Mobile broadband is hugely popular in the UK. What started out as a laptop phenomenon has spread to smartphones has they have grown in popularity and power, while tablets are now getting in on the act too. But which of these technologies best exploits the mobile internet?
First, it’s important to understand the limitations of mobile broadband. Speeds have been at a standstill in the UK for a few years now, averaging around between 1-2Mb. This is a snail’s pace when compared to the latest 100Mb cable broadband packages, but easily fast enough to do the majority of online tasks. Things will change in a few years, when 4G networks bring a massive speed hike to the mobile internet. But until then, this is what we’re stuck with.
When the first mobile broadband with so-calledcame along, the British public went mad for them – you could subsidise the price of a laptop or netbook within your monthly tariff, and get online anywhere. Perfect.
Laptops still have some key advantages over other mobile broadband choices. Firstly, you’ll probably have a bigger screen – perfect for viewing everything from YouTube videos to important documents you may be emailed. Secondly, if you need to amend or write documents or emails, you’re going to have the best option available via a full QWERTY keyboard.
On the negative side, this large screen and full keyboard come at two obvious costs – size and weight. And there’s also the power pack to think of when you need to give it a charge. If you have the space, and are serious about getting online, the good old laptop is still the best option on many occasions.
There is a whole bunch of smartphones that come with free, or even unlimited, mobile broadband nowadays – and for good reason. In many circumstances, your phone is all you need to get online on the move.
For certain online tasks, smartphones are perfect; sat nav via the built-in GPS, checking your email messages, a quick look at a website for information such as train times etc. You can also happily stream audio, download apps and music and post your pictures online.
You only really come unstuck when the screen size becomes an issue, or if you need to type for extended periods. Most smartphones now have document viewers or editors, as well as either actual or on-screen QWERTY keyboards. But the size and quality of both can make office tasks a real chore. Equally, the small screen isn’t the best for viewing video content for extended periods. That said, BlackBerry’s and the like have great QWERTYs, while smartphone screens of four inches are becoming more common.
Falling somewhere between laptops and smartphones are the new kid kids on the block; tablet PCs, or pads. These are being marketed as fantastic broadband gadgets and being included in more and more mobile broadband bundles.
As they are right now, they are in the main glorified smartphones. They use the same (or very similar) operating systems and run the same set of apps and widgets as smartphones, but with one big advantage – a bigger screen. This means you get all the functionality your smartphone has, with the bonus of a screen big enough to look at videos and documents. As they’re relatively new kit, you may also get the wow factor if you whip one out for a presentation of meeting.
The two downsides are very different. First is the virtual keyboard, which will annoy many used to using a laptop or PC and may just be a big enough barrier. Secondly, there is the great unanswered tablet question – can I justify buying something that doesn’t do anything I can’t do on my phone, PC or laptop?
In conclusion, all three are fantastic ways to get on the mobile internet – you just need to prioritise your aims and pick the gadget that will best get you there.
About the Guest Author:
Chris Marling writes for Broadband Genie and Mobile Phone Genie, the independent comparison websites for laptops, tablets and mobile phones.