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Old 07-28-10, 06:29 AM   #1
cliffmat
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Phone for RTW Tour/Blogging

Afternoon guys and gals,
Ok, so I have one of those annoying “which bit of kit” questions (in three parts) that have been broached many times, but to which I’ve found no specific answer to my annoyingly particular demands

1). I’m setting off on a world tour in about a month’s time, and been looking for a single device to take with me to fill all my computer/communication needs. Really want to avoid taking a laptop down to weight/power reasons...
Ideally, I’d like a phone that can (as well as the usual talk/text stuff):
Connect to Wifi and 3G, and has Full Qwerty keyboard
Compose text documents which can easily be transferred to a computer via usb (i.e. in an internet café)
Charges via mini usb ideally (so I can use my wind up charger if need be)

An unlocked smartphone like the Blackberry Bold is the obvious choice (I use an older BB at work, so am familiar with it), But:
I can’t find any easy way to write a text document (i.e. a *.txt file) which I can then save to the SD card and literally copy and paste onto a desktop in an internet café.
I want to do this so I can draft emails, blogs etc on the road, and upload them easily once I’m in a city.
The only way I can see to get “notes” off is to sync with Outlook. Trawled through the apps store, but no luck so far… Anyone had any luck on these?

Otherwise, does anyone have an alternative phone suggestion for world wide use??

2) On these lines I’m also keen to share my trip with people back home – any suggestions on the best way to do this? I’m thinking both hardware wise (at the mo I’m either going to get a simple GPS locater comme ca to just log points and upload later, or the lo-tech method: sms my brother every few days to tell him where I am and he can update my website), and also software wise (Google Earth/Maps the best way forward?). Don’t really want to subscribe to expensive tracking services like those offered by SPOT.

3) Does anyone have any good experiences of global sim cards? Currently looking between Geosim, gosim and 0044.

BTW – I’m UK based.

Sorry if this has been covered before, but any suggestions on this (or otherwise) are most appreciated!!

Cheers,
Cliff.
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Old 07-28-10, 07:25 AM   #2
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No suggestion on the phone hardware or sim cards. But for the sharing your trip with the folks back home, you could sign up for Google Latitude. http://www.google.com/latitude/intro.html

If your phone has GPS built in, it uses that to show your location, and if not, it does it based on cellphone towers, I think.
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Old 07-28-10, 07:56 AM   #3
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Or Crazyguyonabike. Not a site most non-cyclists think of but it's a site where a lot of the rest of us look.
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Old 07-28-10, 08:04 AM   #4
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With a crazyguyonabike.com journal you can do updates via email so composing emails offline and sending them when you next connect works well. That might be one answer. It is a good place to post a journal especially if your audience is the touring community.

Various blogs sites might work well depending on what you want. Some like blogger can be updated by email.
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Old 07-28-10, 08:05 AM   #5
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Motorola Droid or variants.

Slide-out keyboard, USB cable mounts the SD card. Check with the carrier for international coverage and costs, it's gonna be expensive -- especially data usage. I'd also get a Dropbox account.

You can find a GPS app, or better yet use a device like the SPOT. It will track your location, allow you to share that info if you want, uses AA batteries, has both emergency and non-emergency help request buttons, and has a much longer battery life (14 days with tracking on). I'd say a round-the-world trip warrants a specialized device.

One thing to keep in mind is that any smartphone will have a short battery life, especially if you start cranking up the GPS tracking software. You'll kill the battery in a day or less if it's on all the time, tracking your location and ticking that info off to a server.

On a side note, if you read a fair amount I highly recommend that you pick up an ebook reader (Kindle, Nook whatever). They are a fraction of the size and weight of paper books and battery life is excellent (1 week or more off of a small charge). The Kindle also allows you to purchase ebooks wirelessly when you're abroad.
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Old 07-28-10, 08:35 AM   #6
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One thing to keep in mind is that any smartphone will have a short battery life, especially if you start cranking up the GPS tracking software. You'll kill the battery in a day or less if it's on all the time, tracking your location and ticking that info off to a server.
Definitely an issue. If there is no signal, and it is not put into some offline mode, one day may be a generous estimate. Some of these devices kill batteries fast if constantly searching for a signal

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On a side note, if you read a fair amount I highly recommend that you pick up an ebook reader (Kindle, Nook whatever). They are a fraction of the size and weight of paper books and battery life is excellent (1 week or more off of a small charge). The Kindle also allows you to purchase ebooks wirelessly when you're abroad.
I would also add that you can take other documents along in addition to books. We took all kinds of stuff, like my notes from planning the trip, notes about places to visit along the way, maps, contact info for people we knew along the way, contact info for WarmShowers hosts, and so on. We took them in the form of pdf files. It was really pretty handy. Just check to see if you can read them before you go. I think my daughter emailed some of them to her account or something so they were concerted to be compatible with the kindle.
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Old 07-28-10, 09:02 AM   #7
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Thanks for your suggestions so far

Re: CGOAB - I've come across this loads but faced with just mountains of text never really investigated much! I've already got a blog set up (which I'm told can be updated by email!).

I don't want to use the GPS on a phone fro tracking simply because as pointed out the battery would last minutes, and the data roaming costs would cut my trip short to mere days I think...

The main thing I'm wondering I suppose is graphically what's best to use? i.e. google maps with manually entered locations updated by my "willing" brother, or some more fancy high tech and ideally cheap cheap way...

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Motorola Droid or variants.
Bacciagalupe - those were exactly my thoughts, except I borrowed a Milestone from a friend for a week and found that the slide out keyboard was tough to use and the battery drained after less than a day (though I was playing some weird robot game a lot)

Definitely keen to have something seperate from this like the SPOT device, only without the subscription charge (hence having to download tracker data and email back to my brother, for example). It's alternatives to SPOT (and how to display data) I guess that I'm really wondering about...?

I've got the ebook reader sorted - aside from hopefully working on whatever smartphone i get, I bought a wind up mp3 player that has an ebook function (albeit basic). Still as you say though, saves carrying around those pesky harbacks!

Just need to work out how to write notes now, so I can copy them via usb (if wi-fi isn't available)
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Old 07-28-10, 09:08 AM   #8
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I think the newer BlackBerry models would work well for you. GSM support, WiFi built in, Bluetooth, camera, GPS, etc. My BB came with the "Word to Go" app. If you upgrade it (not sure of the cost) it allows you to create new Word docs. The free version allows you to view docs, but to edit or create you need to upgrade (haven't tried it). I find my BB to be very good on battery life, too.
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Old 07-28-10, 09:11 AM   #9
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One other comment re: BBs. Not to sound like a BB shill, but I've also found my several BlackBerries to be very tough. I've lost track of the number of times I've dropped them on concrete, hard ground, etc., bad enough for the battery to come out. Still works and looks fine. Also, the smaller screen (compared to many Droid models) doesn't eat battery life too bad. But, of course, it's a trade off for screen real estate.
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Old 07-28-10, 09:20 AM   #10
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I used a SPOT to keep family and friends updated as to my where-abouts. My girlfriend bought it for me. They thought it was a great thing. Click on the coordinates in the email and they've got your exact location on Google Earth, instantly. A hundred bucks for the years subscription is not that bad a deal. Ten extra dollars will get you $300,000.00 worth of emergency extraction insurance from Lloyd's of London. If you're going round the world, it may be a consideration. I would not leave for a world tour without it.

My experience with smart phones (I used a G1 iphone) was that data roaming/roaming in general, is bloody expensive. Though, I have to say, I'd use it again.

Last edited by foamy; 07-28-10 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 07-28-10, 09:45 AM   #11
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blackberry, world phone (cdma, gsm, with removeable sim card)
wordpress for blackberry installed, and a blog connected to it, along with an email addy setup that will forward to the blog in case you need a backup way of accessing it.

you can buy sims for the phone in country - pay as you go. you might not have data plans on it - but the new line of bold (tour) world phones (9650) and most likely the new line of 9800s will have wifi - so you can email and upload from hotel / cafe / hostel.

as for a .txt document - does documents to go not work for you? if you have the premium version you should be able to write new .doc files.
or the memopad? just copy / paste later?
or use bbnotepad?

as to the SPOT - you can set up a share page and send the link to family / friends. i think you can password protect it too.
i love mine.
you can get the new delorme thing - spot and mapping gps in 2 units that work together. custom text messages via sattelite.



and with the spot, you do not download, it uploads to the sat your location and drops it into your page. by accessing your account or your share page is how folks can track you.



i wouldn't use my bb as a nav device, only in a pinch with google maps.


and here's what worked for kent peterson on his tour divide trip this year.
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Old 07-28-10, 09:51 AM   #12
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Hi Cliff,

Consider the iPhone, which can be used for music, podcasts, e-books, surfing, blogging, e-mail, gps, and more. I've also written a iPhone app that lets you post updates from the road for family & friends to follow along. Here's the site, a sample map from my summer trip, and an FAQ describing how it works. With the new iPhone 4 coming out you could probably find an older iPhone 3GS for a good price.

Good luck on your tour! I've bookmarked your blog and will follow along.

cheers,
Chris
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Old 07-28-10, 10:34 AM   #13
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or use bbnotepad?
That sir, is exactly what i was looking for. Thank you!! Our IT manager is a bit stingy though so a lot of the apps I'd have wanted to trial out don't seem to work on my antiquated BB, but this one works nicely!!

Am also now seriously reconsidering the SPOT tracker. I like the fact that I don't need to upload it (giving real time info).Just need to find someone generous enough to get that for me as a going away gift...

I don't suppose there's any device that you can manually enter waypoints on during the day, and then connect it to a BB (or similar) to upload data once in a wifi hotspot? Too much to ask for...?

Chrisch - thanks for the suggestions, though I'm a bit of an anti iphone kind of guy.
I did come across your site a few months ago and thought how perfect it would be if it were an app for BBs/Androids. Besides that it ticks pretty much all the boxes!!
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Old 07-28-10, 11:04 AM   #14
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I don't suppose there's any device that you can manually enter waypoints on during the day, and then connect it to a BB (or similar) to upload data once in a wifi hotspot? Too much to ask for...?

my maps on google? but not sure if there is workable access to that via a bb, and only on a desktop.

pretty sure there are apps that will email or text your location to an address or a phone number.
http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/567

and doesnt' the built in bb maps allow you to email a location? not sure if it is lat / lon coordinates.


as to the spot - my in-laws bought mine for me. they always want to know where their grand daughters daddy is at...
works well. wife can check in on my on long solo rides with spotty cell coverage, and i can send an 'ok' text from just about anywhere.
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Old 07-28-10, 12:10 PM   #15
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Thanks for your suggestions so far

The main thing I'm wondering I suppose is graphically what's best to use? i.e. google maps with manually entered locations updated by my "willing" brother, or some more fancy high tech and ideally cheap cheap way...

Definitely keen to have something seperate from this like the SPOT device, only without the subscription charge (hence having to download tracker data and email back to my brother, for example). It's alternatives to SPOT (and how to display data) I guess that I'm really wondering about...?
Did you check out Google Latitude? I really think it will be just the thing for you - as I said I'm pretty sure it tracks you using cellphone towers if you don't want to use GPS, so it gives a close-enough picture of where you are for your friends/family to look at. You can even embed your current location in your blog:
http://www.google.com/latitude/apps/badge
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Old 07-29-10, 04:59 AM   #16
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Did you check out Google Latitude?
http://www.google.com/latitude/apps/badge
Hi Spudd - thanks for the suggestion of Latitude. My only concern with that (as with bmike's suggestion of BB's location emailing function, which does give lon+lat coordinates btw) is the potential data cost.
As i understand, even if a phone has GPS it will of course still require a data connection to transmit the coordinates of its location, as well as downloading information about where it is. That means potentially huge data roaming fees for me, something which i'm keen to avoid!
That's my biggest concern with using my phone to pinpoint/transmit my location. I'll have a play on my BB tonight to see if it can still pick up a GPS signal with data connectivity turned on - at the moment I've not moved from my desk all morning so the test is fairly unhelpful!!

And alas, I have no in laws to speak of who would be eager to know where I am in the world. I knew I should've made a better first impression...
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Old 07-29-10, 05:09 AM   #17
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If your world tour includes China, most blog sites are blocked, so you wont be able to update. CGOAB however is open.

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Old 07-29-10, 05:13 AM   #18
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If your world tour includes China, most blog sites are blocked, so you wont be able to update. CGOAB however is open.
An interesting point... though I'm able to update my wordpress based blog just by sending it an email, so presume this should still function without issue since I don't actually need to log onto any website...?
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Old 07-29-10, 08:14 AM   #19
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I believe you don't need to turn on the GPS on your phone to use latitude, if you have it turned off (or simply don't have GPS), it uses cellphone towers to triangulate your location. This would be no data cost, and close enough for friends/family. You could test this pretty simply on your current phone by turning off the GPS and seeing what happens.
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Old 07-29-10, 08:15 AM   #20
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Google latitude would be a really cool app for people riding people riding popular routes (like US Transamerica) to use. It would be neat to be able to see all the folks riding the route, where they are in relation to you, etc. A great way to find on-the-spot touring companions.

Adventure Cycling should look into setting this up for U.S. routes. Would be a great resource.
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Old 07-29-10, 08:04 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffmat View Post
Re: CGOAB - I've come across this loads but faced with just mountains of text never really investigated much!
I'm curious as to whether you're referring to the Help page - it's true that it is getting rather long. I am thinking about splitting it up and re-writing it a bit to make it easier to use as a reference.

As others have mentioned, crazyguyonabike is still available in China, whereas many other blogger sites are blocked. Let me know if you have any questions, but if you're already decided then that's ok too.

Thanks,

Neil
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Old 07-30-10, 07:46 AM   #22
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Cliff--you probably know that GPS in itself requires zero data connectivity. But for most phone-based GPS apps to do anything interesting with the location data does require a data connection. I'm sure there are some that cache all their maps locally, though I haven't really looked into that. Dedicated GPS devices are generally designed to store their maps internally, and so aren't reliant cellular data.

I've got an app on my iPhone, Cyclemeter, that lets you use it in "no-data" mode. It logs your track without trying to place you on a map, until you get within range of wifi. Obviously it can't send periodic updates in no-data mode, though it can otherwise. FWIW, those updates are very small (just a few lines of e-mail, or a tweet), though they could add up.
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Old 07-30-10, 09:16 AM   #23
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Nokia phones store the maps on the phone so dont need to be connected to show you where you are.

However, they dont do such a good job of tracking.

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Old 07-30-10, 09:58 AM   #24
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I'm curious as to whether you're referring to the Help page - it's true that it is getting rather long. I am thinking about splitting it up and re-writing it a bit to make it easier to use as a reference.
I'll be honest Neil your website's an amazing resource which I've looked at lots now, but the problem was that I'm not the most patient of people. When I came across your site initially I didn't really take the time to navigate it properly nor find out actually its purpose as I found it somewhat user-unfriendly (not a critiscism, far better than any attempt I could make, as I said I'm just rather impatient!). Having spent a lot of time putting together my own site not really wanting to move everything now!

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Cliff--you probably know that GPS in itself requires zero data connectivity.
Indeed I did, but as you say its only when you share that information (or do something with it) that it comes into its own. That Cyclemeter app looks pretty cool - can you have it so that you manually add waypoints? I wouldn't want to have my phone on all the time (battery), so would be more keen to turn my phone on a couple of times a day an log a point.
That said I've no idea how frequently I'd be able to access data on my phone, so don't know how effective that'd be...

More and more keen on the SPOT2 tracker for shere simplicity and effectiveness; the only reason I'm so hesitant is because the money's so tight (as am I)...
In th UK to have the device do what I want I'm looking at having to spend ~£150 on the unit, ~£90 annual subscription and ~£35 for the tracking - that's £275 ($430), and those subscriptions only last a year...
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Old 07-30-10, 11:03 AM   #25
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I use the iphone, but the android equivalents (may be betters) would probably work as well.
You could just use Facebook to blog and communicate, email stuff to CGOAB or update a personal blog using WordPress. The iphone WP app works well and I've updated it on the road. A big consideration will be cost of connections. Wifi can be free, but if you connect through 3G you can rack up big international charges. Make sure you know your plan and how much it will cost you
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