After about two years of heavy use, I recently replaced my beloved cell phone. As part of the Sprint PCS handset upgrade program, I was able to get a $150 mail-in rebate to defer the cost but, in order to take advantage of the rebate, I had to sign up for a free trial of PCS Vision (this is their internet access plan). Since you have to keep the service active until they approve your rebate (which is actually pretty quick), I’ve had a bit of time to play with it and I must say that it’s pretty cool.
I can check weather reports, read the news from a variety of sources, download games, check e-mail, look up phone numbers without calling directory assistance, etc. And if you’re willing to upgrade the service beyond basic Vision, you can e-mail pictures (if you have a picture phone) or even small videos (if you have a video phone). All very cool. The main problem is the cost. Unlimited Vision access is $10/month, picture mail is $5/month, and video mail is another $5/month. While I found the news reading capability to be nice when I was traveling this week, it’s no easier than picking up an actual newspaper, and much more expensive. Also, I can pull pictures/videos off the phone with a USB cable. Thus, while it’s more convenient (and gadgety) to send pictures directly from my phone, it’s hard to justify paying the price to do so.
One intriguing possibility that I haven’t explored is using your cell phone as a modem — apparently you can ‘tether’ it to your laptop to get internet access anywhere you can get a cell signal. While this is against Sprint’s TOS, it seems to be doable as long as you don’t abuse it. Probably the best use of this technology for me would be Mapquest Mobile. Unfortunately, that something like $3.95/month. All in all, I’ve come to the conclusion that internet-enabled cell phones are the proverbial solution in search of a problem. That being said, I’d probably go for it if I could get the Vision access plus picture and video mail for ten bucks a month. But that’s just because I’m weak and I love gadgets. I’ll probably ask for this when it’s time to cancel.