Smartphone horror story No. 4: The case of the disappearing data
For a mobile road warrior, the smartphone is an invaluable weapon. And when that weapon fails, all bets are off.
Tom McClintock knows the feeling. McClintock, a partner with marketing firm NSI Partners, was traveling to meet an important client when the unthinkable occurred: His smartphone, which contained all the files he needed for his meeting, stopped working.
"I'd passed through airport security, and suddenly, the phone died with no explanation," McClintock says. "I realized I'd forgotten to pack my sync cable, too, so I couldn't even connect it to my netbook to try to access the data that way."
McClintock thought fast. He called his assistant and arranged to have her dash to the airport with the cable, figuring he'd find a way to download the files off his phone once he landed. But with the clock ticking and his flight rapidly approaching, things were looking iffier by the minute.
When McClintock's assistant finally arrived, he didn't have time to make it out of the terminal and back through security again. Amazingly, the airline -- yes, those same people who scowl when you ask for a second bag of peanuts -- offered to have an agent grab the cable and bring it to McClintock's gate. He got it moments before his flight started boarding.
The moral: Never rely on a single source for important data, especially when traveling on business. Bring backups -- or, better yet, store your files in the cloud -- and you'll never have to worry about crashing and burning midway through a journey again.
Smartphone horror story No. 5: The data dollar disaster
Talk may be cheap, but data sure isn't -- at least, not when your company uses capped plans and you shatter the limit.
Blake Bookstaff of CharterJets.com depends on his business's BlackBerry to keep in touch wherever he roams. He's no data hog, though: Bookstaff has only a certain amount of data he can transfer within his company's plan. If he goes over that amount, each additional megabyte costs a pretty penny.
One month, Bookstaff noticed something strange on his smartphone: an icon indicating the device was sending and receiving data far more than it normally did. He didn't think much of it and went about his day-to-day work. Weeks later, he got wind of the month's total bill -- and it practically knocked the wind out of him.
"The bill came in, and it was several hundred dollars more [than usual]," Bookstaff says. "Whatever was happening with my BlackBerry went way over my data usage allotment."
Bookstaff figures his phone started syncing data at regular intervals -- something he didn't typically allow it to do. As he discovered, one tiny setting can lead to one massive charge on the corporate account.
The moral: Unless your limits are sky-high, keep close tabs on your data and minute usage throughout the month. Whether it's a mistakenly toggled setting or some unexpected international-travel surcharge, it's all too easy to stack up accidental fees and end up with a nasty surprise.