Do we NEED Computers Anymore? Mobile Phones are Doing it All.

Do we need computers anymore?

I’ve been wondering this for a while now…

But, I’d been effectively technology disabled with my 2005 Motorola e680i phone and no personal computer or internet access except at work. This phone might appear to be something pretty advanced, and maybe it was in 2005… it has quite a few bells and whistles but the whistle has been overshadowed by fog horns on the newer mobiles.

I’d taken a year and something off from the technology world that was my life back in the USA. When I came to Thailand I did NOTHING in technology. I didn’t read about it or use it, save for my motorola phone which I could reach the internet with – but that was the extent of my internet savvy in Thailand.

I’d missed a LOT in a year. Recently I started blogging at this ThaiPulse! blog and I’ve been reading about new technology everyday, trying to catch up on what I’d missed. This blog seems to be coming along now, I’ve got an average of 100+ people coming daily to read what I’m writing about. I think I really want to make 2007 the YEAR OF THE VERN like I predicted in my 2007 Resolution statement on the blog. It was a joke then, but I think I’m up to it… bold prediction eh?

It’s just that blogging on ThaiPulse is a lot of fun. I have some ideas to take it to the next level and I’ll start those as soon as I leave this school and get more free time to blog.

I like the idea of mobile blogging. It’s SUCH a pain in the azz to shoot photos with a 4.1 mp camera, edit them down to 350 pixels in width, optimizing for size considerations because internet users are still needing smaller sized files to see in their browsers. After I shrink the dimensions and file sizes, optimize colors, contrast, and brightness I fire up the notebook, log into blogger.com and create a new post. I upload the picture and create the blog in their next to worthless text editor and then re-format it a few times before it’s perfect and then hit “publish” and pray.

Publishing VIDEO is WORSE. More steps and more considerations – one of which being – people that will steal the videos for their own websites and call them their own – unless I create titles and credits on my videos that show my website as the original source. It’s a big pain.

I want to be mobile in the sense that – if I could shoot photos and videos and upload them to the blog automatically that would be the best. If I could blog from ANYWHERE and not be tied down to logging into my notebook computer – which must have an internet connection that is stable (a rarity here in Thailand), I’d be so much happier and more free to create articles on the fly.

Well, I think the time has come… or, it’s coming. I have been researching phones for QUITE a while now. 3 months of intensive research and trying to identify what it is I need to do with the phone to become as mobile as possible and yet as comfortable as possible in the field churning out blog posts here and at my other blogs.

There are SO MANY THINGS to consider.

Connection speed for GPRS or other internet service: EDGE, 3G, etc. Unfortunately in Thailand we are relegated to EDGE right now as our high speed connection for mobile data service. This sucks, as it’s only about 4 times as fast as a regular GPRS connection to the internet from your phone.

It sucks 7 times harder that EDGE is available only in major cities in Thailand, though the list IS growing and quite dramatically even. Bangkok and Pattaya used to be the sole places to find EDGE speeds for internet access in Thailand. Now there are other cities – and I was blown away to learn that I am IN one of those cities presently!

Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Koh Samui, and Surat Thani have been recently verified as having EDGE service of some sort – either DTAC or AIS flavors.

Here in Surat over the last 24 hours since I bought this new mobile phone with EDGE support, I have had data download speeds of 10KB per second. Yes, CAPITAL B. That’s 80 kbps. Not bad really. The service has been remarkably stable too. I’ve uploaded (at 7-8) KBps by FTP to my http://www.thaipulse.com site over 25 megabytes of video this morning and not had ONE timeout. The whole batch went through with no disconnections. The efficiency of the EDGE mobile connection I have with AIS Thailand is BETTER than TOT’s ADSL 1mb service that I was paying 1000 baht per month for!

I bought 100 hours of internet GPRS service (which includes EDGE) for 350 baht. I’ve already used 20 hours in 2 days so I think I need the next plan – but still, it’s very reasonable cost-wise to use the EDGE mobile internet service instead of ADSL at TOT. I had such an inconsistent connection with TOT that I griped and moaned and finally got out of paying for ANY service for October through February. I did pay for the installation and the monthly maintenance on the phone line of 160 b or something like that. About 10 days in those 4 months I received the data rate I was paying for – the rest of the time it was drastically worse. Fairly, part of that was due to the earthquake in Taiwan’s waters, but I still wasn’t going to pay for that.

I wasn’t sure what to do – get an EDGE PCMCIA card for my notebook computer – but then I was still tied to the notebook computer and lugging that around anywhere I wanted to post to the blog. The goal was to get RID of the computer sometimes and not be carrying it around in my hot padded backpack all day in the heat. I was also considering going to Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia for a time and definitely didn’t want to be dragging this Compaq lugnut around.

I found phones that had EDGE compatibility built in. Great stuff… but, how long did their battery last with that running? I figured battery life was something I’d be fighting with every option. Carrying the plug for the laptop is no joy either – considering it’s heavier than ANY mobile phone on the market just by it’s self. But, I’ve done it – because what else could I do?

So I agonized over what phone to get that could replace the laptop for certain functions.

Specifically I wanted a cell phone that:

Has a QWERTY keypad so I could respond instantly to email and approve comments at my blog, leave comments for others and write blog posts of short length. My fingers are medium sized, I don’t have monkey fingers or anything, but most QWERTY pads I tried in the stores just weren’t cutting it. The Samsung i320 and i600 and the Treo series just were way too small. In Hawaii I was lucky enough to try a friend’s sidekick II which was NICE. Very smooth and easy to type on, however, the sidekick III that’s currently in the states doesn’t have nearly the features that I need.

Has a touchscreen for easy internet browsing since I’d become used to my Motorola e680i’s touchscreen web browsing with Opera’s browser – it is really STILL the standard for easy web browsing.

Allows push mail of some sort so I could get into Google mail and also be notified whenever I received new mail.

Has a voice recorder. I am still playing with the idea of changing my long e-book into a podcast type thing. I’ve done the first two pages – 50 minutes of recording my voice. But I have YET to upload the 8mb file because I’ve been focusing on video at the moment, not mp3 files.

Has a 1.3 or 2mp resolution camera (as a maximum), but not as small as the .3mp that I had in my Motorola. It had to be good enough to take quality photos for the web, but adjustable enough to change the resolution so the file wasn’t TOO big to upload quickly to the blogs.

Has a video recorder that could specify the size of the video as I couldn’t use 640×480 for the blog – it’d be WAY too big physically on the page, and the file size would be too large to upload or for visitors to download. Ideally it would create video in mp4 or wmv format which is accepted by youtube AND converted quickly into their format which I think is MP4.

Has speakers to listen to music – I LOVE my moto for the stereo 3-d speakers it has.

It has to have EDGE of course since regular GPRS wasn’t cutting it. With my moto connected as a modem to the notebook and using the AIS GPRS package internet plan I was getting about 2KB per second throughput which really crawled. (See photo, taken during an especially slow period)

Has WLAN access (wireless LAN) so I could connect to wireless networks that I sometimes come across in office buildings, hotels, and friends’ homes.

Has bluetooth for a wireless connection which is fast to share files between phones or computers.

It should NOT have a large screen that was touchscreen since I think battery life suffers too much to make it sensible to use one. I’d love it while the battery worked, unfortunately the battery drains QUICKLY with internet use.

Hmm, that was about it. There weren’t many phones that fit the bill. There were some that were soon to be released like the MOTO Q q9 and the Moto Q gsm, but when they’d materialize was anyone’s guess. They’d likely be over 25,000 baht too. I was hoping to stay under 20,000 baht, but, if I found the right phone I’d have gone 35000b as it was VERY important.

When I said that to myself I started to wonder about just getting another very small laptop with an EDGE card 35,000 baht buys a decent computer… but unfortunately not a very light one with a great battery and a 10,000b EDGE card. Hmmm….

So – I agonized for a while. I read everything on the phones that almost fit the bill perfectly and those that were promised in the coming months and quarters.

I decided I needed one NOW.

I went to Telewiz and told them what I wanted. They had some new e series phones there by Nokia. I spent an hour going over features of the phone with the tech guy there and finally bought one. This phone has NO QWERTY pad.

How in the world am I going to type long blog posts? (like this one!)

Well, before I decided that TODAY IS THE DAY I realized something. There are bluetooth keypads that let one connect to many of the newer phones on the market. A KEYPAD! HEY, that’s exactly what I need. Who thehell can type a 1000 word blog post on a handheld phone anyway without carpal tunnel?

That’s when I knew the answer – buy something that does everything else but that. It was fairly easy then because there are lots of phones that are not QWERTY but that had all the other advanced features. The internet version of the Nokia 80 seemed pretty decent too, though quite thick – almost as thick as the old e680i and that was just too thick.
If that was the only one that fit the bill I’d have got it – it was 16,500 baht at the Tesco mobile phone hawker stand.

When I saw the phone I bought I thought, wow, that’s THIN for having everything I want, but the tech guy at Telewiz insisted it had EVERYTHING. I tried it out and yeah, it did. The only concern I really had was whether the video would be good enough quality online after I uploaded it to youtube and they converted it. But, there’s no way to know what it’ll be like until it’s done. So now, it’s done and the quality is quite acceptable for mobile blogging.

I have not purchased the bluetooth keyboard yet, I’m letting my pocket cool off from yanking 16,300 baht out of it yesterday. I am not sure how much the keyboards are either, but whatever the cost – it’s worth it to have a full sized keyboard to type on!

I figure they are lightweight and easy to take with me.

I took some mobile phone video last night at Makha Bucha Buddhist Holiday at the temple close by and it turned out great. I also tested Gmail – works great – I get a beep everytime a new Gmail message comes into the inbox. I tried mobile picture posting at blogger – it worked great. I uploaded over 20 megabytes of video today both to my website and to youtube, and it didn’t even DISCONNECT ONCE!

I’m all smiles so far, just hope it lasts.

In the coming weeks I’ll post more from the road, as that’s where stuff is usually happening that’s interesting and I only had the video camcorder with me 1/4th of the time I needed it. This way, I have the camera with me ALL THE TIME and the posts might be more timely because I don’t necessarily have to wait to return home to the notebook and ADSL connection to upload and publish to the blog.

So – we’ll see.

Do we really need computers anymore?

It won’t be long – and I think we’ll have something small enough and yet able to do EVERYTHING we want…

Now, if I could just get a little bigger screen….

hahahha

If you have any questions about how to get started mobile blogging ask and I’ll try to help or point you in the right direction…

Vern

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

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