Tuesday, 1 April 2014

It's all about eye care

This is the holiday on which the Balance of Usefulness swung from my tablet to my phone. By which I mean, the device that proved to be the most useful and versatile - and incidentally the only one that, most of the time, I could use for the Internet - was my Samsung Galaxy S2 phone. And Internet access is essential on holiday. Life has to go on!

The Sony tablet lacks a SIM card, and to get online needs Wi-fi, which you don't find in a field in the countryside, where my caravan has mostly been. I did have Wi-fi on the Caravan Club site at Cheddar, but it was poor and not free. The only time I had excellent Wi-fi (and it was completely free, without even the bother of a password) was during my posh evening out at The Commodore Hotel in Instow. Otherwise, there has been no getting online with the tablet.

Of course, it's had important offline uses: as a road atlas when driving about, and for showing photos to people. And I have used it for amusement, playing card games on.

And until last January it handled all my six hundred Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. But all of that is now up in the Cloud, accessed via Dropbox - which of course needs the Internet. Sans Wi-fi, only my phone can reach them. It's the same with everything else that's on the Internet: only the phone can connect me anytime, anywhere.

The only issue with my phone is the small screen. Answer: a phone with a bigger screen. And the possibilities in that direction were brought home to me a few days back when I wandered into the Phones4U shop in Barnstaple. I felt I could enter one of these lions' dens with impunity, as my Vodafone contract still had a few more months to run, and even my 26th May Upgrade Date was some weeks off. It would be strictly market research, no deal being possible yet. A really nice guy came over to me and we talked phones for over half an hour. He knew his stuff. I could tell because I'd already read a good many detailed phone reviews on the Internet, although I didn't let on that I had. I was Miss Melford the Innocent, not Miss Melford the Very Well Informed. I chiefly wanted to handle the goods, to see how they felt in the hand, and to decide whether I liked the screens.

We concentrated on the Samsung and HTC offerings. The old and brand-new HTC One were both on display. Both were quite a bit larger than my S2, with undeniably classy metal casings. Yes, the latest HTC One was a definite contender on looks! The screen was very nice. I wondered however what effect all that metal might have on the phone's ability to pick up a weak 2G or 3G signal - all I could normally hope for, even at home. The current best Samsung equivalent was the Galaxy S4, with a screen as large as the HTC One's. I'd had a good demo of one recently. I'd liked the S4's screen very much, but not the rounded styling. The S5 was due very shortly, with a rectangular, more businesslike look that appealed much more to me, plus various technical improvements. My faultless experience with the S2 had inclined me to Samsung, and to the S5. All this said, there were phones in the shop with even bigger screens...

So we looked next at the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It seemed huge. If making or taking a phone call, I'd have to use both hands to hold it! But voice calling was something I hardly ever did. Once a week perhaps. Mostly I texted or emailed - and for that a really big screen was exactly what I needed. And what a nice screen it was. And how fast the Note 3 operated. Yes, it would be as good as the tablet for most things - and not just at home, in the caravan too. It looked like the best choice when the time to upgrade arrived.

The guy knew I wasn't yet able to proceed with anything. Despite this, he'd given me a lot of time. I thanked him profusely.

What would all this cost? On a pay-monthly contract, not much less than £37 a month. Say £16 more than now. Or fifty pence per day more than now. Of course, I could sell my S2 and tablet for their precious-metal content and raise maybe £80 to pop into my savings account. Or I could buy a Note 3 SIM-free for say £480, set that £80 scrap value against the £480 cost to bring it down to £400, and move onto a SIM-only contract at £8 a month less than I pay at present.

If staying with Vodafone, it boils down then to paying £16 a month more for two years - or finding £400 and paying £8 a month less, forever. Hmmm...which is it to be?

You might be asking: why bother? If the only thing wrong with my present phone is that its screen could ideally be bigger? And indeed I've been using my diminutive S2 phone to compose blog posts in html, and then publishing them, without great hardship. But it would be easier on my eyes to do it all on the Note 3's screen. That's the real issue - eye care. Plus the inescapable fact that if you have fat fingers, you need the biggest touchscreen you can buy.


  1. I don't pat too much attention to such things since my phone is hardly ever used and is, well just a phone, but I am sure that I have heard of people being able rouse their phones to provide their own local wifi to use their other devices.

    Was I just dreaming?

  2. Yes, you make your phone a 'local hot spot' for an Internet connection, and 'tether' another device to it, in effect passing on the signal. But it uses up a lot of battery power, and may eat into one's mobile data allowance very quickly.

    My contemplation of switching to just one gadget is surely a sign of rational thinking, and maybe even of sanity!


  3. It is just as Caroline says. When out and away from wi-fi access, I use the "hotspot" feature of my phone to give internet access to my laptop.
    I was going to get the Samsung Note 3 for all the same reasons, Lucy. I settled on the Sony Z Ultra because of its even bigger screen - no need for a tablet here.

  4. I was going to suggest the hotspot method too but it is as you say not prctical if you are likely to use too much of whatever allowances you have. I always thought that a holiday was for getting away from everything, including the Internet! Are the gadgets absolutely necessary whilst away? You will say yes I know but you can do without them, it is possible, honest!

    Shirley Anne x

  5. Shirley Anne, I am shocked. Holiday without a gadget to hand? (Passes out)


  6. There must be an app which can revive you if you swoon away....

  7. When I'm away from home I use a '3 network' dongle, plugged into Sue's Netbook to get Internet access. A £10 top-up is more than enough for a fortnight's blogging. I can testify that it definitely works in Kilkhampton as it's all I had there for several weeks.

  8. Hi Lucy, I'm new here *waves* & I live in south west UK too. I also use various Samsung gadgets, including a Galaxy Note 2. Just a thought, do you also use the SwiftKey keyboard? I find it invaluable for both phone and Galaxy tablet.

  9. Oh yes, SwiftKey is a great Android phone enhancement! I would recommend it to anyone. It is very slick and very useful on a 'small' phone - partly because of its word-suggestion capabilities - and it makes typing tolerable. But its keys would be even easier to hit on a larger screen than my S2 has.

    Oddly the tablet version of SwiftKey lacks directional keys to move the cursor left or right, which (on a tablet) is a fatal flaw.



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