Posted By ] Marie-Paule Graham of Broadband Genie
The internet is omni-present and if you want to access much of the world, getting on the internet is the fastest way to do it. High street retail has been massively hit by the likes of Amazon and this trend is set to continue.
So, what’s the best platform for accessing the internet when not at home?
There are three: laptop; smartphone or tablet.
Dongles are great for people who carry their laptops with them all day. For something just a little bigger than a USB stick, you get all the power of the internet on the move. Dongles also have Wi-Fi capabilities allowing you to drop into a wi-fi hotspot when you need to.
The best packages are determined by several factors: speed, download limits, coverage and price. if you’re a heavy user, contracts will give you faster speeds, larger download limits and a better price ong term. For infrequent users, Pay As You Go (PAYG) is lighter on the pocket, but the speed is slower.
The major plus of the dongle is that you can do everything you would expect to from an office or home connection while on the move; important for business users. All providers also offer a free laptop when you sign a 2-year contract.
Their great strength is the portable accessibility to the world at large. The device itself is a computer on which you can view attachments, a browser for email and general web surfing, a camera, a portable TV. Some models like the Sony Ericcson Xperia Play have been tailored specifically for gamers or the Nokia X6 for music lovers. Other models like the iPhone and HTC range do everything pretty well, allowing the user to define the device.
Using your smartphone, you can blog with text, images and video; broadcast your take on an event through your social media channels – the operation to kill Osama bin Laden was ‘live tweeted’ by an unsuspecting local who was woken by US helicopters at 1am. You can stream music, TV and live events; connect with industry peers, celebrities and friends; you can trade on the stock market; you can make e-commerce transaction. Recently, Vodafone announced an app that allows you to pay for taxis through your smartphone.
An activity as personal and private as internet banking is much easier to do in a public place with a smartphone than it would be in an internet cafe. Keeping your security codes private is much easier on a handheld device than on a large qwerty keyboard. Using your smartphone means banking can happen more at your convenience than ever before.
Smartphones are the beautiful toys at the centre of our personal worlds. They also have a darker side.
Google’s Android App Market is open, allowing anyone to create an app for sale. In March this year, Google removed 21 popular apps from its store after discovering they were malware masquerading as something fun or useful.
Apple were criticised recently after revelations that the company regularly tracks and stores iPhone and iPad users’ location data. Tracking is necessary for location based apps, but alarms were raised when it was revealed user’s caches held unencrypted data from 10 months ago. Apple have admitted the software is flawed and announced they will reduce the size of the cache, encrypt the actual data stored and block location gathering when the user switches the location services off. Google’s Android platform also does this, but the information is more secure. This hasn’t stopped lawsuits being filed in the U.S.
Apple have admitted failure on the part of technology creators to educate users on this issue.
The big advantage of a tablet computer is the size, thickness – or lack of – and weight. User experience varies between brands with the Samsung tablet lying neatly in one hand at 7.1”, while the iPad 2 needs two hands for fully user enjoyment.
Some brands are allowing development of tablet-native apps and some not. Those who don’t are being caught out in the usability department.
3G models use the same network as dongles and Smartphone’s, and face the same issues with speed and coverage. The major upside for 3G users is the Data Plan: a 1 month rolling contract that offers a particular speed and download limit valid for 30 days. Some carriers are offering tablets on exactly the same 2-year deals they offer with laptops. However, with the speed of the markets evolution, the iPad released two years from now will probably have five times the capacity and capabilities of today’s latest release. Something to bear in mind before you sign on the dotted line.
About the author: Marie-Paule Graham writes on behalf of Broadband Genie and Mobile Phone Genie, the independent comparison websites for broadband and mobile phones.