Mobile to the rescue when an airplane trip goes awry

An iPhone and iPad help our intrepid traveler survive flight delays, flight cancellations, and unexpected overnight stays

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I asked her to hang on while I got my Pad out from my backpack. My iPad is a cellular version, which every frequent traveler should get -- free Wi-Fi is still a rarity at most airports. As for Android users, Samsung is now beginning to offer cellular versions of its tablets, so that platform is becoming an option for frequent travelers. I checked my email on the iPad; the confirmation came through, so I thanked the phone agent and headed for my new gate. It was now close to noon, and my new flight was scheduled to leave at 3 p.m., so I stopped for lunch and spent the next several hours iPadding.

Out of curiosity, I tracked my original flight; it took off about 40 minutes before my new one, so I could have kept it. But after all the cancelations and delays, I needed to assert some control over my travel.

Lesson: Have a cellular tablet and a smartphone, or use a dual-radio 3G/4G device like many Android smartphones. That way, you can talk and connect to data services simultaneously. The other option is to use AT&T as your carrier, as its GSM-based network supports simultaneous voice and data usage. But AT&T's poor service in my home area makes that no real option for me. Even if I had a dual-radio device, I'd want both a cellular tablet and a smartphone on hand -- you can do so much more on a tablet when sitting for hours on a plane or in a waiting area. Plus, I like using the iPhone for messaging and music playback while I use the iPad for watching videos, reading books, writing, or editing. Believe me, you'll appreciate having the capabilities of both devices at hand.

Tip: Speaking of radio issues in the iPad, I've also found that Verizon's LTE 4G service gets overloaded in crowded locations, and your connection slows to a crawl, no matter what the signal meter shows. It happens regularly when I'm in midtown Manhattan or JFK Airport; I also experienced it at the New Orleans airport last week. The iPad doesn't switch to the 3G network automatically in such cases. But if you disable the LTE radio in the Settings app, the iPad switches to the Verizon 3G network, which seems to have less contention and so operates faster than LTE in these situations. I don't know if Sprint and AT&T services or iPads have a similar issue; add a note below if you know.

The power of being connected
My day-long adventure at O'Hare -- I finally left O'Hare 23 hours after my original connection was scheduled to depart -- was exceptional. As I've noted in this story, I've experienced travel surprises on other trips. Thanks to their connectedness, your smartphone and tablet can minimize the pain of such airline adventures -- and even help you overcome them.

Make sure you have the right apps loaded and signed up for the right services, keep your devices as charged as possible, and don't forget to reach out to people for help. That way, you too can come out of an unexpectedly convoluted journey in good shape.

This article, "Mobile to the rescue when an airplane trip goes awry," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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