The answer to pretty much anything is quite literally in the palm of our hands. With the advent of mobile broadband, on smartphones and laptops, plus WiFi access available in most cafes, pubs, trains and even beaches (think Brighton) wherever we are, the internet is never more than a few clicks away.
There’s a wide range of providers and a large selection of gadgets and operators promising to provide access to internet on the move. So, where to begin when choosing mobile broadband?
Smartphones have revolutionised the mobile phone, providing an all in one media package to call, browse the web, manage emails, listen to music, find your way home and even make a cup of tea (not quite! – maybe next year...) With new models hitting the shops and online stores practically every day, choosing the best smartphone for your needs is a tricky business.
When deciding on a smartphone, think about what you’re going to use it for. If it’s just checking your emails there may be no point going for something all singing, all dancing – although most offer an exciting range of functionality. The all round king is the iPhone, with its range of fun and usefulapps, good looks and intuitive touch screen.
Apps and emails aside, the most important thing to ensure is that your broadband speed cuts the mustard and your contract accommodates the data usage you require. Do you want to download music and even movies? Some of the best smartphone providers offer good deals for heavy downloaders, so shop around. Many also include impressive add on storage options, which means keeping and backing up the data you access is easier than ever before.
If you really want your mobile to be ‘mobile’, make sure the phone has 3G internet, or HSDPA which is even quicker – 3G can be sporadic on a train. WiFi capability means that you can access fixed-line internet, at home or work, which may be more cost-effective.
Smartphones are all very well, but for business and watching films you can actually see, making your laptop mobile might be a better option. Dongles are a great way to keep online on the move and while they may have previously had a reputation of being expensive, prices are coming down.
The dongle works like a mobile phone, with a Sim card embedded in a USB stick or laptop that connects to the network of your chosen provider. Like mobile phones, there is now an increasing number of pay as you go or contract deals, with the laptop provided ‘free’. The ‘free’ option can sound very appealing but check the small print and how long you’re tied in for – in some cases 24 months.
What do you want to use your laptop for? Check how many downloads you’ll be allowed a month, measured in gigabytes (GB). Look at this carefully – if you do want to download films, make sure you’ve got enough – 1GB for example, equates to 250-1000 songs, but only one poor quality movie. Speeds are advertised at hugely varying rates, but in reality, there isn’t that much difference.
The downside of all this fun at your fingertips can be the price. Like for like, mobile broadband is more expensive, with fairly low usage limits compared with fixed-line alternatives. If you don’t use the internet on your phone or dongle that often, there are some great pay as you go packages available and for those with higher usage, an all-inclusive contract’s probably the best option. If you’re at home, use your fixed-line broadband – it’s probably cheaper and quicker.
Still confused? For independent broadband comparison and advice across all mobile internet options, visit Broadband Genie (http://www.broadbandgenie.co.uk)