Apologies for the radio silence over the last week and a bit folks but Sam and I had a well earned break and headed away on holidays. For those of you who are curious we went to Rome and then Milan (and surrounding area), but more on that later. What I wish to talk about is slightly more techie but driven by the situation I found myself in on holiday. Now, I have an iPhone, as does Sam. We are big ‘online’ people, which you would probably expect from people with websites who work in IT. We, of course, took said devices with us on holiday. As soon as we reached baggage claim at Fiumicino airport, we disabled our flight mode and waited for the ‘Welcome to Italy’ texts to come through from our network. Texts and calls were as expected – 11p and 36ppm respectively. Already quite high. Then I saw the data costs: £3.06 per MB. Yes, that’s right, three whole Great British pounds (and six pennies) for a meg. But apparently O2 would text me to let me know when I hit £20. How kind.
I had also been mis-informed by the details on a popular travel website that at least one of our hotels had free WiFi. I was sadly mistaken and our first didn’t even offer paid WiFi (although it did have a free public computer). In the second hotel, we enquired about the cost of paid WiFi to be told it was 3 € for half a hour and scaling rates up to 25 € per 24 hours. Ouch! We chose not to take either of those options, as you can perhaps imagine.
Sam had a slightly better experience with his network because T-Mobile offered some tariff bolt-ons: £5 for 20MB. At 25p per meg, that is actually quite reasonable. However, it still got me thinking – the value these devices add really comes down to your ability to connect when on the move. It is also crucial to have an awareness of how much data you are downloading, especially outside the EU where charges are not capped or controlled as closely by any regulating body. I know of someone who recently went abroad and racked up several hundreds of pounds of data charges. If your phone has a data counter, reset it when you go away and track how much you are using! To put things in to perspective, Sam used 12MB of his allowance over about 4 – 5 days. I checked my email via my webmail website and then spent about 15 mins reading the headlines on the BBC News iPhone app and this equated to around 2MB. So, on some networks it seems it is possible to stay vaguely online whilst abroad, but it won’t always come cheap. Also, the more rich the content, the more it will cost. So remember to ask yourself, do you really need to upload that picture to Facebook right now?!