Category: "Mobile & wireless"

2013 and still no usable WiFi hotspots

2013 and still no usable WiFi hotspots

I travelled from Paris to Amsterdam this week... (for a business conference).

I took the Thalys speed train. They offer WiFi on board... supposedly via satellite with fallback to multilink 3G when necessary. The reality is it works only 50% of the time. It especially doesn't work every time the train is stopped in a station with a roof. It's almost a joke. They claim offering internet access at hight speed is a technical challenge... yeah well... I almost believed that until I set up my iPhone for tethering and got a better connection through my phone than through the train's WiFi. It costs some data fees, but on the other hand, I don't have to go through the annoying WiFi login screens.

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15 minutes with iPad: too heavy!

15 minutes with iPad: too heavy!

I was at a conference in Amsterdam last week and although we don’t have the iPads in Europe yey, I had the opportunity to play for 15 minutes with an iPad brought by a US attendee.

My first impression was: it’s really nicely designed, extremely intuitive and responsive. I gotta get one. I also loved the little switch to lock the orientation. Super useful for reading while lying on your side in bed! (Unlike on the iPhone)

However, after a few minutes I started to realize that a) I don’t quite know how to hold that thing (whether with or without the Apple carrying case) and b) it’s getting damn heavy if you hold it in your hand. Those impression were shared by the owner as well as the other people who played with it.

I believe this is going to limit how much you actually want to use that device in different situations. I think it’s actually very impractical to use when you don’t sit down. Also, I believe Apple should actually drop the stupid glass screens: they’re heavy and the glare is just annoying!

Anyways, until then it looks like the Apple product segmentation goes like this:

  • If you’re standing, use your iPhone
  • If you’re sitting in an armchair, couch or other laid back situation, use your iPad
  • If you’re sitting at a table, use your MacBook
  • If you’re sitting at your workdesk, use your iMac or Mac Pro

Ah yes, also:

  • If you want to watch something on your TV, use your Apple TV or better yet: Mac Mini.

Flat rate is about to unleash the mobile web

Remember when DSL internet access started to come with unlimited data transfer plans? This is when everyone started using for the web for all kinds of things: this is when people actually started surfing the web!

The reason behind that is that flat rate removed the dis-incentive to surfing we had when every page we loaded added up on our bill!

The exact thing is now happening with the mobile web. Mosts carriers are now offering unlimited data plans... well at least in the US. Combine that with browsers that are actually usable like the one on the iPhone and we've got everything we need for the mobile web to thrive.

I for one, have been using the internet on the iPhone like crazy since I got it. Everytime I stand in line somewhere, I get a little netfix ;) Don't you?

Interestingly enough though, I use connected iPhone apps just as much as the actual web browser. It doesn't change the cause though: without flat rate pricing I wouldn't use any of this.

Now the interesting thing with the apps compared to standard web pages is this: it's a new business model for the mobile web! Even if it's poised to become a nightmare when trying to support more platforms than just the iphone... (

Btw, the iPhone is the most used mobile web browser, but do you know who's #2? No it's not the BlackBerry! It's the Motorola RAZR...

iPod touch: what's missing!

So that new iPod touch that Apple presented today is pretty nifty, isn't it? And Steve's keynote was pretty entertaining too.

Yeah well... there's quite a few missing features (no it's not the Beatles) that itch me... even before I lay down the $399 I will no doubt end up spending on this (nonetheless) beautiful peace of art. And Especially:

Podcasts: yes, so it has WiFi and a browser and an online music store... but what about podcasts? You subscribe to podcast in order to get new episodes when they become available. The least I'd expect from a WiFi enabled portable podcast player is to actually get the episodes of the podcasts I'm subscribed too. Not a single word about that...

...well maybe it is actually there. Maybe Steve just didn't mention it because they haven't found a way to gently rip you off with it, as they're getting ready to do with their iPhone ringtone business! Think about it: you already bought a full length song (at a fairly high price). Now Apple lets you clip out 10 seconds of that song to use as a ring tone. All you have to do is pay another $.99 for those 10 seconds you already have on your iPone! Why exactly did people applause to that?

Email: can you name one single good reason why this thing doesn't include a POP3/IMAP mail client? Does Apple's partnership with Google go so far they're going to encourage us to use Gmail instead?

And by the way, if Google rules, where's the Google maps application?

Edit: The new $20 iPod Touch upgrade finally addresses that!

Games: Steve proudly showed off the games on the new iPod nano. What about the iPod touch? Can I play all the games I purchased for my iPod "classic" on my soon to be iPod touch? Odds look pretty bad...

PDA features: This device now clearly has the capabilities of a top of the line PDA. It just lacks some software to do it right. Todo lists, anyone? Can you at least edit your calendar and contacts on the go? You couldn't do it with the previous iPods and Steve didn't mention it. It would be odd not to be able to do it, but then again, the software on this one is so trimmed down compared to the iPhone that I'm a little scared...

Edit: you can now edit calendar and contents in version 1.1.2.

Now of course, what I should really do is get an iPhone... Especially at the new $399 price! Yeah... if only they were available in Europe... (fingers crossed for Apple Expo Paris this September).

Camera: Actually, now the iPhone is just $100 more than the iPod, does it really make sense not to have a camera built into the high-end iPod? ... well, that would make it a killer blogger tool for sure. And again, the iPhone is *not* available everywhere, not even in certain regions of the US where there is no AT&T coverage...

USA mobile travel survival guide

1 line summary: when you travel from Europe to the US for several weeks, sign up foT AT&T’s prepaid phone plans and T-Mobile’s monthly WiFi plan. Then, pray for coverage!

Ok, I’m sitting in the train right now. Going from Chicago to Kansas City where I’m gonna meet Danny from the evoTeam. I’m actually writing this offline since there is no WiFi on the train. I’d almost say “of course”, but hey, this is the US! You would expect WiFi just about everywhere, wouldn’t you?

I’ve been disappointed by the internet connectivity last year in California. I am again this year in Chicago :P I mean, I stayed at the Sheraton twice, which was the official hotel for internet related conventions, and both times the connection was about the speed of ISDN. As if they had the whole hotel (‘bout 1600 rooms!!) hooked up on a single DSL connection. And you wanna know how much they charge for that? $11.95 per day!

Actually the best connection I got in Chicago was at the Red Roof Inn, which errs on the shady side of how Chicago hotels go, but it has just enough class to provide a T-Mobile hotspot. That costs $39.95 / mo and the catch is you have to call in when you want to cancel. Other than that, the speed was great and you can also use it at any other T-Mobile hotspot, including Starbucks.

Mind you, you can’t use it at Mc Donald’s which has AT&T hotspots and apparently AT&T and T-Mobile weren’t smart enough to come up with a roaming agreement. (Ok, let’s consider it to be just another good reason to stay away from Mc Donald’s :P)

Ironically, I am now a customer of AT&T too... for my mobile phone. I figured their pre-paid offer was a better deal for my 6 weeks in the US than T-Mobile’s... but wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if either of these companies offered a complete all-in-1 package to the international traveler? Pre-paid cell-phone + WiFi... how hard can that be?

Anyway, the cool thing about AT&T’s « Go Phone » offer is that if you recharge it with $100, you get to keep your number for 1 year even if you don’t use it. Very convenient when you come to the US once or twice a year and don’t want to get a new SIM card & number everytime you arrive.

Other than that, I pay $1 per day I use the phone and then 10 cents a minute. If I was roaming from my French provider I would be paying 2.50 € aminute... that’s... errr... at least 3.something dollars a minute.

Text messages (SMS) are 5 cents a piece. Even to international numbers.

The shady side of the story, of course, is coverage. I don’t know if any mobile phone carrier actually covers or roams all of the US, but I do know that this girl from Kansas, sitting next to me on the train, has had far less dropped calls than me since we left Chicago. She’s on Verizon.

The problem with Verizon though, is that it’s not GSM. So you don’t use SIM cards. You can’t use your European phone and worse... once you’re back home, you can’t check your voice mail anymore...

So there you have it: AT&T for cell, T-Mobile for Wi-Fi... Let’s see if they keep it happy all the way over to San Francisco.

Can I really end this post without a note on the iPhone? Yeah well... if I buy one here I have to sign a 24 month contract and won’t be able to use it back in France. Figured I’d just wait for the Euro version. But of course, I do hope that it will accept my AT&T SIM card when I come back! ;)