Phone saves road trip

So it’s noonish, a gray November day, somewhere along I-24 between Paducah and Chattanooga, headed south-southeast toward the Florida Keys.

My wife and I are going to spend Thanksgiving week at her mom’s, and for a number of reasons, we’ve decided to drive.

But because we leave on a Friday, my wife – a lawyer in Champaign – wants to be able to check in with her office.  She has some documents to deal with, and needs to send and receive materials from clients.

Luckily, just before we leave, Verizon sends a review model of the Samsung Continuum.

That little device saves the trip, in more ways than one.

In the middle of Kentucky, for an hour and a half, my wife is able to use the phone’s 3G wifi hotspot to connect a laptop to the Internet, check email, work on documents and send and receive them.

Fast-forward several hours. Night has fallen. We have been through a major traffic jam at Chattanooga, and another at Atlanta. The delays mean we won’t make our goal of getting into Florida before we stop for the night, so we take an exit that’s chock full of hotels at Tifton, Ga. The parking lot at the first one we come to seems kind of full. Someone is leaving the lobby as we go in, and I can’t see if they’re pulling around to park or leaving.

They’re leaving.

There is a big antique auto auction the next day, and every hotel in town is booked, except one, the helpful desk clerk tells us.

Now, when every hotel is booked except one, there’s probably a reason.

Still, how bad can it be? And we’re tired.

We get checked in (the desk clerk, asked where one might procure something to drink, slyly reaches under the counter and hands us two warm cans of Natural Light) and get to our room.

Now we know how bad it can be. Mold in the bathroom. A couple of the lights don’t work at first. My wife points out on the ceiling the place where, one of these days, it’s going to fall in. Probably the door locks will hold. Still, it’s a room, and we’re tired. And we have supplemented the Natural Light.

But we both want to check some things online, and we have to let our Facebook friends know about this god-awful hotel, don’t we? The hotel has wifi – we can see it on both our laptops – but we can’t connect. Once again, I fire up the Continuum’s wifi hotspot, and both laptops are able to connect with no problem.

It’s an expensive proposition, this hotspot capability. An extra 20 bucks a month on top of the cost of a data package. But it works.

The Continuum is not the only phone to offer the capability and it will probably be standard on many models in the next few months.

I haven’t even gotten to the phone itself yet, but I have to mention two other apps that were a huge help: VZ Navigator and Google’s Navigation. Both gave excellent, accurate routing information – and near-real-time traffic information, which matters when you’re looking at traffic jams and wondering how far ahead it is before the jam breaks up. On the way home, we hit tie-ups in three or four different places and the Continuum’s mapping applications were always able to tell us how far ahead the problem extended. I think my Tom-Tom is now surplus equipment.

More on the phone and its abilities coming up.

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