If you want to enjoy mobile broadband on the move, the first decision you need to make is what you want to get online with. Here we’ll take a brief look at the three most popular solutions, weighing up the pros and cons of each.
Seen by some as the ghost of technology past, the good old laptop is still a great way to enjoy mobile broadband. With a ‘proper’ QWERTY keyboard and a 15-inch-plus screen, a laptop is ideal for everything form writing work documents to watching video. You’ll also have a massive hard drive for storage compared to the devices below, plus the processing power to dabble in online gaming or just about anything else you want to get up to online.
The major downsides are weight and price. You can’t travel light with a laptop in tow, while even a bottom end model is going to set you back hundreds. And if you do go bottom end, the advantages of a large screen and hard drive will also start to dry up (along with the processing power for top-end gaming). however, if you can squeeze one into your bag they’re perfect for trains, holidays, meetings and the rest.
At the other end of the size scale we have the smartphone. Chances are you can pick one up for free on your mobile contract (if you’re not one of the 50+ per cent of mobile owners who already have one), while it will slip into your pocket with ease, negating both a laptop’s major mobile broadband drawbacks. Many mobile deals also include free data, meaning you don’t have to splash out on a separate contract for a dongle or mobile Wi-Fi unit. The rise and rise of the mobile app has also seen developers get around most difficulties the diminished screen size brings, with the likes of social networking, gaming and email brought down to size.
But if you do want to do anything business related on the move, the small screen and lack of a keyboard will soon start to grate. You can also experience difficulties viewing web pages the way they’re meant to be, while images may be severely reduced in quality. That said, the GPS can be perfect for on-foot navigation, apps perfect for keeping in touch and uploading images to social networking sites, and the screen perfectly adequate to catch up on the news or send emails and messages.
The tablet PC
When Apple introduced the iPad, it heralded a middle ground between the smartphone and laptop that promises to be the holy grail of mobile broadband. Google’s Android operating system has seen the likes of Samsung, HTC, Motorola and more join the hunt with their own tablets, while RIM has also stepped up to the plate with the BlackBerry Playbook.
A tablet is pretty much a large screened smartphone, taking the operating systems and popular apps and transferring them to a device with a bigger screen. This means you get all the benefits of great social networking, gaming and messaging but with a screen more suited to video, as well as a bigger on-screen QWERTY keyboard. They also still have the wow factor, making them great for meetings and generally making an impression.
However for now tablets are pretty low on power in terms of both processing a storage, while little has yet been developed specifically with them in mind. They’re a bit of a mister in-between without a real home, not adequately replacing either the smartphone or laptop while providing nothing unique compared to their rivals.
In the end all three options have their merits, so you need to decide your priorities. Going forward, things will get even more interesting. The smartphone is being seen by many as the remote control centre of the future connected home, so will be with us long term. Alongside it many see the tablet as the screen that’ll sit on the sofa with you, as a compliment to the TV, so where does that leave the laptop? As prices drop we’re sure to see it morph into something lighter, sleeker and sexier while still having that quality keyboard and advanced operating system. There may yet be room for all three in our futures.