By Garnet Roach firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest generation of mobile phones let you do so much more than just make calls and send texts; you can now surf the web, track your location with GPS and update your Facebook page on the go.
Internet has been available on mobile phones for a number of years, but it was slow and expensive, and has only really taken off in the last couple of years as mobile phone manufacturers have begun designing phones specifically for internet use.
Surfing the web
Modern mobile phones, such as the Apple iPhone, Nokia N95 and the BlackBerry Storm have been optimised to get you online. With large displays for viewing web pages and 3G internet speeds, you can download music, movies and apps on the go, and even upload pictures and videos straight from you phone to sites social networking sites like Flickr.
While you can visit your web-based email account from any internet-enabled mobile phone, some handsets offer push technology so you’ll receive an alert when you have new emails - just like receiving a text message.
It is simple to set up, and you can collect emails from more than one account on the same phone, allowing you to check your work and personal emails on the move.
You can collect emails manually, or have your phone check for new messages at set periods, such as every 30 minutes or every hour.
And when you hook your phone up to your computer, you can synchronise and back up your contacts, calendar and to do lists.
One of the main factors that will affect your mobile internet experience is the your download speed.
GPRS: General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is now the lowest level of internet connection for mobile phones. It operates at 128Kb, the equivalent of dial-up.
EDGE: Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution (EDGE) is faster than GPRS, offering speeds of up to 236Kb, allowing you to stream video and download larger files from the internet to your mobile phone.
3G: The broadband equivalent for mobile phones, 3G offers a maximum speed of 384Kb, with which you could download a 3MB music track in around a minute. 3G also allows you to make video calls. However, 3G coverage can be patchy in many rural areas.
HSDPA: High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) is the fastest 3G technology currently available in the UK and the method used by mobile broadband providers. It is capable of theoretical maximums of 14.4Mb, but is mostly advertised at 3.6Mb or 7.2Mb.
Many internet phones allow you to connect to local wifi networks, so you can go online without eating into your data allowance. Using wifi when possible - when you're at home or at work for example - also means that you can download bigger files at faster speeds.
If you're connecting to your home broadband package, bear in mind that any downloads you make on your phone will still count against your monthly fixed-line data allowance.
The price you pay for you mobile internet will depend on two factors; your tariff and your handset. For example, all O2 pay-monthly iPhone customers get “unlimited” data, subject to a fair usage policy - though it doesn’t publish specific details of the limit. Orange offers a 750MB fair usage policy, while Vodafone customers get a 1GB monthly data allowance with their iPhone, with out of bundle downloads charged at 50p per day.
Customers signing up to any other mobile phone packages can get a range of internet access deals, from pay per day, to bolt-ons or tariffs that come with an inclusive data allowance. Some packages even offer tethering bundles that allow you to use your phone as a mobile broadband dongle when connected to your laptop.
Speeding up your mobile internet
If you're struggling with poor internet speeds on your phone, or find your web browser hard to navigate, you might benefit from installing a new browser.
Opera Mini compresses web pages by up to 90%, allowing you to download pages faster, as well as making websites easier to navigate. And if you pay for your data, the smaller pages will cost you less too. You can download Opera Mini free online.