GPRS gets the thumbs-down

I took the opportunity during the Christmas sales to update my mobile phone. Generally I steer away from cutting-edge technology....

I took the opportunity during the Christmas sales to update my mobile phone. Generally I steer away from cutting-edge technology. I have tried using a handheld computer as an electronic organiser in the past and it simply wasn't for me.

For a start, I had to remember to charge the batteries, and the prospect of carrying an extra 500g in my top pocket did not appeal either. So I decided to buy a smartphone. What could be better than a phone with a built-in organiser?

I should be quite happy with my Orange SPV smartphone as the organiser synchronises with my desktop, making it ideal to hold a pocket-sized copy of my Outlook calendar and contacts.

However, it also offers GPRS for web browsing on the built-in Pocket Internet Explorer web browser. Dialling in is slow. Browsing is dire.

I often use Streetmap.co.uk on my office desktop as an online A-to-Z - the only problem is that I need to print out the map before I leave for a meeting. So how about accessing an online roadmap while actually on the road?

With this phone, the site is almost unusable. Not only does it take ages to download over GPRS, but on the small screen of the SPV it is not possible to see enough of the map to help me find where I am going.

I also tried e-mail access over GPRS. Connecting to my internet service provider was fine, but could I get into the Exchange server at the office over our web gateway? No chance, because the built-in browser was incompatible. I couldn't even use Hotmail.

Although it is not as convenient as carrying a single device, I could always use the SPV as a wireless modem for my notebook PC. But how much longer will that be needed? More and more 802.11 wireless access points are being made available in public places.
Soon anyone can be within easy reach of the internet without having to resort to GPRS on a smartphone. GPRS looks like it could be superseded before it ever takes off.
This was last published in January 2003

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