Uses of an iPhone (2): Home and Abroad
The iPhone 3G I have been using in the last couple of weeks, thanks to Apple, was unlocked and therefore not linked to the True service although it came with a True SIM card. After a few days with the original card, I put in my SIM from DTAC for a couple of days before I left for Britain and with roaming I sent SMS from Hong Kong and on my arrival at Heathrow I was on the T-Mobile network almost instantly: what I would expect from any mobile phone.
Another point about going through Hong Kong is that Internet access is free, unlike Bangkok or London airports, so it was also easy to make a quick check of email while waiting for a connection.
My family's home in England is in a small valley, so TV antennas have to be several metres high. Signals are so erratic that the phone was alternating between T-Mobile, Orange and O2; or sometimes nothing. Aware that data roaming was a different matter, I had turned off access to those services when leaving Bangkok as an economy measure and could not wait to return from this technological dead-zone.
After a day or so, I got a ride to the Apple store in Milton Keynes -- somewhat smaller than I was expecting -- where Jamie (a staff member who was expert with the iPhone) advised me to buy a card from the O2 shop. There, Christopher checked the settings on the iPhone and relieved me of the standard 10 pounds (about 520 baht). Like Bangkok, when it ran out, I could buy a top up.
One convenience when using the O2 card was that the telephone number was displayed in the phone settings panel which saved me the usual process of phoning someone to find out what my new telephone number was. That is not shown when I use my DTAC card, but each of the authorised service providers (including True) have their own settings built into the SIM.
With data access now available to me I was able to check email, look at Google maps, play with some of those apps that need Internet access and make phone calls. I was like a kid in an information candy shop. Within two days it was all gone and I had to buy another refill. In the UK a monthly plan is considerably more economical and, like Thailand, there are monthly allowances for calls, messages and data. With the refill, or voucher as they are called in the UK -- there are also some restrictions.
With some self-imposed limitations, I was now able to get some good use out of the iPhone while away, with its iPod use, videos and the several other apps that I use regularly and which are not Internet-dependent. It finally ran out on my last day.
While in the UK, I went to a dinner party. As the house had open internet access, I downloaded email and sneaked a quick look. This intrigued the lady next to me. I was forced into an explanation of the iPhone and several of the apps I use. However, the lady was most impressed when I was able to download and show a YouTube video on a subject dear to her heart. She bought an iPhone the next day.
We were invited to a small gathering at her home -- a luxury barge on a canal -- where I was asked to run though some points on use of her iPhone. I found that not only was she not using the computer at her home, but there was no Internet access. However, with the plan that she signed up for from O2, for a bit under 40 pounds (2,100 baht), which is around the same as True's charges, there was a generous data allowance. Once she has got the hang of it, she will be able to do some work at home. Her husband has a Blackberry and he relies on this when not at his office. As he is also connected via O2 he was able to confirm that the connections were usable.
Back in Bangkok, I reactivated the "Push" settings, which currently means checks can be made at least every 15 minutes, and with access to WiFi was able to stretch my use back to what I expect for the device.
I will be attending the conference and will report from there both on my website, via my RSS feed, and in the Post Database.
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