Birdie SIM cards have become quite popular for HK travellers heading overseas. Available online and through retail outlets, they have a plug and play convenience, with supposedly simple pricing and the ability simply to recharge the SIM for future trips.
Recently I had a short notice trip to the United States, with a brief stop en route in Korea. I didn’t have time to get order a SIM card from our partner site HK SIM Card so decided to give Birdie a go.
How to Buy
I picked it up at my local Wellcome for $75, which was convenient. There is also an option to order online and receive it by post, by ordering at the Birdie website. My expectation was that that might be cheaper than the supermarket option, although the website pricing is so opaque I didn’t make the effort to find out.
How It Works
The Birdie SIM I bought came with a little SIM pouch and tool to extract SIMs from Apple iPhones, which I thought was a good touch.
The SIM works on a per day per country basis. But – and this is a big but – you need to figure out yourself what that is. It’s on the website, and you can preorder at a discount etc. So in short, if you want to spend lots of time online to figure out the details of how to save some money, it may work for you. But if you value time or transparency, you may like me find Birdie lacking in both.
The other point about Birdie is that there is no offline support. It is owned by a big Hong Kong mobile provider, whose support I have previously found abysmal, but I still found it frustrating not to have support given that the information provided was so patchy. I had two questions: did I need to register the SIM before use (I guessed not, but the packaging emphasised online registration and I did not want to be caught out overseas without the SIM working) and what would be the price for use in Korea and the U.S.? The website did not answer either question to my satisfaction so I was left in the dark).
My Experience with the Birdie SIM
I used the SIM in Korea for an hour or two, for messaging. I then flew to the United States. During the flight, not having put my phone in flight mode which was my poor choice, I received several e-mails on my phone. I guess this was from Canadian phone towers? When I noticed that, I turned the phone off. Landing in the U.S., the card no longer worked for either data or phone calls.
So basically for $75 I got only brief burst of activity in Korea, and some unwanted activity on my subsequent flight.
Birdie SIM Review – Conclusion
I thought the Birdie branding was cute, but the pricing opaque, the lack of helpful support annoying and generally felt a little ripped off. However, some friends in Hong Kong feel that Birdie is excellent value for using one’s phone regionally, and very convenient as it can be recharged. So experiences vary. My feeling is that Birdie is more likely to appeal to you if you are highly cost-conscious and willing to invest time in registering online, setting up the Birdie app and figuring out the pricing in detail. For a time-conscious customer it may simply feel like far too much effort.