After reading about the Mobile Only exploits of Seattle mobility guru Benjamin Robbins, who recently completed one year of working entirely on his smartphone, I decided try something similar during my two weeks in Thailand. My task would be a whole lot easier since I wouldn’t be working and instead of one smartphone, I would be using three mobile devices from different platforms: an iPhone 4s, a Blackberry 9650 and a Google Nexus 7. And finally, I wouldn’t be using a costly International plan, relying instead on WiFi and a Thai SIM card for phone and Internet.
Several days before leaving for Thailand, I began the difficult chore of bringing the Blackberry 9650 out of retirement. I hadn’t used the device since December of 2011 when I gave up on RIM and moved to the iPhone platform. It took several hours over multiple days to perform the updates for both the operating system and the main apps I planned to use on the trip: Foursquare, Facebook, Hootsuite and WordPress. One thing I realized immediately was that the Blackberry’s processing speed was ridiculously slow compared to the iPhone. And the time to reboot a Blackberry was ages longer than the iPhone. And no matter how hard I tried and how many times I uninstalled and reinstalled the app, I could not get Hootsuite, my favorite social media app, to open on the Blackberry.
The working plan for connectivity was to leave my iPhone in airplane mode the entire time (which would assure it did not accidentally connect to any networks) and only enable WiFi on the device. Since the Blackberry was no longer being used, I would make that my throw-away device and use a Thai SIM card for both phone and Internet. And finally, I would continue to use my Nexus the same way — as a Kindle book reader and also as a Web browser when I had WiFi access.
Travel day arrived and when I got to the airport, I realized I had made a rookie mistake and failed to fully charge my Nexus. No problem, I thought, I’ll just find an outlet at the departure gate. While I did find a power source, the juice it provided was minimal as it only raised the Nexus charge 10 percent in an hour.
The Emirates flight from Dulles to Dubai took 12 hours and I never ran into any device power issues as I read a book the old fashioned way and used the in-flight entertainment system. One nice feature of this system was a power outlet for two of every three seats in an aisle. Each seat also had a USB port which appeared to be for charging, as well.
As a big Foursquare user, my plan was to check in from Dubai during a 1 1/2 hour layover. According to the airport Web site, there is free WiFi. However, I was unable to find an open network or a kiosk that provided a password.
On the five-hour flight from Dubai to Bangkok, the massive A380 double decker jet had WiFi for purchase: $10 for 30 MB and $20 for 100 MB. I didn’t use the Internet and actually caught up on some much needed sleep.
On arrival in Bangkok, I again tried to check in via Foursquare. The signal was strong but the free WiFi at Bangkok International requires a username and password, which is available at the information desk. So I stopped at the desk before my wait at customs and retrieved the log in info. As I stood in line, there was no signal. Foiled again by Free WiFi.
On the way out of the airport, I stopped at a kiosk for DTAC, one of the Thai telecom providers. For 500 baht (about $17) I was able to purchase two weeks of unlimited Internet and a meager amount of local phone service for the Blackberry. It took the attendant about 10 minutes to set up the phone and he told me to wait 20 minutes for the Internet to start working. After 30 minutes and no Internet, I started troubleshooting since I was connected to the DTAC network and I was able to make voice calls. As anyone who has ever owned a Blackberry knows, there are numerous menus and sub menus. I eventually found the TCP IP menu under Advanced Settings and unchecked a box for APN Settings Enabled. I won’t claim to know anything about what I later found was a setting for Access Point Name, but that did the trick and I was finally connected in Bangkok late Sunday night.