WhatSim sells a WhatsApp-only mobile plan on the cheap

WhatsApp is now capturing a good deal of the world’s texting traffic, so an Italian company figured it was time to create a WhatsApp data plan for the world. The people behind Italy’s Zeromobile have launched a new venture called WhatSim that sells a €10 ($11.60) SIM card that lets you chat on WhatsApp for free in 150 countries for a year.

When it comes to text messaging alternatives, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is already a bargain. It’s a free download, and after the first year you pay only 99 cents a year. That, however, does not include the cost of mobile data, which can be exceptional high if you’re trotting the world outside of your home network. So WhatSim has created plan that levels the playing field across the globe. You buy the SIM card for €10 and aren’t charged any data fees as long as you use WhatsApp’s basic text messaging features. After a year, you can continue the service for another €10.

If you want to use more advanced features like sending pictures or video, recording voice messages or sharing your location or contacts, then you have to pay more. You buy “recharges” that give you different allotments of pictures or videos — the charges vary based on what country you’re in — based on a credit system.

It’s an interesting concept because it essentially allows anyone to maintain a lifeline communications service anywhere in the world for very little investment (WhatsApp itself is trying to tackle the same issue by providing a web client for Android users). When you travel outside of your home country, you merely replace your carrier’s regular SIM card in your GSM phone with the WhatSim. I still have plenty of questions for WhatSim like whether it will be sold in the U.S. and what happens when you try to access another app besides WhatsApp. I’ll provide updates once the company gets back to me.