How Are Travelers Staying Connected?
While stranded at the airport, we took an impromptu survey of the most popular portable devices.
airport connectivity
September 11, 2008 by Richard M. Sherwin

When waiting interminably for the weather to clear after leaving the CEDIA trade show, I got to spend a lot of time with fellow travelers, many reporters, many sales people and even some execs who were not in the first class lounge. I wondered whether they had their MP3 players, PDA’s, Smart Phones, iPods, iPhones, iMacs, Blackberry’s and Palms and what they were doing with those devices during a five hour delay. So I did my own airport focus group and the results were surprising.

First, I wanted to know whether people were using their portable devices for entertainment, business, business research or just communication. Since the airport TV was fixed on CNN, I was also curious to see whether anyone was using the latest TV on a mobile phone technology that Sprint, Verizon and AT&T were offering. …or whether, with so much time, any of these supposedly tech savvy people were downloading music or videos to their phone using Verizon VCast, AT&T Blue Room or Sprint’s new and improved music service.

Also, because of resurgence in Electronic Books, I was curious whether anyone had toted along their Amazon Kindle….or Sony Reader….or whether anyone was reviewing their CEDIA notes via the new ultra small palm-camcorders.

First of all, Steve Jobs does not have to worry about his iPod franchise. Among the 35 or so people I talked to, at least a third had some iteration of the iPod and like lemmings, and they were probably going to run out and buy the next version. The big surprise, though, was how many Creative Zens, Samsung P2s, and many versions of SanDisk’s line of MP3 players were glued to the travelers’ ears. I think I may have had the only Microsoft Zune in the airport although, when I did get to show the features that the Redmond, Washington based company’s disappointing entry into this space had, there were some curious faces. And when I did activate the Zune’s Wi-Fi locator, there were apparently another few lost Zune souls in the giant airport.

Now for the battle of the mobile phones: I expected to see and hear a bevy of iPhones, either first generation or 3G versions, but I found a 15-1 ratio against Apple’s hit product. For the younger group I interviewed, meaning travelers under the age of 35, Blackberry was the predominant mobile phone and Verizon was the top carrier, with a smattering of Palm Centros and T-Mobile Sidekicks, followed by non-iPhone AT@T products. Some of the people who were going on to Europe and Asia after CEDIA were well equipped with GSM phones from AT&T and Sprint. 

The Microsoft Windows Mobile Smart Phone users I saw were an older than 35 year old group…while the hot new phones from LG, like the Dare and Voyager, were making their first appearance since my last trip a few months ago. Only one person had the Motorola Q…another the HTC…both relatively sleek multimedia Smart Phones.

The few Sprint subscribers I could find had the best seat for multimedia as their mobile phones, like the Samsung Instinct, had real time live TV of the storm that was holding us up at the airport. Those folks were watching the football on the large screen at the restaurant but keeping up with the news via their TV-mobile phone technology. Several other Verizon users were stymied as the video news on their phones was on a long delayed basis. The new LG Voyager, which comes equipped with VCast Video, also could have provided that kind of service, but even among the influencers that phone was hard to come by.

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Richard M. Sherwin - Contributing Writer
Richard Sherwin is a former syndicated technology columnist and TV/Radio analyst, who has also been a marketing executive with IBM, Philips, NBC and a chief advisor to several manufacturers and service providers.

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