Internet on my phone

Ever since the facility has existed, I have wanted Internet on my phone but I didn’t think I could afford the usual tariffs. I was thrilled, therefore, to discover that Virgin now offers email on both monthly and PAYG accounts. I signed up in a flash.

Tigger and I run our mobiles on an obsolete Virgin tariff that is cheap and fits our usage pattern well. Virgin runs on the back of T-Mobile, who are famous for their poor coverage and weak signal strength. (This is why, when I go on holiday, I always take my backup phone with an Orange SIM in it since Orange connects the parts that other networks cannot reach…) Virgin/T-Mobile usually works well enough in towns, though, and we put up with the holes for the sake of cheapness.

So, suddenly, there I am, with email on my phone. Is it my birthday or what?! The only problem with Virgin email is that it doesn’t work with all email providers. For example, it doesn’t seem to work with Google email accounts: they keep coming up with “Invalid username or password”. Virgin publishes a list of compatible email services and Google is conspicuous by its absence. All my other accounts work perfectly, however, and I have created a dedicated POP3 Yahoo account just for my phone.

Another slight downer is that this is not “push” email. In other words, you are not notified when an email comes in. You have to check every so often. Is there a freebie or cheap email service offering POP3 and SMS notification of new messages? That would solve the problem.

What about cost? All I pay (and I phoned the helpline to make sure) is my connect time which is charged at the same rate as phone calls. In my case that’s 15p per min for the first 5 minutes of the day and 5p per min thereafter. There is no standing charge or extra charge per Mb downloaded.

Thinking about all this, I had a sudden inspiration: if I can go online for email, then can’t I also go online to browse the Web? No sooner thought than tried. I opened the phone’s browser, typed in a certain URL, waited breathlessly for a few seconds and… yes! There it is: “SilverTiger, Living and loving in North London”!

I not only have email but can also browse the Web. Doing so proved instructive, at least for me as I have no previous experience, apart from early WAP, of going online with my phone. Some sites, such as Google and Yahoo! detect that you are using a phone (or maybe the phone’s browser tells them?) and serve you a special version of their site. This is useful, because the phone’s screen is very small compared with the screen of a PC and you have to move around a lot to read a conventional Web page.

The Nokia 9300 has a tiny joystick which you can use to negotiate a Web page. When you hover over a link, you press the joystick to select it. The browser also stores cookies (but politely asks you first whether you wish to accept them) which means you can log onto sites on which you are registered.

So will I be posting to my blog from my mobile while on holiday? The idea appeals and, yes, I did try it. But the answer is no, or at least, as things stand, a strong “unlikely”. This is for several reasons.

The first reason is speed or rather, lack of it. WordPress makes no concessions to phones or to remote posting. On the phone you get exactly the same pages as you would get on the computer and these take a very long time to load.

National Rail
National Rail Timetable on my phone

The second reason is that WordPress pages do not render very well on the phone. This makes it impossible to click certain links. They might be invisible, perhaps overlain by others, or they drop down windows which are displaced and therefore disappear when you try to move to them.

All in all, slowness is the problem with this system and the search is now on for sites that provide the information I want (information on train times when we are travelling, for example) but but are lean enough to load easily on the phone.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Internet on my phone

  1. Em says:

    I have used the gmail text notification before (http://tinyurl.com/khrfo) but these days I just tend to use the web interface for checking mail directly.My partner does more mobile surfing than me and it’s a fixed rate for the day I believe (£1 a day via T-mobile) but these prices vary between providors.Pop access is a killer as it then charges per bandwidth consumed which makes grabbing the nearest WiFi a bit more attractive.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    The Virgin email service cannot use Gmail. I think this is because Gmail uses unconventional port numbers and Virgin cannot set these. Nor can I set them manually in my phone. I can receive mail from Gmail but not send.

    My phone also has a limitation that prevents the use of a lot of other email services. In fact, I cannot use any service that requires SMTP authentication. Many use the “same details as for POP collection” authentication system but my phone can be set only to either no authentication or authentication with specifed username and password. Neither works with email services requiring authentication. I suppose it is a protocol problem.

    Ironically I can use the email on my various domains quite happily and also Yahoo email.

    I therefore think I will have to wait until I win the lottery and can afford a pukka tariff with proper Internet access!

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