For recreational vehicle travelers, staying connected while on the road has seldom been easy or cheap, especially prior to the advent of Smartphones. Even after the new technology of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Droid came along, the cost of the phones as well as the monthly data/calling plan priced a lot of us right out of the market. The good news for the RVer is that many of those obstacles no longer exist. Smartphones are now helping RV travelers stay connected even in some of the most remote locations.
Competition in the carrier market has brought both the cost of the phones and the cost of data/calling plans down out of the stratosphere. Even better, most carriers are now providing customers with the ability to tether their phone’s internet connection to other devices. Tethering allows customers to use tethering-enabled Smartphones as a modem to provide a broadband Internet connection for laptops, netbooks, iPads and other computing devices.
The RV travelers are embracing this new technology in record numbers. On my last trip, an unscientific survey of fellow campers revealed that more than half owned some brand of Smartphone and all of those said they wouldn’t want to leave home without it. Even without the tethering capability, they were still able to stay connected so they could send/receive email, plan their travel with Apps such as Google Maps, search the Internet for a campground down the road, and make reservations. Some were already tethering their laptop with their phone and many more said they had plans to do so in the future.
In the past, folks that had iPhones on the AT&T network were not allowed to tether their phones with a computer under AT&T’s terms of service. In March 2011, concurrent with Apple’s release of OS4 for iPhone, AT&T began offering a tethering plan for $45/mo. Since these iPhone users were obligated to pay a minimum of $15/mo. for a data plan anyway, the consensus opinion was that the ability to have their own Internet hot spot right in the RV would be well worth the extra $30 a month.
Technology has certainly changed the face of travel and camping in a trailer or motor home. Gone are the days of the road atlas, stopping at a phone booth to make a call, settling for few local TV channels picked up by the old batwing antenna, or packing up a suitcase full of cassette tapes to take your tunes on the journey. Now, RVers consult Google Maps, make phone calls out in the middle of nowhere on the iPhone, access 160 channels on the satellite TV, carry our entire music collection on an iPod, and can connect the laptop to the Internet even while boondocking. It’s a marvelous thing.
Now, if Apple could just come up with a high-tech gadget to dump the black water tank for us, we’d be golden.