Over the course of a year, I end up visiting Ireland a few times so I decided to invest in a Meteor PAYG broadband stick to see how I’d get on with it. For €20, your can get a 30-day pass with 7.5 GB downloading capacity, a more generous offer than you’d get with some UK mobile networks (T-Mobile really come to mind here). Signal strength was strong wherever I tried it too with 3G being available so long as you are in the right place with EDGE being the lowest that I got otherwise. Download speeds are good too so it turned out to be a good investment of €30 to get the Huawei E173 USB dongle (I had a T-Mobile one of these before and it no longer works so I am keeping an eye on reliability with this one; the design seems a little different and I am getting OK so far) and €20 of credit that comes with it. After all, anything’s better than the punitive roaming rates that UK providers charge.
With a change of job ahead of me, I decided to make my web usage a little more mobile. The result was the purchase of a Blackberry 8520 Curve on a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go tariff to complement my existing phone. Part of the attraction was having email on the move and a little web access too. On both accounts it hasn’t though GPRS isn’t the speediest for web browsing and you get to appreciating mobile versions of websites. It’s just as well that this website that you’re reading has a mobile version.
Hooking the Blackberry up to GMail was no problem once I had paid my dues and the necessary set up was done for me; it was only then that the required option was available through the set up screens. RIM’s own web browser may be no slouch when it comes to rendering websites but I put Opera Mini in place as well for those times when the default option could be bettered and they exist too. Speaking of RIM applications, there’s one for Twitter too though I added Übertwitter for sake of greater flexibility (it can handle more than one account at a time, for example). In addition, I have instated applications for WordPress and LinkedIn too and it was then that I stopped myself spending too much time in Blackberry App World. If I was of the Facebook persuasion, I might be interested in the default offering for that as well but I have learnt to contain myself.
Of course, there are limitations to the device’s capabilities with regards to email and web on the move. Long emails still need desktop access (messages can get truncated) and mobile unfriendly websites will take an age to load and explore; a small screen means much more finger work. After all, this is a small device so the observations aren’t really surprising; it’s just that I encounter the reality of life on a small screen now. Nevertheless, useful site like those from Google and the Met Office have a mobile variant though I’d like to see the latter including its rain radar as part of the package.
Speaking of life on a smaller scale, there’s the size of the keyboard to consider too. So far, I haven’t had much practice with it but I am unsure as how some craft longer blog entries with the the tiny keys. Then, there’s the ever-present threat of arm discomfort and RSI that you have to watch. For that reason, I’ll stick with use for an hour at a time rather than going mad altogether. Navigating around the screen using the tiny trackpad is something to which I am adjusting and it works well enough too so long as you’re not looking through long web pages or emails.
To bring this piece to a close, the new gadget has been finding uses and I don’t plan on leaving it idle after paying over £150 for it. Apart from acting as an expensive calculator, it has already travelled abroad with me with roaming not being a problem; I may have failed to get it to work with hotel broadband but there was EDGE availability to keep things connected together. All in all, the device is earning its keep and teaching me a few things about mobile handheld computing with my main website in process of being made more mobile compatible with the front page and the photo gallery gaining versions for handheld devices after the same was done for the outdoors blog earlier this year (might make the design look more like the rest of the site though). Without something on which to do some real testing, that idea may not have become reality like it is. It may be no desktop substitute but that’s never to say that these devices may never get near that situation. After all, there was a time when no one could imagine the same for laptop PC’s and we all know what has happened with them.