My day-to-day existence includes nearly 4 hours of commuting, 8-12 hours of work where I’m without access to my personal e-mail, and very little time left over in which to live life to the fullest.
In my endless struggle to balance work, friends and family, I find that mobile web access is a must.
For years, I’ve been a faithful Verizon Wireless customer, enjoying my 17% employee discount and spending an extra $6-7 a month for bare-bones mobile web access on my teeny little flip phone.
I’ve often stared with envy at the iPhone and web-enabled PDAs like the Blackberry, but the more I look into these options, the more I realize I’m simply not interested in paying that much for mobile web access. My company’s not about to pony up the cash, and I’m hesitant to pay $30 or more per month just to be constantly accessible. And since my contract’s not yet up, I need to stay with my current provider to avoid termination fees.
Since I was recently eligible to upgrade my mobile phone at a reduced rate, I went to my local Verizon Wireless shop to search for more affordable solutions. There were, of course, fewer cheap options than I’d hoped. I’ll outline them here to help save you time in your own search:
Option 1: The Smartphone
Service Charge: $45/month
Phone Cost: $200-$600
This option offers really cool smartphones like the Palm Treo and XV6800. E-mail is pushed right to the phone instantly, plus there’s a QWERTY keyboard and nice screen size.
Option 2: The Blackberry
Service Charge: $30 (personal e-mail) or $45 (corporate e-mail) per month
Phone Cost: $200-$400
A nice little integrated trackball is a plus, and the QWERTY keyboard is functional if small. Browsing is primarily text-based, and e-mail is pushed to the device. I’d have full integration with my corporate network for the $45 monthly charge, but must choose between having corporate or personal e-mail.
Option 3: The iPhone Wannabe
Service Charge: $15 per month for V CAST V Pak
Phone Cost: $200-$400
Phones available include the LG Voyager with a frontal touch screen and LG enV with a typical mobile phone exterior. Both phones open to reveal a secondary screen for web surfing and QWERTY keyboard. Mobile web access is unlimited with the plan, but you must log in for access. Full graphical web browsing is available.
Option 4: The Traditional Mobile Phone
Service Charge: $6 per month (plus additional airtime/megabyte charges depending on plan)
Phone Cost: Free-$300
This is my old way of mobile web browsing, peering at a small screen whilst tapping out responses on the numerical keypad. There are new phones like the VX9400 which offer better screen sizes and optional mobile TV, but otherwise these are normal cell phones. Depending on level of usage, this can be the cheapest option.
I also looked at the possibility of getting a wireless modem and laptop, but the service charge ranged from $40-60 a month before I ever got around to pricing out ultraportable laptops. Too much for my blood, plus I’m opposed to lugging around even more gadgets.
Stymied by the options, I logged a few more store visits and calls to customer service before I figured out the cheapest way to get what I wanted: Option 3, with the LG Voyager, which has been dubbed the “iPhone Killer”. It’s not got nearly the same features, but the concepts and overall feel are similar. Forbes described its features best:
Voyager is designed to be a multimedia workhorse, combining access to Verizon’s broadcast TV, video and music service with GPS navigation, high-speed Web browsing, and expandable memory (from 64 megabytes up to 8 gigabytes with a memory card). It has a 2.81-inch exterior touch screen that opens to reveal another screen and a full keyboard.
The touch screen worried me somewhat, but I plan to baby it. The front and interior screens were nicely sized and larger than any of the other mobile phone choices. And no matter how much I surf or e-mail, my mobile web expenses are capped at $15 a month.
I’m pretty happy with my fake, lower-tech iPhone. I don’t have any plans to blind myself editing documents on the thing, so I don’t miss the lack of full PDA functionality. And logging into my e-mail is fine with me – an extra $250 per year just to have it pushed to my phone seems unnecessary.
After paying $200 for the phone upgrade and raising my monthly mobile web costs from $7 to $15, I’m now as wired as I’m going to get.
Until the next round of mobile gadgets, at least.
Have you found any good mobile web deals with other wireless companies? Do share!
Verizon Turns Up Its Cool Quotient [Forbes]
Verizon Voyager Fan Site
Apple’s iPhone: Adding Up the Costs [Apple 2.0 Blog]
Image Credits: Verizon Wireless
Updated August 9, 2011 and originally published March 6, 2008.