fine if they were completely upfront about it.

I replied to the company that if they wish to deactivate the card they can gladly do so but in which case I expect a refund for the product. So far there isn’t any reply (no surprise there).

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  • hrpstl

    Ahm… It’s called “disable Background Data” (no need to go through all Apps). And you are surprised about being blocked after failing to configure your Phone properly even after they have sent you a notice? Come on.

    • Xavier

      Perhaps he expects that someone at the company connects remotely to his iPhone in order to perform the disable background.

    • That *would* disable background data for chat apps too, stopping push notifications and, effectively, making chat apps useless themselves.

  • For what it’s worth, in HK and Singapore, I had quite a good luck with i-Sim (https://blog.flameeyes.eu/2017/05/i-sim-a-quirky-way-to-get-internet-in-asia/) as long as that lasts.

    I always found ChatSim very sketchy, because traffic shaping is not an obvious process, and traffic shaping *within an app’s features* (i.e. the media part) is even less likely to be a straightforward implementation. Since all of the traffic is encrypted (at least up until the server, I’m not talking e2e here), there is no way they can intercept the flows that only have to deal with media, so at best they are guessing based on the bursts of data, but… heh.

  • BTW here’s one fairly recent comment email from a reader:

    I’m a regular reader of your blog and appreciate the great articles about all point offers for the various programmes!

    I’ve read the blog article from Sebastian about ChatSim in November last year, and I thought it was a great idea to get one. Maybe you can forward my mail to him.

    I ordered the SIM beginning of February and it arrived within 10 days (regular, no express shipping) I my Swedish mailbox. The installation was also easy, and my account showed – as booked – the 1 year free chat subscription.

    I’m anything but a power user (<100 texts a week, at least half of them usually on wifi) of WhatsApp (the only messenger I use with that SIM on an old phone), but a week ago my account got slowed down due to "abnormal use", and two days later it got blocked completely due to "abnormal use".

    I was staying in Cuba at that point in time, and I found out that data is very expensive there compared to most other countries I've been to (several European, US, China, Taiwan). So my suspicion is that texting via WhatsApp was increasing the bill on ChatSims side too much, and thus they decided to block my account and I have to renew my plan after 1/3 of the regular time. Maybe this wouldn't have happened without the Cuba stay, but I'm wondering if others had the same issue after getting a ChatSim after Sebastian's report?

    Nevertheless I renewed my plan (since 15 Euros is still a nice deal) and I'll see what happens during the next period …

    • Vincent Verbist

      They do note on several pages on their website, that Cuba has stronger limits, so that will be the reason why.

  • seetheterm

    1 Text messages and emoji are unlimited for personal, lawful and conforming use. Please refer to the General Contractual Terms and Conditions.
    In Cuba, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Malawi, Monaco, Sierra Leone and Vietnam the annual limit is 5 MB.
    2 The followed rates are referred to ChatSim Unlimited. Discover ChatSim and ChatSim Plus too.