Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The wonderful world of 4G - and Flight Mode

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that while on holiday Vodafone switched me from jet-age 3G to rocket-age 4G - for no charge. At the time, I got an instant improvement in Internet performance and thought 4G a Jolly Good Thing.

I knew 4G would be a revelation, because my Brighton friends had enjoyed it for months, and had been similarly amazed at the general speed-up that 4G brought. But then they lived in The City. I was in The Sticks, in my rustic retreat, chewing straws and dancing around apple trees. No 4G out here! 3G, when I could get it, was the most to be expected. 'Twere good enough, m'dears, for we Simple County Folk in our farming fastness.

In between milking the pigs and shoeing the hens, I noticed that Vodafone's 3G deals had disappeared from its website. It looked as if next time around, when my current contract ended, I'd be obliged to move onto 4G, despite the lack of it in these sequestered parts. I hoped that I'd be charged no more than I paid for my 3G contract, because for some time to come 4G would be elusive at home, unless standing nude on one leg in my conservatory, with the sun over yonder tree just so.

Contemplating my North Devon holiday, and where I'd be pitched on the farm - even more out of town than here at home - I wasn't expecting to get anything more than a 2G signal, occasionally improving to 3G. Much as it had been before. Since the time of Oliver Cromwell, in fact. And much as it had been in, say, Anglesey in North Wales last year, when, if I wanted to access the Internet at all, I'd have to drive to a proper town like Holyhead or Bangor. Yes, publishing a post while there had involved an hour's drive there and back, just to send a ready-to-go post. But one does these things for One's Art.

So it was a pleasant surprise, when, soon after ensconcing myself at the farm in North Devon, I found myself getting an Internet service on Demelza, my mobile phone, that completely eclipsed what I had to put up with at home. Yes, it said '4G' in the display...but how could this be, if I was on a 3G contract? Uh-oh: was I about to be clobbered with a hike in my monthly payment, in the name of progress? And then Vodafone put my mind at rest, with a text giving Glad Tidings Of Great Joy, viz, that yea verily and behold, 4G had been vouchsafed to me - free. Thank you very much, Vodafone!

And while I remained in North Devon, the new 4G service was a delight. But now I'm home again, and oh dear, it's not so good. Not nearly so good. Because for most of the day I can barely get a signal. And in consequence my battery is being hit hard, as Demelza struggles to pick up whatever whiff of 4G there may be in the wind. The search radio is constantly switching on, and that has at times been consuming power at the rate of up to 10% of the battery charge per hour.

There are of course a variety of remedies. In the long term, Vodafone will eventually improve their local mobile phone reception. Then none of what follows will be needed.

Meanwhile - while in the house, anyway - I can adopt various power-saving strategies. Demelza (a Samsung Galaxy S5, running Android Lollipop) offers several ways of limiting power consumption. I can turn down screen brightness, place a limit on processing speed, curtail push notifications, stop unnecessary monitoring and statistical feedback, and do without an always-on data connection, to name just some. There are apps I could install that will do much to eke out battery power. There is a special Ultra Power Saving Mode on board that gives me, if I can stand it, a monochrome screen and very basic services only.

But, you know, what is the point of having a super-capable phone with the latest OS - still, even now, Samsung's finest phone, the S6 not having been launched yet - and then cripple it, in order to avoid charging it up twice a day?

There must be a reasonable compromise, something short of a comprehensive lock-down on capability and user pleasure. And I think I've found it with Flight Mode, which I hadn't considered until late last night, chiefly because I rarely fly in aeroplanes, nor am I likely to in the foreseeable future. If Samsung had called it Air Balloon Mode, or Submarine Mode, it would have been much the same. I'd be thinking 'I won't be doing that, so it's no use to me' and staying ignorant of how such a mode might help.

Well, Flight Mode switches off all connectivity. No calls, no texts, no Internet access, no location services, no Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth. It sounds drastic, and seems to negate the point of carrying a phone around.

But of course it's exactly what you want when going to sleep, because you are hopefully going to be in deep slumber and absolutely no communications are wanted.

So last night, with battery power standing at 83%, I put Demelza into Flight Mode. Experimentally. Eight hours later, once awake and facing the day, the battery power was still at 82%. What? Too good to be true...had the reading got stuck? No: power consumption had simply been minimal overnight. In Settings, under 'Battery', I was told that Demelza could in theory have survived three days on that remaining 82%. But of course I'd want to get messages, and emails, and do useful things with her. Still, it was clear that Flight Mode was a great way of extending the time between charge-ups. In this case, by eight hours. And it's an uncomplicated procedure to go into that mode, something even a sleepy-head can remember to do, and easily manage in her fumbling state at the end of the day.

I think I'll try using Flight Mode at other times, too, whenever I'm using the phone offline. There are several functions that I use very often, and all day long, that I don't need connectivity for - consulting my calendar, looking at my to-do list, listening to music, looking at photos, composing blog posts in html, studying my various downloaded Ordnance Survey maps and street plans, playing card games, making notes, reading downloaded PDF documents - and that's not an exhaustive list. My phone is really a little mobile computer first, and a communications device second, and I can get away with keeping messages and notifications in cold storage until I feel like reading them.

To be honest, I suddenly want to do that very much. Why should I be accessible all the time? What calls and messages are so important that I need to have my phone in 'receiving mode' 24/7? Yes, there are times when a flurry of urgent calls and messages can be expected, and I'll have my phone set up normally for those, so I can respond quickly. But I think I'll work out a routine of switching in and out of Flight Mode at set times of the day, primarily to save important battery life, but also to give me the sensation of being quite out of reach for while.

Who knows, it may feel like having a bit of my life back. It'll put a stop to being taken over and strangled by the octopuses - I mean of course the octipodes - of social networking and the pressure of knowing the latest news. I feel rebellious.

Real life in Sussex - 'tis all anyone do need. Ah! There be a powerful smell of manure in the air! Strong enough to kill a bull. Reckon them apple trees need more dancin'! Hear that? Them cows do be a-layin', crowing their woolly heads off, and them pigs do be a-mooin' fit to gallop. I'd best be on my way, m'dears!

1 comment:

  1. Strange how the devices which I dreamed of as a child have come to pass and hold no allure. The smarter they become the closer to a strong source of mains electricity they need to be and the more eyewateringly expensive they become.

    I think that you need to find "cave" mode which I use and the battery can last two months without a recharge, then again it is off all that time and I am at peace...

    Mine probably has no "Gs".


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