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Mobile Tech & being completely ill-prepared for visit to Paris

Uploaded - 10\03\2009-1

I took quite a risk coming to Paris today.

Huge risk.

I didn’t bring a guide book.

I didn’t bring a map.

I didn’t even print out a Google Map of the hotel’s location.

In fact I didn’t even lookup the Mobile Monday Paris location until I was in my hotel room.

A prepared traveler would have got all this printed out, noted and filed away a day or so before hitting the Eurostar.

Me? Well I thought I’d give it a try without all that. I thought I’d try relying on my technology. A little bit of me is semi-delighted when technology fails when I *really* need it. Reminding me of this fact in the middle of a huge technology fail won’t be that helpful though.

The reason I like to experience tech failure at the point of use is so that I can tell the product manufacturer’s Chief Executive exactly what happened. I don’t have to quote mystical examples that ‘I read somewhere’. I don’t have to use phrases like ‘Many people’ or ‘often people tell me’. When I experience it myself, I can sellotape up the feelings and the frustration and stick it away in the back of my mind for the next time I need to access some cold-hard-reality and reset the brains of some superlative quoting operator, commentator or analyst. Analysts are my favourite for not quite getting reality.

‘It’s got a GPS chip in it,’ might sound like a share-price moving incisive comment from some chap in pinstripes in New York. But when you get off the Eurostar and the GPS chip appears to have disappeared and you’re left without any electronically assisted directions, how good was that $600 handset purchase?

Anyway. I’ve got into a new habit with foreign taxi drivers. No longer do I arse about with Pigin/Pigeon French/Italian/Czech and whatnot. No.

I just get out my iPhone or Blackberry and show them a Google Map. I emailed myself the Mobile Monday Paris address earlier this evening from my laptop in the hotel room. I then hopped out the hotel room into a waiting cab and simply showed the cabbie the address on screen.

“Ah-may-oui,” the chap said and off we sped.


I did some token Mercis and rounded up the fare. All good. He’s happy. I’m happy. No one’s culture and language was horribly mangled. Neither of us left the transaction with any sort of stress.

I took both my Blackberry Bold and my iPhone with me. And lucky that I did. Neither, on their own, can withstand 60-120 minutes of full time proper usage. Neither. It’s piss-poor actually. But what can you do? Carry around a sodding armful of Proportas? No. Take two devices.

Both were fully charged when I arrived at Mobile Monday Paris. Both were on 40% when I left.

I turned left out of the venue and flipped up Google Maps on the iPhone. Geez it’s good. There is so much mental strength to be obtained from that little flashing blue dot showing where you are to the nearest 10 or 20 metres. SO much confidence. I walked along one of the roads and occasionally checked my progress. All was good.

I eventually found a cab and after the ‘oh this is Paris, oh isn’t it very Parisien, oh it’s it quite cultured etc’ wore off, I got into a cab and simply showed him the big pin stuck on the top of my hotel.

A few more “Ah-may-ouis” again and I was back at the hotel. Genius. Genius and thrice genius.

Think of the total trauma folk used to have to bear in years gone by.

Soon I might not have to even interact with a taxi driver. I should just be able to stand on the street corner, hit the ‘I need a taxi’ button and some smart bot somewhere will automatically select the best bid from 50-60 empty taxis in the area. It’ll also prioritise taxis that will automatically bill my Vodafone Bank Account when I swipe my handset against the driver’s terminal and hit ‘purchase’. Further, it’ll prioritise any taxis that have ever been used — EVER — by my friends and wider-friends/associates. So if James Whatley used three taxis whilst he was in Paris last week — and had a satisfactory experience from each (minimum of 4 out of 5 rating for each journey), then those taxis will be sent to the top of the list. The road well traveled. Especially when those taxis automatically offer a 5% discount because I’ve been referred. Nice.

I won’t have to give the taxi driver any directions. He’ll have already been told the destination from the bid details. It’ll appear on his screen and on the information screen in the headrest so I can track our progress. The same information is automatically synchronised with my device and sent out to my friends & family list. My wife knows I’m safe in a reputable taxi. My insurance company are pleased that it’s a licensed cab and my security policy has automatically made a recording of my precise (within 50cm) geolocation along with the identity of the driver, make & model of vehicle and so on. Every 60 seconds my security policy will be updated with my exact location, heart rate and indicative stress level. It’s also replicated in aggregate to the British Consulate. If I hit the panic button, my details are made public and every police officer in the vicinity is sent my passport, photo, height, build and geolocation. In a panic situation I’ll take heart from the fact I can see 5 sources of assistance, 3 policemen, 1 private detective (offering assistance for 200 Euro per hour + 175 euro hire fee — YES you’re hired) all moving toward me.

(Talk about selling a fire extinguisher to a man who’s car is on fire – the best business model ever?)

Come onnnn!

Perhaps the last bit — the security/privacy thing is a little bit too much for some. But I’d liken it to fraud protection. I’d like to get a beep to say ‘errrrr, no, you don’t want to be heading down this street or into this quarter’ when I’m in a strange city.

Anyway. Back to my experience here in Paris. It’s been super.

But I can’t help but think if both my batteries went flat for some reason.. or if I was mugged or had the devices lifted from me, I’d have been nailed.

Nailed as a dodo.

Until I found some kind of internet cafe and got hold of Google Mail and my information repository.

But that’s rather worrying. If I’d come out of Mobile Monday Paris without my devices or with their batteries flat, I’d have:

– not known the name of the hotel
– not known where I was
– been panicking
– been upsetting my wife who’d have been wondering why I hadn’t checked in with her for a few hours
– looked like a total tourist scouring the area for maps… albeit without any handsets to steal

Is it anal of me to put my iPhone on to ‘airplane’ mode in such situations so that I don’t use up it’s battery just in case I need it? 😉

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