Is the iPhone 3G essential Travel Gear for My Bag?

My iPhone 3G

My iPhone 3G

In the past, I have reviewed the iPhone 3G and discussed the impact of the update to iPhone 3.0 OS on my 3G.

Now, I’m returning to provide perspective on how my iPhone 3G helped me as a travel device on my trip to China and how I think it could become essential travel gear in my travel bag. In fact, I found it interesting to recently read how Deb and Dave over at are planning to use an iPhone to update their blog on the road. They are more adventurous than me! I like the touch screen of the iPhone but I don’t know if I could write blog posts from the phone.

For the two weeks that I spent in China, my iPhone served as my alarm clock, email client, flashlight, MP3 player, news paper, and international phone. I could have also had a translator, guidebooks, and a way to update my site on the iPhone if had been more organized. If I had been in a different country, it would have also been my twitter and facebook client, but China limits access to facebook and twitter. Additionally, with a number of games on the iPhone, it became a way for me to pass time in the rare occurrence I became bored during the trip.

As you can see, the iPhone has many uses. The power of the iPhone is not only in how small the device is, but also the multitude of applications that are available to make it essential travel gear. I think the application that has the most value for travelers is Skype. Before I left the U.S., I put $10.00 on my skype account to make calls from China over the Internet. I talked for a total of about 20 minutes from China and Tokyo, Japan and still have over $9+ in my skype account. I can definitely see using Skype on a longer trip with additional features in enabled.

The benefits of the iPhone and its multiple uses do not come without downsides though.

First, there is a trade off between having applications, movies, and music on the device. My iPhone is only 16GB. I realize that the current generation is offered in up to 32GB, but not all iPhone 3G owners can afford to upgrade to latest model with 32GB of storage. I have worked around this by limiting the apps I use and not putting my entire MP3 collection on the device even though the collection is way less than 10GB.

Second, the iPhone’s battery life in wireless mode only is not ideal. I found that enabling the wifi on the iPhone drained the battery extremely fast especially if I was checking email, browsing the web, or using skype. I found myself charging the phone alot to make sure the battery was at 100%. One thing that I tried was to get a battery extender that plugged in the bottom of the device. Unfortunately, this proved to be worthless. I could never tell if the extended battery actually worked. It’s possible that I got a bad battery or that it was just a waste of money.

Finally, my iPhone was locked to the AT&T network. For some people, buying an unlocked iPhone is not a problem and can easily be done in their country. For those in the United States, we have to buy off e-bay or unlock the device after getting it from AT&T. If I was more organized, I would have tried to unlock the phone with one of the software means published on the Internet. Fortunately for me, I was able to borrow an unlocked Nokia E-61 from a friend which came in handy. On my last day in Shanghai, I needed to get ahold of my Chinese friend. Because I had an unlocked phone with a China Mobile SIM card, I was able to call my friend’s Shanghai cell phone number with no problem. If I didn’t have this, I guess I could have used Skype, but it was much easier using the unlocked phone to make a local call. The value of having an unlocked phone can not be understated as it allows you connect to locals much more easily. I think when my contract is up with AT&T that I will pursue unlocking my device.

Overall, I think the pro’s having access to multiple apps that can help make the iPhone a multi-use device outweighs the three con’s that I have discussed. Even with a locked iPhone, you can still use Skype with WiFi to make phone calls – it’s just not as easy. The battery life issue is a challenge with any device and WiFi enabled – I have not read about a mobile device like the iPhone that gets great battery life with WiFi enabled. The storage issue only becomes a problem if your music collection is obscenely large or you want to have alot of apps/movies on the device. I think it is a matter of finding the right balance between useful apps and storing music,games, or movies.

Personally, I would recommend the iPhone as a travel device although there are similar mobile devices that can probably fit travelers’ needs as well.

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14 Responses to Is the iPhone 3G essential Travel Gear for My Bag?

  1. Dave and Deb says:

    Thanks for the mention. We are bringing along our laptops as well as the iphone, we are not adventurous enough to blog from an iphone either. However, when we are in more remote places and don’t have an internet connection, chances are that there will be a wireless signal instead. That is when we are going to definitely be using it to post as there is a wordpress app that allows you to post from email onto your blog.
    But I will probably write it on my computer first and then upload the data into the phone.
    We are still trying to figure out this whole iphone thing. But we plan on using it in all of the ways that you mentioned above. The translator application seems amazing! and it will definitely be used for twitter and skype too. Dave has uploaded so many applications that we are armed and ready for anything.
    Luckily he is a whiz and unlocked the phone as well. We have the same problem here in Canada that you have in the States.
    Thanks for all of the valuable information.

  2. Your Brother says:

    I used my ipod touch to record and edit podcasts on our road trip.

  3. Dave and Deb says:

    Ooh, that is a good idea. We are planning on doing pod casts so that is a great piece of information. Just getting used to the iphone, there is a lot to learn. Thanks!

  4. Dave and Deb says:

    Brother…What application did you use for recording and editing for podcast?

  5. Your Brother says:

    I used Poddio.

    It was partly an experiment to see if I could do EVERYTHING on the ipod. I wanted to record, edit, upload, and ping itunes all from the ipod.

    Turns out that I could, except that poddio doesn’t export as mp3, and when I uploaded wav files, people were having trouble downloading and listening to them. So I transferred to my netbook and uploaded from there. Experiment failed in that regard, but the podcast was still fun.

  6. Dave and Deb says:

    Thanks for the information. It is definitely going to be an experiment for us to do anything. We will look into the Poddio app. Cheers!

  7. agentmaximus says:

    I’ve just started using the MotionX GPS app for tracking rides on my 7.5 FX. I’ve ordered an mount for the handlebars. The iphone GPS works fine in an outer layer of my backpack but the mount will be much more convenient. When using it I’ll run it with the display off to maximise battery life.

  8. after powering it up was try and read the User’s Guide, but who am I kidding? I wanted to get in there and learn as I frolicked!

    I had a lot of pre-purchased downloads and they populated my Kindle, her name is Trixie, effortlessly and seamlessly. I couldn’t even keep track as new items became available all the time. Of course, this will vary based on your location.

    So, in minutes I had a months if not a year of reading. I had old favorites, and some classics that we’re told we should read, samples that had caught my eye, and lots of new choices — and I held them all in my hand. A banquet of choices, with a veritable never ending feast when I need more.

    I chose to read the New York Times first, and loved the experience. The pictures were crisp and clear, and it was a quick learning curve to navigate between pages, articles, and sections. I found myself reading the articles while talking heads on TV were referencing them, and it was delivered to me effortlessly.

    It’s very intuitive — anybody who spends time with gadgets and tech stuff will get this with only a couple missteps, and a muttered, “Doh.” I believe that even the less tech savvy will catch on pretty quickly, and I can imagine this as a boon for older people with strong ties to reading, and I would suggest the younger generation gives them access to see if it’s a device that will help them.

    I know I need to go to the optometrist, but the Kindle will aide and abet me in avoiding that for a while — the page is easy to read, the font size is easy to change, and my eyes sail across the words, my finger hits next page without me giving it thought.

    The previous page is a little difficult to access considering the way I hold it, and I do tend to move ahead, think “wait, what?” and need to go back a page, but that’s probably more about my personal style than a true flaw.

    My hands are small, so the kindle does not on it’s own fit in my hand securely, but the Cole Haan cover that I have, or any appropriate cover, provides something to hold and allows for greater comfort, making it an even more comfortable hold than a novel.

    The dictionary function is great — I have a pretty good vocabulary, but I do like to look up unfamiliar words, and now that’s a breeze. I read a New York Times article set in Tanzania, and I wondered exactly where that was — I mean, I knew Africa, but wanted more specifics — and I used the dictionary function to give me enough of an answer and satisfy my curiosity enough to move on.

    As I read, the light shifted in the room. I know backlighting was important for people, but it seems like it would make the easy-to-read text less easy to read. Instead I attached the light purchased just for the purpose, and it worked beautifully and allowed the Kindle to do it’s job as a reader with the goal of displaying pages with the grace and practicality of a print book.

    I’ve only had it for hours, and I’m hooked. Please note I didn’t have a K1, because I was a skeptic. I was like a lot of people — I liked technology, but books were a separate and sacred thing. So, since Amazon was a habit for me, I had to see the constant reminders of an item I didn’t feel I needed or wanted.

    But I was working, nay, abusing my Amazon Prime to the point that I’d run out of room — and when it occurred to be that while 2 day shipping was fast, it wasn’t the same as immediate.

    I’d been a reader of ebooks for a while, but on my laptop the stories compete with my constant obsessive-compulsive need to check emails (which I’m fighting doing even as I type this) and checking blogs, and surfing…

    A Kindle elevates reader back to where it belongs – as a thing to be celebrated and not some trivial thing that has to share space with everything else on your laptop. You like blogs? Kindle will deliver them to you when there’s something new. Other than that, you can settle in and just focus on stories and on papers stripped down to what matters most.

    Highly Recommended.

    4/11/2009 — Edited to add new comments after being a Kindle user for a while:

    There’s no shame in someone deciding it isn’t for them. We all can look at one another’s purchases and come to the conclusion that other people waste a lot of money, because we all have different priorities. The thing that is a must have for you might be nowhere on my radar. The thing I want might make you shrug. We all get to spend our disposable income the way we would like.

    I don’t believe there has been a day that’s gone by since I’ve received my Kindle that I haven’t used it and been glad to have it. I read longer, I read more, I read a wider variety. With print books, I was always losing them. They didn’t go far — under a couch, under a bed — but out of sight, out of mind. I would remember the book and not feel like going looking when I could go to the bookshelves. Rinse and repeat. By the time I found the book, I’d forgotten what had happened so far or was not in the mood to read at that moment. There were a lot of semi-read books never getting finished.

    1 Kindle, tons of books.

    Now, all I have to do is keep track of one expensive advice that I’m naturally inclined to protect. I can have multiple books going at once and switch easily depending on my mood. And the books get completely read, because they’re always there when I need them and ready to open to the last “page” I’d read. That convenience is huge.

    I’m not claiming it saves me money. I know I find a lot of great bargains, of course, but that convenience makes book buying so easy and tempting. Someone mentions a book, I have it in rapid order, ready to read. I just finished a book by an author, I can read another one in no time. Even with Prime I would order and maybe some of the interest in the writer would have waned by the time it arrived so the book hit the TB(maybe)R shelf. Here’s one: I subscribe to the NYT on my Kindle, and they are famous for their book reviews — the only way it could be easier would be to actually link to the store.

    I’m not claiming it doesn’t save me money either though — there are those bargains and the cost of all the aforementioned never finished books. And the gas. I also live pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There is a small bookstore and a used bookstore in my town, and then an hour’s drive to Target. A “real” bookstore would be another half an hour. To be in an area with a choice of bookstores, 4 hours.

    Even ordering print books from Amazon isn’t doing mother nature any favors, right?

    While I understand it’s not for everybody and if it feels like a waste, it’s not for you. But it was such a great purchase and so worth it to me, that I recently bought my husband his own as a present. He’s never been a major reader, but now he’s reading every night and discussing books with me. Sorta huge!

    In a fire, I save my grandmother, my pets, my kindle, and then the spouse! (I kid, I kid! The Kindle is small and I could tuck in somewhere, waistband, bra… so hubby can move up in line a little ::grin::)

  9. Jaime Tech says:

    iPhone 3G is simply the best phone that i have owned. It is very stylish and its nice features. I also own an N97 but i like the iphone.

  10. Eugeniose says:

    the first batch of iPhone 3G was a bit pricey but now the price is more affordable than before. I bought two units of iPhone 3g and i am amazed of this phone.

  11. Very good writing. I am glad your posting that. I hope you can accept my apology for my less good English Skills, I am from France and English is sort of new to me. I will bookmark your blog and keep reading.

  12. Yu Mcferran says:

    Votre article est bon, mais j’ai trouvé un comme ça. Saviez-vous que quelqu’un est la copie? J’ai beaucoup apprécié votre site vraiment!

  13. Steve Job will love your port. But some paragraphs not easy to understand such as the last one. I’m waiting for your explanation.

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