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The Kindle: A World Travelers Best Friend

Posted on | July 22, 2010 | 1 Comment

I just returned from some extensive travel around Eastern Europe, and one of my challenges is keeping connected when I’m in out of the way places. I have an unlocked iPhone and collect SIM cards in various countries to save on roaming fees, and I’ve found this is a great solution if you’re in more developed areas. But on my last trip, I had a heck of a time finding a signal to transfer data using my iphone, and because each region had it’s own carrier it quickly became onerous to buy a new SIM card every couple of days just to check email.

Part-way through my trip, I really needed to check my email for an important message and just about everything I tried to do failed. The local wifi cafe was out of service due to a recent power failure, and my phone wasn’t finding a GPRS signal at all using the SIM card I had purchased.

Then I had an idea: I wonder if my Kindle could get a connection? Yup.

Mind you, the Kindle UI is terrible. The keyboard and button layout seems designed to trigger RSI. The screen lacks a backlight, is fuzzy, black-and-white, and does nothing when you touch it. The processor runs like it’s powered by a team of slugs in a hamster-wheel. And the included web browser might actually be worse than Mosaic 0.1 from 1992.

But the “world” edition of the Kindle is a travelers best friend. Why?

1) Data roaming is FREE for web surfing in dozens of countries. Not cheap: it’s totally frickin’ free for web browsing. So if you bring your Kindle along to Europe or Asia or wherever, you can pull it out, power it on, and get a cell connection that let’s you check your email. Compare that to AT&T’s $20/MB data roaming fee. Even better, the Kindle will connect to whatever carrier is available, so you’re more likely to get a connection in sparsely populated areas. (Here is a page showing the coverage area http://client0.cellmaps.com/tabs.html#cellmaps_intl_tab)

2) The battery lasts for days or weeks without a recharge. You do have to turn off the wireless connection when you aren’t using it or it’s likely the battery will be flat in a day or two, but if you can remember to do that you can easily run off camping in the woods for days and still have something to read without needing a recharge.

3) The Kindle is thin and ultra-lightweight. When running around the world with all of your belongings in a backpack, it’s critical that you keep the weight of your stuff down. The Kindle easily fits in your pack and is only a few onces, so it’s easy to justify bringing it along.

4) It’s not a bad book reader either. I rarely have time to read at home, but when I’m traveling I finally get a chance to catch up on reading and the Kindle serves this purpose nicely. It also provides a reasonable place for travel guides and language dictionaries (though I wouldn’t want too pull it out on the street in some parts of the world to look up a word).

Mind you, it’s next to impossible to type on the Kindle so don’t expect to actually use it for real work or blog posts. But if you’re trying to check email in a remote place, it’s a pretty decent and cost effective solution that might save your butt if the usual internet connections aren’t available. It’s sufficient to read web articles, news, and weather just fine.

Hopefully, Amazon’s effort to create an app store for the Kindle will launch soon and we’ll see some better browsers or tethering applications in the future. That, plus a hardware/OS update, could be pretty compelling. But for now, if you have a “global” Kindle don’t forget that you can use it, well, globally.

Comments

One Response to “The Kindle: A World Travelers Best Friend”

  1. dmarks007
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

    [New Post] The Kindle: A World Travelers Best Friend – via #twitoaster http://youcanchangeitlater.com/2010/07/2

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