Android Road Warrior: The Results

April 20, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Earlier this week, you might recall, I opened a challenge to myself. As part of a trip to the city of York, England to attend a meeting, I would be travelling with my Wi-Fi tablet and mobile phone in hand to get through as much work as possible while in transit and while waiting to attend the meeting.

There were several reasons for taking this journey up as a challenge.  To begin with I wanted to see just how much could be achieved with a Wi-Fi tablet and a mobile phone. I was also interested to see just how good (or bad) public Wi-Fi access is in one of the United Kingdom’s most loved cities.

I expected the experiment to be interesting but certainly not as tough as it turned out…

Android road warrior!

Getting There Early

Setting off for a meeting scheduled at 12.30 at 6.45 am may not make immediate sense, but the importance of finding a seat on the train from which I could comfortably use my tablet was paramount to comfort during the 55 minute journey. In the event, disaster struck – while I believed was fully equipped for any eventuality, my android phone wasn’t, and unable to connect to the My Docs app for accessing Google docs, I ended up typing out around 800 words on my mobile phone!

What I really needed was a notepad app for my Android tablet with which I could work offline without requiring the Internet connection to Google docs.

In normal circumstances this would have been simple, but on a train with no Wi-Fi this meant that I had to wait until my arrival in York.

Disembarking, I was immediately offered Wi-Fi access, but my first real mistake was to turn this down – after all, I didn’t want to be stuck in a noisy railway station all morning! Heading into the city proper, it soon became apparent that the large majority of UK cities  are sewn up with paid public wireless access thanks to BT. Charging £5 for 90 of access if you don’t have a domestic broadband arrangement with them, BT are surely turning a tidy profit on what can only be described as a  racket.  UK provider O2 recently announced a nationwide free public wireless Internet service, something that is likely to dent BT’s near-monopoly considerably.

Wi-Fi for 18p a Minute?!

Loathe to paying £5 for 90 minutes of access I instead switched on the Wi-Fi router function on my Android 2.2 phone, connected to it with my Android VEGA tablet, downloaded the aNotepad app (a free text editor from the Android Market) and cracked on with some work. Disconnecting Wi-Fi was a major element of the trip, as you might recall, for prolonged battery life. I also took the opportunity while working in a local cafe to switch down the brightness on the tablet as a battery-saving ploy, which certainly seemed to work. If you have any doubt about the improvement in battery life on the tablet with Wi-Fi disabled, the battery seemed to reduce at around 50% of the usual speed.

I was now able to concentrate on work. aNotepad is very basic and has little in the way of features. What it does offer, however, is the ability to copy text out and into another app or perhaps an email message. With a Save button to make sure you don’t lose any of your work, this is really an app designed for creating scripts to run on your Android or perhaps some road warrior HTML or CSS. Under the circumstances it was ideal for my needs.

No Wi-Fi, No Android Road Warrior

You may recall from the original article that I planned to use six main apps. Available free Wi-Fi in York is limited to a small selection of hotels and bars, none of which were open until mid-morning), which meant that using these apps would prove troublesome until after the meeting. Luckily I was able to settle down at York station and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi as I awaited my train home…

The original intention of this article was to prove how easy it is to conduct your daily work from an Android Wi-Fi tablet while on the road in the UK. However it seems that this aim was pretty lofty. No tutorial can talk you through using the best tools for the job if the basic network infrastructure is prohibitively priced, sparsely available or in this case, both. A mention should be also given to the MyCloud network, a woeful attempt to spread accessible wireless Internet around branches of popular chains such as McDonalds and Pret a Manger but with the poorest accessibility you can imagine.

While I had the advantage of running my mobile as a wireless hub, others may not be so equipped. While I was relying heavily on the cloud before travelling, there was ample opportunity to download a suitable text editor in time to get some work done. The conclusion you can draw from this is that unless you use telecoms giant BT for your domestic Internet, wireless hotspots are severely limited in the UK.

Is it the same in your town? Let us know!

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