From day one of the Internet Tablet era*, I've been a believer in the WiFi path. As broadband has increased its penetration wildly over the last few years, this has seemed reasonable. And I attribute the failure of the many Linux tablet predecessors of the Nokia 770 in great part to having preceded the era of easy-to-use, cheap wireless routers and widely available broadband.
We've entered that era, and if WiFi clouds aren't covering all the cities as they should, well, that day is coming.
And yet. “WiFi everywhere” is still an aspiration, not a description.
Last week, when I was comparing video-over-internet cam calls to high-priced “video share” cellphone calls, I had to jog myself to include information that you could in fact use your Nokia Internet Tablet from anywhere, not just within range of a wireless access point if you connected to the internet through a cellphone data plan.
This kind of thinking wasn't native. NIT use = WiFi area is how I instinctively thought about it.
But Ari Jaaksi wrote about being really really untethered from the desktop way back in September 2005 when he described his daughter noodling away on his 770 on a car trip, connected to the internet via the Bluetooth phone in his pocket. And a couple months after that, I got to experience “internet everywhere” firsthand when Nokia lent me a phone and I surfed on the train ride into New York City and then walking downtown to work.
“Internet everywhere” takes the Internet Tablet to a far higher level of usefulness. It really does.
Still I haven't treated that as an option. U.S. cellphone data plans seem to be ridiculously priced, with all kinds of gotcha's. Apparently if you level with the telecom rep as to what you intend to do with your NIT and the cellphone, you're unambiguously determined to require an $80- or $100-a-month plan. I can't justify that kind of money, or even half that.
That's why, in the midst of all today's hullabaloo about the iPhone, the datum that leaped out at me was that you're paying only $20 for an unlimited data plan when you go the iPhone route.**
That's the first reasonable price I've ever heard of.
When do the rest of us get $20 internet? Why can't we get it now? Hey, AT&T, I'll switch to you tomorrow if you give me the same deal!
* That would be May 25, 2005. I exaggerate by a couple weeks — I wasn't a convert till mid-June.
** Not transferrable, not usable by your laptop using the iPhone to connect to the internet, etc. Reviewer David Pogue says Treo owners at AT&T are paying about $40 for unlimited Internet.