Ciaran Moran. Web 2.0. Online Marketing. Social Media. Mobile. Android.

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Is A Smartphone Really Dumb?

March 9th, 2010 by Ciaran

While away on a break recently I Tweeted that a Smartphone with no Internet connection is like having a dumb phone. Was I right?

Being in another country in Europe, it meant that any data usage would be charged at crazy roaming costs. With this in mind I had roaming switched off on my Nexus One.

On landing I had the disappointing feeling that I’d be offline for the weekend. Apart from phone voice and text functions, most useful phone features would be dormant.

First up was Google maps. Google maps are fantastic for finding your way around new destinations. However if you have no Net connection then this feature is all but useless. What I’d like to see Google providing is some sort of light offline version. This could perhaps allow you to download info for a destination. Having navigation available for driving like a TomTom would be useful. Even local road info along with surrounding facilities would be perfect e.g. shops, restaurants etc.

Other obvious features that were both useless offline and missed was Internet access and email. Need to Google some local info? You’re out of luck. Need to check your email? No go. You’ll be feeling out of contact I’d you depend on these services.

On major failing was also the Google translater. This is a great feature that allows you to talk or type onto your phone, and then you get a translation in your chosen language, the results can be either text or spoken. You can even get someone to speak their native language into the phone and have it translate back into your own language. This is extremely useful around Europe where so many languages are present.

However there’s a point of failure here. Unless you have very deep pockets, you will not be using data roaming. Therefore this fantastic pocket translator is practically useless. Honestly did Google even consider this aspect? Or perhaps they expect to be able to offer worldwide data access at some point in time?

So I was offline until I managed to find wireless connectivity. And believe me that’s not as easy as you might think. The lack of available open wifi is a big problem.

So what else didn’t work? How about Internet radio & music, Twitter, local weather forecast, news, RSS reader, online docs, online calendar, image uploads… you get the idea.

So what use is a Smartphone then when you are offline? Will there’s still a few good functions left that work offline.

First thing I used was the camera. The Nexus One has a brilliant 5MP camera. I was able to shoot some great pics where previously I would have used a camera. That’s one major advantage, not too bad.

What else? Music on the SD Card came in handy, as did a number of downloaded videos.

Another app I gad downloaded was MapDroyd. With this app I downloaded free offline maps. Although limited with no nav or search, it does allow you to use GPS to see your current location and see what’s around. It’s no replacement for Google Maps, but it’s a great offline option all the same.

On the plane I found myself writing up a few blog posts using the WordPress plugin. These were saved locally on the SD Card available for uploading later when back online.

So there you have it. A Smartphone looses most of its daily workhorse features when offline. However it’s surprising how useful a Smartphone can otherwise be when put to the test.

PS as the Nexus One OS unlocked, another option is to buy a local PAYG SIM Card with Internet access. However for a weekend away that’s not really an option worth loosing precious time on.

PPS Blog was typed offline on the Nexus One using WordPress app v1.0.2 for Androud and upload later over wifi.

Have you been abroad with your Smartphone lately? How did you fare?

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