Markus' Travel and International Living Blog

Markus is an enthusiastic traveler, who lives in Houston, TX (USA) most of the time, but also spends some time in Saalfelden, near Salzburg (Austria). He is fascinated by travel and also by his experiences gathered by living in two different countries and continents.

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Monday, August 27, 2007
Houston takes the lead... in commuting expenses

Here is one that makes us Houstonian's proud: We are number 1 in yet another category. Nope, I am not talking about being the fattest city in the US (I think Detroit got that honor now...). Instead, we are the city that spends the most on our commutes. Upwards of 20% of our total income, according to Forbes. Yikes!

Here's a link to the whole story:

I'm glad I live only 10 minutes from my office. Phew!

Posted @ 6:43 PM by Egger, Markus ( -
Comments (18)

Friday, August 24, 2007
iPhone: A Traveler's Nightmare

If you also read my technical blog, you know that I recently bought an iPhone (see here and here). I recently also went on a trip to Europe and took my iPhone with me. To do so, I first had to get the service activated, which was a hassle, but it eventually worked out.

However, there are problems.

For one, using the iPhone internationally is extremely expensive. Making phone calls is not too different from other carriers, but using the data capabilities (Internet) is outrageous! 2 cents a KB. So downloading a photo that is 500K sets you back $10! (If you are looking at this post on my web site with an iPhone, you probably had to download 4-5 times that to navigate to this post...). Downloading a typical TV show over iTunes (which you currently cannot do directly on the phone, but I mention it here just for comparison with regular Internet use) would be about $800. So I knew I shouldn't use the Internet very much, and I didn't. I used it on occasion to check my email over Outlook Web Access (since there is no other working email sync I can use) and to read the news once or twice. Perhaps it all added up to a total of checking a page or two on perhaps 10 different occasions.

The result was that within 10 days of being in Austria, I had an extra $250 on my phone bill!

With that in mind, I immediately stopped using my iPhone for anything there. After all, my Windows Mobile device (T-Mobile) doesn't charge me at all for Internet access in Europe! The browser may not be as nice, but it syncs my email. Plus, Internet access is a lot faster, because the Edge network the iPhone uses is even slower when used outside the US. So not only is Internet access expensive, but it is painstakingly slow!

Interestingly enough, my phone bill for the next 10 days in Europe was another $190 over regular charges. WTF?!? I didn't even use it. Granted, I had the phone turned on, since I still used it as an iPod, but I am not aware of having used it for anything that should have accessed data. (In fact, I tried using it for that while in Germany, but I couldn't even get a data connection... Edge was not accessible it said...). So what is going on there? There is no way for me to see exactly what I am charged for. The bill just lists the KB and the data, but not what site I supposedly went to or anything like that. I have the suspicion that the iPhone uses the data connection to do other things, such as update stock quotes in the background, or download weather information.

What makes matters worse for travelers is that - even though I did some research - I am not aware of any settings or tools to manage any of this. For instance, the iPhone has a wireless connection, so if a wireless network is in range, one doesn't have to use the cellular connection. But if the wireless isn't there, then it just uses Edge. The problem is that there is no way to tell whether it actually uses the wireless connection or not. I wish there was a way to turn of the cell phone part and just use wireless like I can on my Windows Mobile device. This way I'd be certain it uses the wireless connection. Such a setting doesn't exist. I also wish I could just turn off Edge. (Because really, I do not want to turn off the cell phone, since that means I cannot make calls either). So as a result every time one carries around the turned on iPhone in Europe, it seems one runs the danger of ending up with hundreds of $ extra on the phone bill, without having received any benefit. (Either that, or AT&T charges me for things I didn't use...).

What is even worse is that there is no way to know how much data one downloads. You go to a web site and risk spending $10, $20, or more, just to see the home page. When I asked AT&T how I could see what I was about to "purchase" by going to a site, they said "just right click on the page and you can see the size in the properties". First of all, this would be after the fact, so it wouldn't be very helpful. But even if I ignored that... how the heck would I right-click on a cell phone?!? Can it be that the service reps do not grasp the difference between a computer and a phone?!? Besides, this is an Apple product. Who has ever heard of a right-click even on a Mac?

This all isn't overly cool. In fact, I am very dissatisfied. It is very insulting, and I even wonder whether it is legal. If a phone that sits on a desk unused (but admittedly turned on) just downloads stuff and runs up my bill (apparently ignoring the wireless network it is set to use), then that just doesn't seem right. I wonder how long it will take until someone sues them over this nonsense.

This Apple appears to be a bit sour...


Posted @ 10:26 AM by Egger, Markus ( -
Comments (22)








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