I was thinking of titling this post, “When you’re smartphone becomes dumb.” or “Why you don’t need a new iPhone” … you see, here on the island, we do not have data on our phones. Which means, no Google, no email, no Facebook posts, no check-ins. When we started our adventure we switched over our 3 phones to unlocked phones … this way we can put different sims in them as we travel from place to place. This, in theory should make it easy, and cheaper to stay connected and allow us to communicate.
In the Virgin Islands we found that a data plan for a phone was about the same as it was in the US and that it was cost effective to have our phones with “internet” … heck, this was the way we got internet access for everything, as we would tether a phone to the computer to allow everyone to have access. We found that it wasn’t really that cheap, as the plans are metered and in the end, it cost us about $100/wk. Expensive by US standards, but not too bad for 7 people staying connected.
When we got to St. Martin and looked into something similar we found that the phone (voice and sms) was a little cheaper, but cellular data was very expensive … to get the same as we had in the BVIs would cost us about $300/wk, and be super slow, as the network here is barely 3G and changes from one side of the island to the other. In the end we opted for just basic phone service.
What we did find was that WiFi access is fairly prevalent … we have access on the boat, as the marina provides this (at a fee). But what is really interesting to me is that just about every establishment/business provides WiFi access. You go to a shop, restaurant or bar … order something and ask “What is the WiFi?” … they in turn hand you your beer, etc and let you know the name of the WiFi network and the password. As you visit different places on the island, your list of “known” networks increases … right now my phone has 50+ different WiFi hotspots in it …
Turns out that about the only time that I am not connected to the internet is when I am moving, either in the lagoon on the dinghy or in the car … this it turns out isn’t really bad, as driving here requires a little more focus :). I’ve never been charged for access, many times they don’t even ask me to purchase something … a few times the network has no password … in the end, it seems to work very well …
From conversations, most people have internet access in their homes, it is about $40-50/mth … not bad, but still a little expensive for some locals. There is little “online” shopping, and little use of local internet businesses … maybe an opportunity :).
You see many kids with blackberrys and simpler (basic) phones … you come to realize that the smartphones are more a status symbol, usually denoted by the cases with rhinestones … maybe being “always on” isn’t all that great, I wonder if this compromise isn’t bad.
We have noticed one thing … when we are out at anchor, where there is no internet connection, our kids seem to play more with each other. They are doing other things, usually together. Whether it is painting, playing, dancing or swimming … it is noticeable. I wonder if there isn’t a threshold with connectivity … you get so much that you become isolated, living mostly online … we’ll keep a watch on this, very interesting developments.
Oh yeah, Jack doesn’t care about being online, just about being able to get the Xbox running … when at anchor the standard question is “When is the generator going to run?” … I found him the other morning trying to figure out the controls to get it started :).
Interesting article about Pinel Island http://www.caribbeanpaddling.com/saint-martin-sint-maarten/pinel-island/ … sorry the pictures don’t have anything to do with the post, but noone wants to see pictures of phones