I hate banging on about the same old shortcomings but by the time 3G technology arrives in Thailand, climate change might well have rendered mobile phones useless. It’s a pity because mobile internet access is the next great leap forward in communication. With high speed access in the palm of your hand the usefulness of the web broadens considerably; instant weather reports, free skype calls to anywhere in the world from anywhere, satnav to help to find your way to the nearest shopping mall, and lots of funky applications (‘apps’), games, music, movies, books and more to be downloaded on the move. This is why the iphone is so popular, the apps, but without 3G none of this is realistic, so the idea of spending 28,000 baht on a ‘phone’ that can’t be smart is a bit mute. All the same I used one on a business trip to Europe recently, downloading a $3 travel guide to Munich while on the train to the airport (goodbye bulky Lonely Planets). When visitors to Thailand start getting off the plane and instantly logging on, searching for an Italian restaurant during their taxi ride, the tourist business here will significantly change. And the taxi drivers’ phones will be telling them where to turn (provided the gem sellers haven’t hacked the programme : -) . Ok, ok, so I’m getting ahead of myself here, there’s no point shopping for a smart phone until 3G arrives, unless it comes with wi-fi access, or you settle for the slower Edge/GPRS technology which crawls along. And there’s no guarantee the 3G will be much faster than 144 kbps if the phone networks are overloaded. Some of the touchscreen phones like the Samsung Star or LG Cookie sell for under 10,000 baht, but it’s the operating system that matters for this determines the extent of apps that make the web surfing experience pleasurable. Nokia and most phones use symbian or windows, Blackberry and Apple have their own, and so far it is the iphone that has lead the way with its popular apps store. And that’s what’s revolutionising web usage.
Andrew Bond is the Manager of www.virtualtravelguides.com