I couldn’t get access to my money. I couldn’t pay my bills. I couldn’t receive my mail or alerts. I couldn’t communicate with my family. I wouldn’t know what was happening in the world. No, I wasn’t locked up in a foreign jail or lost in the wilderness. This is what would happen (for a short time) if my smartphone stopped working while I was traveling in my RV.
I experienced a small version of this recently while traveling in Maine. The touchscreen on my two-year old LG G2 smartphone started to malfunction. A big swath of my touchscreen keyboard wouldn’t work, so I couldn’t sign-on to some key apps or systems. I couldn’t type text messages or emails accurately. If it got worse, I may have been unable to enter the PIN to unlock my phone.
It’s wasn’t a huge problem. A few years ago I could have waited a week or so to get it fixed. But given how much I depend on my smartphone and mobile internet access these days, it was something I needed to address fairly quickly.
After trying different things and checking on the web for possible solutions, I diagnosed it (and Verizon confirmed it) that sections of touch screen were starting to go. I guess it’s not that uncommon with the LG G2. Luckily, I was just 12 miles away from a Verizon store and was able to get a new smartphone up and running within a couple of hours. But, as I was there, I noticed that most of the people arriving at the store were there because something wasn’t working on their smartphone. Three people who walked in right after me had dead phones because they dropped their smartphones in the toilet!
The whole experience caused me to reflect. Over the past two years, I’ve really become dependent on my smartphone. I went paperless and now get and pay most of my bills with my smartphone. I get financial alerts, news, move money, and manage my investments with it. And it’s the main way I communicate with people who are remote from me. Also, when traveling, I use the phone as a hotspot to get access to the Internet with my laptop.
If you’re near a Verizon store (or AT&T, Sprint), getting a replacement phone is pretty easy. And if you use the backup service with Verizon and Google (or Apple) it’s easy to get all your apps and everything back onto a new phone. But, that’s not always going to be the case based on the places you may travel to. Being an old Boy Scout (Be Prepared) made me think that some backup capability would probably be a good idea. Especially since I travel a lot and dropping a smartphone in a toilet is a common occurrence. I carry some spare parts for the RV, why not have something for my internet access?
My Backup Plan
- I don’t keep anything essential on the smartphone. I don’t often use my smartphone for pictures but I do move any I take up to the cloud (Google Drive). Contacts, important documents, and notes are also kept there. If the phone goes in the toilet, I don’t want anything important on it.
- I now use my tablet as a backup device. I have an Android 7 in tablet that I use mostly for Kindle reading and listening to music (I also take it with me when I travel). I now have that device set up with all the same apps that are on my new Android smartphone. When I bought the tablet 3 years ago, it came with a SIM card and I had it on my data plan. But, once I got my smartphone, I removed it because I didn’t need to use it for mobile data. I now just use it on wi-fi. For $10 a month, I added it back on my data plan. I could have acquired a hotspot but since I already owned the tablet with a SIM card, it can function as a hot spot and as my backup device. Having a backup is important to me – either a tablet or laptop and have another way (like a mobile hotspot) to access the internet.
- I got a better mobile booster. I have a Wilson Sleek 4G booster and use it on an as needed basis. It’s worked good for me in many remote places, especially when using a 12 in antenna with a good ground plane. But, it’s only good for a single device and only runs on a DC outlet. There are newer more powerful devices now that support more than one device and can be installed in a more permanent setup. So, I acquired a weBoost Drive 4G-M booster with an AC adapter. This device has almost twice the power of my Sleek 4G and my wife can use it when we both travel. My tablet will also work with it, which couldn’t be done with the Sleek 4G. I’ve kept the 4G (which is small) as a backup.
- I have a wi-fi booster that I use at campgrounds that have wi-fi. It’s a small inexpensive device to carry while traveling to make it easier to connect to wi-fi. It makes it easy to sit outside places (e.g, Lowes, MacDonalds, Libraries) that have free wi-fi.
- I carry a laptop with me when I travel. I use it mostly for writing blog posts but it’s also a backup device for accessing the internet over wi-fi.
For some, when trading in or upgrading a smartphone, keeping the old phone (if it’s working) as a backup may make sense. When you switch over to a new phone, calling, texting, and mobile data will stop on the old phone but all the apps will continue to work on wi-fi. And it can easily be reactivated if needed
For me, the internet use to be a casual thing I used for email and research. If I couldn’t get access it was no big deal. But over the past few years, with the advent of smartphones, mobile data, and sophisticated apps, I’ve become very dependent on having it readily available.
I’m not an internet addict but checking on things at least once or twice a day is now just part of my daily living. Texting has replaced calling and is now a main form of communicating. Paper bills and financial statements are now emails. Especially as an RVer who travels half the year, mobile internet has become an important tether to the things and people I’m connected to.
Having my smartphone fail made me realize this dependency. It’s not a bad thing, just something that’s different. In 3-5 years, I’m sure it will all be different and my dependency will probably be even greater. By that time, boosters will be a thing of the past. I’ll probably have some type of implant or a wearable device. And smartphones, will be a thing of the past just like flip phones.
I hope sharing this helped someone. I’d be interested in hearing about what others do for backup.