Do I really need mobile internet?

Written on 2 October 2015, 02:07pm

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In the beginning of this week I started a little experiment. I did not reload my prepaid phone card – meaning I no longer had the usual 2Gb of mobile internet which were typically lasting for 3-4 weeks. I didn’t really know what to expect: without being a social media guy (probably one of the last on this planet not being on Facebook), I thought that FOMO will kick in. Well, it didn’t, maybe also because I was not 100% disconnected, still being able to access the internet from work.
Here are my top 10 findings, collected in a random order. Next to each item I put a score representing how much I missed the connected mode:
1 – not missed it at all
2 – not missed it, but it was nice to have
3 – missed it, but I could easily find a workaround
4 – missed it; the alternative is inconvenient or time consuming
5 – definitely missed it; impossible to do offline and no real alternatives/workarounds

My offline experiment

1. Music: I missed the fact that I could not listen to a particular song that crossed my mind and I had to rely on the offline playlists. Also, on one occasion I could not Shazam a song playing on the radio. Score: 3/5
2. Email: Not receiving emails on the fly is not a problem; I rarely receive emails I must respond urgently. In any case I could check the email several times per day from work. What was really annoying was the fact that I could not snooze emails to have a clean inbox. Score: 3/5
3. Photos: Here the only problem was not being able to post the photos on flickr or share them with family on Google Photos. Not very annoying, so score: 2/5
4. Files: Accessing files from Dropbox could eventually be replaced using the website; but extracting a file stored on my iPhone (like a photo or scanned invoice) required connecting the device to my work computer, which is not always possible and definitely inconvenient. Score: 4/5
5. News: Being informed is important to me, and I like being notified about the latest news. I use Newsify as feed reader – and during the test I had to make sure that I download the news in the morning. I was eventually catching up with the updates in the evening, along with the football and local news. Score: 3/5
6. Connected devices: Here I found that the mobile internet is essential. I was no longer receiving updates from my connected security camera or smoke detector, unable to see/set the home temperature or to find my Tile. Internet of things, so score: 5/5
7. Messages: switching from iMessages to old-school SMSs was not an issue in communicating with the persons that already knew about my experiment. But it was an issue for the ones who didn’t, so I was not receiving iMessages until the evening. Also, I was unable to send/receive other media than simple text. On the other hand, synchronous communication is not ideal, so score: 2/5.
8. Weather: In Belgium the weather can change quickly. So I got used to checking the forecast regularly and have the temperature displayed on my watch. Also, I was relying on push notifications to have weather updates twice per day. With the offline mode being active, I had to make sure that every morning I check the weather from home. Score: 2/5
9. Maps: During the experiment I did not need the maps. However, I know that it’s a feature that I use from time to time, and I would rate it as essential. The alternative would be to download maps for offline use, but it’s not always practical. Score: 4/5
10. Others: I realized that I am using the mobile bank app more often than I thought. But this was not an issue and it can always wait for the wi-fi.
Tracking car fuel consumption was still possible by taking a few pictures and filling the data at home.
Checking the mobile operator stats (credit, usage, etc) was impossible even on wi-fi (cellular data must be enabled), but I could always send a mobile request (#120# or similar).
Calendar, TV schedule or Skype could always wait for the wi-fi.
Overall, I would put score: 2/5.


Being disconnected is not a first world problem. We got used to do certain things from mobile internet. Meanwhile, it’s true that the current technology makes it incredibly easy to introduce yourself ‘mobile’ needs: communication, information, home automation, secure mobile banking, etc.
During the offline experiment, I also noticed some benefits. Being offline meant:
– more time to read e-books or 100-pages long PDF posts
– more time to play Peak
– more time to take/edit pictures
But being disconnected did not meant I stopped using my iPhone. Nor that it pushed me to buy newspapers/books. It just meant that it made me plan better for the day, re-organize things and make the most of the wi-fi usage.

To answer the question in the title – yes, I need mobile internet. After all, my scoring system above indicated that 3 items out of 10 scored 4 or 5, and the average was 3/5. What’s more important, mobile phone slowly becomes synonym with mobile internet device. And that’s the point to remember.


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