International roaming charges can be very expensive, especially for data as the current Olympic and World Champion Japanese gymnast, Kohei Uchimura, reportedly discovered last weekend. The athlete was apparently hooked on Pokemon GO and as a result had activated data roaming, believing he was on a daily charge for internal data use. Unfortunately, this was not the case and Kohei's bill turned out to be 500,000 yen, approximately $5,000. Kohei explained that he downloaded the Pokemon GO application when he arrived in Sao Paulo, where he was en route to the pre-Olympic Games training camp. Kenzo Shirai, Kohei's teammate, said that the bill caused him to "[look] dead at the team meal that day." Fortunately, after a conversation with his carrier, they agreed to retrospectively put his contract onto a fixed daily charge of around $30 for international roaming data, meaning the bill will be much more manageable. It is also not clear how many of the augmented reality Pokemon GO monsters Kohei was able to capture as the game has not been released into Brazil just yet, although it is still playable.
Pokemon GO has been a major hit around the world and is currently officially available in thirty countries. The game is an augmented reality treasure hunt, whereby players must seek out various monsters using a real world map and capture them by flinging balls at the characters. Once caught, these monsters may be trained, evolved and eventually used to fight other players with. Nintendo have included various real world locations in the game as Pokemon Gyms and Pokestops, where players can train their monsters and upgrade.
The game has already attracted considerable interest: more than one in ten Americans have the application installed on their smartphones and it has become the fourth most popular smartphone application, behind Facebook, Google Search and the Contacts application. It has been linked with encouraging people to get out and exercise and could even stimulate the happy parts of the brain. Pokemon is not without its risks though – players around the world have been warned not to step out into traffic, not to cross borders and not to venture into areas containing landmines. Criminals have also used the Pokemon GO phenomena to lure and rob unsuspecting or unaware players. As it stands, a high bill because of roaming costs is perhaps not the worst thing that could have happened to Kohei playing the game. Although, if you find that your bill is much higher than you were expecting, it is always worth a call to your carrier to try to straighten things out.