Cubic Telecom Lied About Its "Cheap International Calling" SIM Card

Last Friday, we published a post about Cubic Telecom, an Irish start-up that sells a SIM card that’s supposed to enable international calling for “50-90%” less than standard carrier rates. The post was in reference to columnist David Pogue’s review of the product, and he was quoting rates that were provided to him directly by Cubic’s CEO. Turns out the CEO was “misleading” him—he provided numbers that were substantially lower than the actual rates, and has been stringing Pogue along with assurances that they’d “update the site” ever since. As of Thursday, October 4th, they still hadn’t.

Here are some examples of the prices the CEO gave the New York Times versus what they posted the same day on their website:
 
  What they told Pogue Actual price
Russia to U.S. 49c $1.24
USA to Greece 42c $1.77
U.S. to Iraq 69c $2.02
U.S. to Australia 42c $1.77
U.S. to New Zealand 49c $1.24

Cubic Telecom’s MaxRoam card does still offer better rates than the major carriers, but this whole story sounds an awful lot like a CEO has been trying to manipulate a well-known technology columnist into providing great free publicity. Writes Pogue,

Overall, though, I feel a bit manipulated, since the primary virtue of the Cubic phone was its low rates. I’m not exactly sure how the problem could have been avoided–in 20 years of reviewing tech products, nobody has ever deliberately misled me on hard facts like prices–but I thought you should hear about it from me.

So to those of you who were considering this product: you might want to wait a while to see whether Cubic has a convincing explanation for their bait-and-switch marketing, or whether they’re just not worth dealing with at all.

“Setting the Record Straight on Cubic Telecom’s International Rates” [New York Times]

Comments

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  1. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    No, that’s it; they now stink permanently. I was thinking of getting some of these for an upcoming overseas business trip for my team, but it’s not happening. Not from this bunch of ripoff artists, ever.

  2. edrebber says:

    Next time Mr. Pogue should purchase the item he is reviewing and give a first hand account of the item’s features.

  3. scoobydoo says:

    These rates are 3-4 times more than T-mobile charges.

  4. ViperBorg says:

    @scoobydoo: Yep, time to stick with T-Mobile or another carrier.

  5. olegna says:

    >> These rates are 3-4 times more than T-mobile charges. <<

    Out of curiosity, do you mean that T-Mobile charges less for calling Russia to the USA? That doesn’t seem right because if you’re T-Mobile account is in the US and you’re in Moscow and you call the US on your US-based T-Mobile account, I find it hard to beleive that international mobile phone call would be less than $1.49 a minute!

    I think you mean that the rates are less if you call the US to these destinations, but would rip you off like everyone else if you roamed internationally.

    But, yes, of course, if you’re in the US and calling on your post-paid account (or perhaps even pre-paid, but I doubt it) then you probably get better rates in network. There’s nothing surprising about that.

    The idea of an international SIM card is appealing even if the rates aren’t much lower (or even a little more). SIM cards are expensive anyway. In Europe you have to spend $40 for an EMPTY SIM card and then load it. So it’s at least $50 just to have less than an hour talk time. So the idea of a one-shot universal SIM card that I don’t have to replace in different countries and can load up online is attractive.

    Pogue annoys me. In that article he made it sound like he tested the SIM card and confirmed this pricing, didn’t he? Now he’s forced to do a mea culpa for being a shill for a company. And it’s not even Apple this time!

  6. scoobydoo says:

    T-mobile:

    USA to New Zealand: $0.39
    USA to Australia: $0.34
    USA to Greece: $0.69
    USA to Iraq: $1.64

    Roaming charges are much higher though:

    Russia to USA: $4.99.

  7. jamar0303 says:

    One thing I will say is that for Asia, just grab a local SIM card for wherever you’ll be visiting. They’re insanely cheap, and roaming to surrounding countries is cheap too.

  8. TPK says:

    Yeah lying is always something you want to see in a new company you are thinking about using…

  9. rmz says:

    @edrebber: Yeah, right. Next, you’ll want the reviewing publication to not take bribes or kickbacks from companies whose products they’re reviewing, won’t you?

    You’re so unreasonable. :D

  10. Anonymous says:

    I emailed their support line (support@maxroam.com) to ask if they encrypted their voice traffic while on the internet. No answer so far. Although ordinary voice traffic can be tapped, VOIP on the internet is another story. I really don’t want to be talking on a party line while roaming internationally.

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    There’s a certain degree of slack that’s cut, since often companies have changes they communicate with journalists that haven’t hit the field yet. Especially in the fast-moving tech field.

    Having a company blatently lie to a scribe is damned stupid, though. I hope Pogue sharpens the long knives and sinks them in, over and over, into Cubic’s decaying corpse, for at least a year. Make it a running joke in his columns. When the lying CEO flees his ruined company, track him down and ridicule him in his next job. Make an example out of them: THIS is what happens when you lie when trying to use MY column to propagate your con. Jugular, David, jugular!

    And yeah, Cubic is dead to me. Probably to many on Consumerist as well.

  12. Buran says:

    Even though they’re still cheaper, I will now no longer patronize them or tell anyone else to. In fact I just emailed my parents, who I’d emailed about the column last week, telling them that the company lied. Implication: forget it.

  13. Buran says:

    @edrebber: You did read the explanation on the site? Right? This isn’t Slashdot where people don’t RTFA.

  14. hypnotik_jello says:

    @olegna: T-Mobile International Roaming Rate in Russia is $4.99/minute

    That MaxRoam SIM is a good deal for the most part for World Roaming. It saves the hassle of buying a local SIM overseas in every country you visit, and you get to choose a local (US) # if you want.

    I mean, they do some funky stuff with ring-back and VOIP to get their cheap rates.

  15. Geekybiker says:

    @Buran:
    RTFA and it still comes down to a bait and switch.

  16. dextrone says:

    This is the time when I say:
    I told you so.

  17. dextrone says:

    @dextrone: Sorry, to double post, but
    @hypnotik_jello: It’s a horrible deal, you could buy a sim in russia for 1$ and then the rates would be incredibly cheap.

    You have 3 options:
    Choose one of those providers that were advertised in the NYT and be semi-ripped off.
    Take your current carrier’s roaming and be ripped off 99%
    Buy a prepaid sim in the country you’re in and use your common sense (0% rip off unless you go to a store that knows you have no clue how much a sim should cost and they take advantage of you….)

  18. azntg says:

    I thought Cubic made it very frank of its intentions on its website: “We’re in business to make money…”

    Nice of them to hoodwink Pogue and the Times. Gotta love companies trying to sink to new lows to make money. And if I have to travel overseas (except Korea and Japan), I’ll get a local prepaid sim. If you so desperately need to call me, either pay LD or tough luck!

  19. CHANGWAY says:

    This really is a stunning story in that a very public and well-known (albeit casual and vendor-driven) reviewer like David Pogue has been made to look the fool. My problem with Pogue is that he did not lay in to the company after they trashed his rep- in fact, in his follow-up, he still seems to tout the Cubic service, even before he has ever placed a single call using it. What’s up with that? If you go to the Cubic site, Contact Us sends an email straight to Pat Phelan. Google his name; he is a blogger and seems to be involved with numerous company entities. You are going to entrust all of your global communications to this (potentially) one-man band who completely took advantage of a gullible and overanxious journalist from the NY Times? I for one am tired of “leading edge products” being hyped by “independent third parties” that end up being major disappointments, if not outright frauds, once I have purchased them.

  20. jamar0303 says:

    @azntg: Yep, gotta love Japan- they refuse to do prepaid without Japanese ID, thereby forcing you to get a rental SIM. On the other hand, rates are actually pretty good once you realize that all incoming calls are free.

  21. Her Grace says:

    I never had a cell until I moved to Australia. I am not looking forward to getting one when I’m back in the US. I currently have a prepaid/pay-as-you-go phone with Optus. For $30 or $50 a month I get $120 or $250 worth of credit, respectively, which rolls over if I recharge within the set time limit of 30 days. All calls– to numbers within Australia AND internationally–are 37 cents/minute; all texts are 25 cents each. There is no charge for receiving a call or a text. Since I haven’t been out of the country yet, I don’t know what their policy is on international roaming, but I have a feeling it’s terribly awesome.

    I really don’t want to deal with US cell companies. I have been spoilt.

  22. andy9 says:

    There is a subsequent (Oct 6th) post on the David Pogue blog, and he even edited it slightly after a remark from me.

    Some of us had spotted several days earlier than you guys that Pogue obviously hadn’t seen the actual tariffs. Well, the Maxroam site was offline at the time.

    What he didn’t distinguish was that in their enthusiasm they described what they are hoping for in the next 6 months or so, like 15 cent calls within the USA.

    They are still having some difficulties with their tariff database, which is rather surprising when the current product seems identical to another on the market for some time, so importing the tariff should not be too difficult.

    Unfortunate that their PR strategy seems to include making personal attacks on people who observe this …… and denigrating some internet forums …… and twice sending unsolicited emails more or less demanding a reply then publicly accusing someone of obsessiveness for actually replying.

    There are other cheap roaming solutions; either local SIM cards or one of a number of global roaming SIMs with free incoming calls in many countries.

    Some have better rates in some areas than others; for example roaming in the Middle East with an Israel-numbered SIM isn’t likely to be cheap