An Easter Trip Disconnected

After a trip to visit my parents in northern NSW (usually about a 2 hour trip south from Brisbane), a particularly appalling traffic jam on returning home highlighted a couple of things to me regarding how I use my phone on journeys like these, and the limitations still presented to us when doing so.

Lets just say I am very pleased for those people who were visiting the town of Byron Bay over the Easter Weekend (our destination was a little further south), however these were not my thoughts when stuck in northbound traffic for close to two hours over a stretch of the Pacific Highway approaching the Byron on-ramp (which we usually cover in 10 minutes), thus making the trip home a leisurely 4 hour drive.

Getting There

So how was my phone involved in all of this? Firstly, the day before I had sent my mother an invitation to share my location in the Find my Friends app on her iPad, allowing her to have a reasonable idea of when we would arrive that morning. All worked well for most of the journey, with the exception of a request by the app for a login which was at the time unknown to my mother. Minor aberration soon fixed upon my arrival. During this trip, I streamed my music collection though iTunes Match for a little over two hours (I have a generous amount of data on my current plan), with the connection dropping out just the once.

Trip rating 9/10

Getting Home

The return journey and technology – not such a great pairing. The almost two-hour traffic jam where we moved only a few kilometres occurred where our 3G signal was fairly poor, leaving us without any connection throughout the entire period we were stuck. A disaster? No, however it did get me thinking about how I tend to use my devices when traveling, and the possible ramifications of this.

Starting with the Find my Friends app. It was all well and good to download this for my mum on her iPad and set things up to enable her to track our journey when we visit. When we lose connectivity? A couple of concerned parents who wonder why the location is showing a position 2 hours into a journey we should have passed in the first half hour. A breakdown? Accident? They were not to know.

Relating to the above, we were also out of range when trying to send messages. For iMessage? Forget about it, and it was difficult even getting standard SMS through. My mother’s attempts to send iMessages (as she often uses her iPad for messaging not her phone) both to myself and my wife were obviously not received either. So, again, from their end – breakdown or accident? This was ultimately resolved by eventually getting an SMS through to my mother’s mobile phone.

Of lesser importance in the connectivity side of things, we were also unable to check maps (Apple, Google or otherwise) to see if any of the side roads afforded an alternate route; check the web traffic updates to confirm if what we expected to be the source of the problem was actually the problem (and hence should be resolved once we passed that particular point); and obviously no music streaming was possible to pass the time (heaven forbid should we all actually talk – kidding, we did plenty of this).

The alternatives? Listen to CD’s (remember those?), albeit the 6 CD’s loaded into the 6-stack in-car stereo afforded a little less choice than the 6000 or so songs in my iTunes match library, however got the job done; the kids watched videos on laptops or listened to music actually on their phones; I could have listened to the podcasts I had downloaded, however didn’t necessarily see the need to subject the rest of the vehicle’s occupants with my own niche interests. As far as knowing what was going on and alternate routes? We did exactly as we used to do 10 years ago, and just waited it out along with the other few thousand motorists doing exactly the same

Return journey rating 6/10 (well we made it didn’t we – there has to be some score for that right?)

Lessons Learned

In summary, although we arrived home safe and sound, the above occurrence did highlight a few shortcomings of this “all connected” world we live in (I do acknowledge those who live in areas who experience these problems every single day). Much of what occurred above I admit were classic “first world problems” and did not really significantly concern me at the time, however when they affect others in your family, you do begin to consider how worthwhile these bits of technology are without 100% reliable coverage to ensure they work all of the time.

In future? Perhaps the case for a fully loaded dedicated car iPod; actually using the phone to call (go figure) my family rather than hopelessly trying to reach the iMessage server or get an SMS through; and resurrecting such classics as I-spy and car cricket.

By the way, had a great day with my great family. Hope your easter weekend was just as good (and fully connected).

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