The Mobile Connect application has six large buttons at the top. The far left button is the most important â€“ the Connect button. Pressing the Connect button will, unsurprisingly, connect you to the service, at which point the button will change to Disconnect. Next to the Connect/Disconnect button is a very handy and important button marked Usage. Pressing this button gives you an indication of how much data you have downloaded, and allows you to keep track of your usage, saving you from large, unexpected bills.
The next button along is marked SMS, and brings up a screen that allows you to type in SMS messages and send them directly to someoneâ€™s phone. You can build a contact database here as well, making it easy to send a text message to someone quickly.
The next two buttons are Email and Web, but the chances are that youâ€™ve set these to be your default applications, so you could just as easily click your desktop icons to access them. Next you have IM, which stands for Instant Messenger, and again you can use your preferred application or the Vodafone messenger. The last button is labelled Support and points you either to the Vodafone website or the support telephone numbers.
Connection via 3G will give you up to 384Kbits/sec download speed â€“ uploads are limited to 64Kbits/sec, but this shouldnâ€™t be too much of an issue for most users. Of course this high-speed connectivity depends entirely on whether you can access Vodafoneâ€™s 3G network from your location. I used the card all over London, and only once, in Harrow, did it have to drop down to GPRS. Since my office is in Bracknell, outside London, Vodafone advised me that I probably wouldnâ€™t be able to get 3G coverage there. However, this proved to be inaccurate, and the Mobile Connect locked onto a strong 3G signal without any issues at all.
When the service drops to GPRS youâ€™ll see a big drop in speed, down to 56Kbits/sec. That said, this is still ok for email duties and web browsing, as long as the pages arenâ€™t too graphically heavy. You can also attach an optional aerial to the Mobile Connect, and when I was using the card in Harrow, I initially found no signal at all, but plugging in the extended aerial resulted in a strong GPRS connection.
In use the Mobile Connect worked brilliantly. I connected it to a plethora of different notebooks and had no issues with any of them. I have carried the Mobile Connect pretty much everywhere with me over the last couple of months, and I just canâ€™t imagine ever being without it. Thereâ€™s something compelling about being able to open up my notebook and get online no matter where I am. I even found myself surfing the web when I was stuck in a very dull meeting at one point â€“ not that this should be encouraged of course.