Smarter Phones Leave No Escape From the Web
Over a few weekends this month, I've conducted a little experiment on my own time to answer one question: How well can I keep up with my usual online pursuits using just an Internet-connected smartphone instead of a laptop or desktop computer?
I can sum up my findings in three words: all too well.
The weekends in question featured short, personal trips out of town -- for example, a wedding in Chicago and a baptism in Boston -- that provided zero reason to tote a laptop. But it was no problem to make room in my luggage for two phones I'd recently reviewed: Apple's iPhone 3G, and T-Mobile's G1, running Google's Android software.
I knew going in that the Web browsers on each phone could reproduce the "real" Web quite effectively, and I also had plenty of practice keeping up with my e-mail on the iPhone (on reflection, the G1's mail program isn't nearly as polished or effective). I'd also grown accustomed to using my own, less capable smartphone (an increasingly scuffed-up Palm Centro on Sprint's network), to stay on top of things like Facebook and Twitter, courtesy of those sites' mobile-phone editions.
But what I didn't realize was how easy it would be to break out either the iPhone or the G1 in any and every idle moment -- in line at an airport, while my wife was getting a cup of tea, in a taxi -- for a quick scan of my mail and the Web.
As a result, I came home from each trip not having missed much of anything online. There wasn't a real backlog of unread e-mail, I'd kept up with the headlines at all of my usual sites, and I'd read or marked-as-read enough of my RSS newsfeed subscriptions to leave only a few dozen items waiting for my attention at home. The only things I felt deprived of were Flash animations at some Web sites, which neither the iPhone nor the G1 could display. (Note to restaurants: When you put an all-Flash front-end on your site, you shut out potential customers who could be only a few blocks away.)
I used to think that an airplane in flight was one of the last refuges from the Internet -- but over this month, I also caught myself leaving the iPhone and G1 browsers open to longer articles that I would read offline after takeoff. (On some airlines, I don't even have to engage in that workaround... at least in-flight connectivity still costs extra, so there's some motivation to give the Web a rest and read a book instead.)
If you've got a smartphone that provides reasonably full Web access, how do you keep your Internet dependence in check? Do you set rules for yourself on how often you jump online or where you go? Do you take a technology Sabbath every week?
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