I love my smartphones, and I’ve been using them for a long time now. I think my first real smartphone was an O2 branded HTC Universal, followed by a Nokia N95. I’ve also had various models of iPhone (3G, 4, 4S, 5 and currently using a 6) and both a Nexus 4 and 5.
The common factor between all these devices was my choice of service provider: O2. I let myself get suckered into upgrade after upgrade to get the latest and greatest model, and always lived in hope of them improving network coverage in my neck of woods.
You see, I live in the middle of nowhere. We’re right on the limit for both getting ADSL and having pizza delivered, and our nearest neighbour is a quarter of a mile away. It’s a wonderful location, but not without its frustrations for a self-confessed lover of technology like myself. The problem is getting worse as my older children start to suck up more and more of our available bandwidth with Netflix, YouTube, and Xbox Live.
Coupled with the poor broadband connectivity is less than stellar coverage from O2. I can get 3G in Carlisle, but around where I actually spend 99% of my time I get GPRS or nothing. To add insult to injury, the GPRS connection rarely works for anything other than push notifications. This means that whenever I leave the house, unless I’m headed for “civilisation” I’m carrying the eponymous “smartbrick” in my pocket.
The christmas before last my brother-in-law was shocked and delighted to discover he could get a 32Mbps 4G signal from EE in my living room, compared to the paltry ~2Mbps my BT ADSL was providing to a house full of gadgets during a family christmas.
Being tied into a contract prevented me from switching to EE at the first opportunity, but as my contract is due to expire I’ve been checking out my options. EE with their 4G-in-my-living-room is a clear contender, but with my work at Automattic (by the way, we’re hiring!) I also have to travel several times a year – usually to the United States. Neither O2 nor EE have particularly great roaming prices there, and having had my fingers burnt with a few bills on my return from travels, I’m keen to get the best bang for my buck. Especially when roaming I rarely turn my data on – except in emergencies – so despite being in “civilisation” my phone remains a smartbrick unless I’m near a WiFi connection.
This lead to me Three. They have very reasonable pay-as-you-go bundles (I really want to be done with long term contracts), but most importantly they have a “feel at home” romaing deal which means I can use my full allowance in the US and other countries. A quick warning: the “all you can eat” data allowance in the UK is capped at 25GB when roaming. The cheek of it! Oh, and they have 3G-in-my-living-room, which is a massive improvement on O2.
So for my current trip to New Orleans for a team meetup (I’m typing this on the train to the airport in our excellent WordPress app, and using my Three 3G to post it) I’m trying out their “feel at home” deal and I’m looking forward to being able to use my smartphone as Apple intended!
A smartbrick no more!