As many of you reading this blog will know, last month I went on a holiday with my family that involved travelling thousands of miles to Canada and America where we spent just over three weeks seeing sights that were breathtaking, and doing things which were once in a lifetime opportunities.
My full, day by day account can be viewed on my travel blog (click here), however I wanted to do a post on what the technology was like whilst away; what problems I encountered, and I how I went about solving them.
A few weeks before we left I had set up the above website and a dedicated Flickr set for which I could upload photos and blog posts to either from my iPhone, iPad or MacBook Air. It was my plan to get data for my iPhone allowing for uploading and tweeting on the go, and then use wifi when available for my iPad and MacBook Air. My twitter feed, flickr set and tumblr blog were integrated onto my family section of my website and dedicated holiday site for work colleagues and family to view.
When I arrived at London Heathrow I did one blog post and switched off international roaming for data. I did this before boarding the plane as I have heard horror stories of people going abroad and returning home to find a £300+ bill from their network for data usage. As soon as we landed in Toronto I switched on my phone to see which local mobile phone networks were available, Rogers was the only one I could find so they would get my business. The hotel we stayed in had wifi, but only in the lobby, so I headed off to the local Rogers shop to purchase some Pay As You Go Data.
This was my first ‘taste’ of the Canadian people and the people who assisted me in Rogers were fantastic. They knew exactly what I wanted and needed for my iPhone 4. I had the option of buying a PAYG SIM card, choosing the amount to credit my account, then activating data for either $2 for 20MB day pass, or $7 for 125MB week pass. As this was my only source of data to which I tended to upload photos I chose the 125MB week pass, and found myself buying two of these for my weeks stay. Data for the week cost me under $20 (£20.30) for the week; however this allowed me to carry on as normal, and in my opinion worth every penny.
Moving over to the USA was more of a challenge. As we crossed the boarder I used my Rogers SIM until the data ran out. As I was technically Roaming the data only lasted a few days (if that), however the hotels that we stayed in during our trip from Canada to New York City had free Wifi in the rooms, this wasn’t too much of an issue.
The first network reseller we found was an AT&T rep. He was very helpful and honest. He said that for some reason he said that the iPhone 4 simply wouldn’t work with Pay As You Go data, and blamed Apple for this. I trusted that it wouldn’t work, however didn’t believe his reason behind it. After all AT&T were exclusivity parterres with Apple for the first view iPhone launches – so kind of think that AT&T were living up to their reputation which I had heard. Kudos tho to the AT&T rep, he didn’t try and rip us off, he was honest, however I do feel for americans who want PAYG data on AT&T on an iPhone 4.
The second network provider we found (in the same mall) was Verizon, however as they operate on CDMA and not GSM, the frequency which virtually all phones operate on these days, it would mean me purchasing a new phone – which to me wasn’t an option.
So I needed to find a T-Mobile store. It would turn out that T-Mobile isn’t as popular in the rural areas of New York state, so I had to wait until we arrived in New York City. I did a google search on where a store would be in relation to our hotel, and to my delight one was on the same block, a few minutes walk from the hotel. As soon as I had dropped my bags I walked to T-Mobile. I asked the question, could I get data on Pay As You Go, the rep said yes, however their was a catch (which I kind of guessed there would be); the iPhone 4 would only allow data at edge speeds on PAYG, not 3g or 4g. Slow data was better than no data, so I opted for their ‘Unlimited’ plan, of unlimited data, and unlimited local texts/phone calls for $50 (£30). This was just slightly more than my O2 contract at home, so was quite happy with that. Reception unlike Rogers, was a little patchy in some areas, however I was still able to browse a Web site, send emails, and tweet without too much stress of waiting for the page to load.
After our stay in New York City, we got a plane to Naples where would stay for a week in a villa. The villa itself had broadband, but no wireless, meaning that we couldn’t connect our iPads or iPhones to it. The broadband came in the form of a cable modem. I had my MacBook Air with me so there were two options, I could either buy the Ethernet to USB adaptor and then broadcast the signal using my AirPort built into the Air, or get a router. The first option meant me having to leave my MacBook Air on all day and plugged into the wall, something I wasn’t too keen on, so getting a router was the only real option. A ‘normal’ router would have to be configured using Ethernet initially, so we would have had to purchase the router and adaptor; but Apple Routers allow configuration using the AirPort Utility wirelessly. Off we went to BestBuy and picked up a AirPort Express. Within a few minutes it was set up and the whole family was using it. This wasn’t really a waste of money as back home we did have some ‘dead areas’ of the house which the wireless wasn’t reaching, so when we got home we would simply reconfigure the AirPort Express to extend an existing wireless network, rather than create a separate one. Another process that only took a few minutes.
Overall for the three weeks I spent just over £50 in data, which on the face of it does seem quite a lot. I could have easily done without. Wireless was available in virtually all hotels, some were free, however most wanted to charge $10 per day, which would have easily totalled more than that spent on mobile data. Going on holiday is a time to relax and take pleasure in doing what ever you like, be that sitting by the pool, going to museums or spending money on clothes. Being a techno nerd, I wanted to blog about my holiday, tweet to my friends, and upload pictures as I go. Was it a waste of money? To me no it wasn’t, it was simply the two t-shirts that others would have bought in New Yorks 5th Avenue fashion shops.