There are a couple of ways you can use your mobile phone to connect to the internet. It can be a tricky process, though, particularly when you're travelling overseas and need to hop between carriers and root out configuration codes for Mac OS X's Bluetooth software.
We suspect you'll be on to your network provider's helpful customer service team in Bangalore before long, who may or may not be familiar with the Mac OS, and who may or may not be able to salvage your will to live.
nova media's launch2net aims to simplify the process by scanning the area for a paired Bluetooth device with an internet connection and quickly using that connection to go online.
When you pair that device with the Mac, just remember to allow the OS to use the phone's internet connection. launch2net does the rest and deals with the cellular network configuration thanks to a Configurator panel built into the application.
It's a simple two-step procedure from there. The Configurator tells you the signal strength and a connector panel invites you to click Connect. Data rates are then displayed in the connector panel, or in your Mac's menu bar as you prefer.
The data rate we experienced wasn't zippy, but such rates vary depending on the package you have from your provider, your phone and where you're sitting. We took our MacBook out on a walk around town and used our spanky new Nokia 6630 to go online. We experienced a data rate almost identical to that of our 3G Vodafone ExpressCard modem, usually just under 200Kb/sec, despite claims of MB/sec from the provider.
While that's fine for sending and receiving light email loads, sending even a 684KB photo took a while. And at the back of your mind is the constant nag about how much this is all costing; after all, you're using your phone's minutes package and data rate at the same time. We reckon launch2net is aimed at the pro market when you tot up the running costs.
Fortunately, a demo version is available online (and on our DVD - see page 66). This is good for ten connections lasting five minutes each. We suggest trying it before buying the full product, which isn't cheap. Note also that launch2net doesn't work with some phones and has patchy results with others. A list of compatible phones is on nova media's website.
But with a compliant device and network, launch2net isn't fussy. It supports a wide range of network protocols (GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA), certainly all the ones that come to mind, and also works with ExpressCard modems and PC data cards. The advantage of being able to use various protocols and a spread of different devices is that if the signal from your modem, say, is weak in one area, then you can jump to using the mobile phone's protocol instead.
To be honest, unless you're a frequent traveller, we doubt the value of this software. When we're out of the country to dribble over new tech in foreign lands, we use Vodafone cards, which, after the initial setting up process, require only one click to go online.
Using the phone to go online means you're leveraging both the service provider's normal phone minutes and data rate, and, pass the smelling salts, their overseas premium, which racks up nicely when you start sending attachments. But beyond this, in the countries we travelled to we never seemed to be more than a stone's throw from a WiFi hotspot, hotel connection or someone's network anyway.
Is launch2net worth the €75 asking price? If the company doesn't mind paying then, yes, it could be handy, but we're keeping our own pockets offline for now.