Ewan around America with a $250 phone budget - part 4

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Some say he's secretly part of Finnish Rock band Lordi. Some say he only needs 5 minutes sleep a night. All we know is, he's called Ewan Spence. Part 4 of a series of short videos from Ewan is embedded below, along with some of his 'diary' commentary, as part of his gaming and blogging spring trip to San Francisco (GDC) and Austin (SXSW). Rafe set him a series of challenges (also known as a real world test of the Nokia 5230 / Nokia Nuron). In part 4, Ewan takes on the Stig-delivered challenge of finding a party, having a drink and messing around with FourSquare.... [Hmm... sounds like a 'jolly' to me.... Ed]

To accompany the video, here's Ewan's latest diary extract:

"Prowling the halls of South by Southwest with the last $15 of my $250 budget, I've loaded three applications onto the device to make my limited bandwidth browsing more efficient. S60 is already pretty frugal with bandwidth (although there are obvious exceptions, such as streaming music), but I decided, partly out of fear, to do what I could to make the most of the 100MB of data that I have purchased from AT&T for the rest of my time in America.


Data Quota - Freeware



A small graphical representation of your data usage in the last month, I've left this running in the background to see what has been actually going in and out of the phone. A freeware piece of code by Hugo van Kemendae, it reads the numbers provided by the built in data tracker (under the Log app), but the addition of the bar graphs – and the fact that it adds together the incoming and outgoing data, make this an invaluable for the paranoid data watcher who needs to track every byte that goes over the cellular data connection.


Gravity - -$9.99 from the Ovi Store


I'm more than happy to burn two thirds of the remaining budget to get this flagship third party application on to my 5230. Staying connected to the real time web is becoming more and more important, and Gravity (which was one of the highlights of my time at SXSW in 2009) is becoming the keystone on S60 to this world. Initially for Twitter, Gravity now supports a number of sites and protocols.


Probably the most important feature, alongside Twitter, is Facebook and Foursquare. Both of these can be added into the same interface and updated independently, but to be able to switch to another social network, all while staying inside the same interface is wonderful. It's far easier, smoother and more sensible than heading to the m.name.com mobile versions of these sites.

Screenshot Screenshot

Gravity also has two more tricks that I really appreciate. The first is the ability to switch off the downloading of avatar graphics, which can leading to a significant bandwidth saving if you have as many friends on these networks as I have. The second is that it allows server side compression – in essence, the data is compressed at the server end, and this smaller file is sent to you and expanded back to size on your handset. That saves a few kilobytes every time!



Opera Mini – Free download


The app that famously means "your phone is not a smartphone" (gah), is happily installed on my smartphone. Not because there is anything drastically wrong with the built in browser, but it's just too heavy in data usage. By trying to bring down the full web page, that could be, with modern bloat, over 400K for a single page. A few of these each day and you can say goodbye to any bandwidth budgeting.


So it's time to turn to a capable alternative. Although Opera Mobile is available for the 5230, I've decided to install the java-based client instead. It works on a server mdoel, so rather than connect directly to the web page, the browser connects to the Opera server, and that server pulls down the page, strips out the rubbish and bloat in the HTML and sends the handset “just the facts” in a much smaller data footprint.

Once you switch off images, you get both a nippy browser with very little data used, Those 400K pages can be down as low as 3 or 4K now, admittedly you won't see the Flash animations, but you will get the information that's on the page, and very quickly. For me, while mobile, that information is more important than looking pretty. That Opera Mini does so much to preserve my budget is a bonus.



So there we go, three apps that I think are vital to the Road Warrior on a budget, be it a data budget or a price budget (because, in essence, they both boil down to the same thing). But what have I missed? Let me know in the comments, there's still time to work on some more ideas while I'm here in Texas."