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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Don't forget the smartphone

Water bottles? Check.

Energy bars? Check.

Smartphone? Definitely.

One of the items you don't want to leave home without on a long ride is a cell phone, preferably a smartphone like the BlackBerry Storm or iPhone.

Two weekends ago, I had the misfortune of having my back tire rip in the middle of a busy intersection in Renton. I didn't know the area well, and there was no bike shop within my sights.

Smartphones can be handy in this situation. On my BlackBerry Storm, I opened my Google Maps application, located my position and searched for "bike shop." The app searches within a fixed radius. Sure enough, the app listed the name and phone number of a bike shop that wasn't too far away if I hopped on a bus.

If I did not have a smartphone, I could have spent a half-hour to an hour looking for a bike shop. Instead, it took me 60 seconds. Incredible.

During this weekend's ride, I'll be traveling with my Storm and using it occasionally to snap photos or video and upload them to the web. Now I know the iPhone lovers are clucking their tongues and feeling sorry for me.

While it's no iPhone, the device that the New York Times' David Pogue panned when it launched last November doesn't deserve ridicule. Either you like SurePress or you don't. I happen to like it because I know what letters I'm about to type before I select them.

The Storm is an efficient, reliable and robust workhorse, especially since Verizon Wireless pushed out an OS update.

The 3.2-megapixel camera and GPS are well integrated, so all my photos are geotagged and can be quickly mapped. My Storm will be turned off while I'm riding to preserve battery life.

Thanks to the strength of the Verizon Wireless network, my emails arrive at their destinations in less than a minute, and Web pages load relatively fast on the beautiful touchscreen. Unfortunately, the device doesn't have Wi-Fi capability.

I am sure that we will pass through some dead zones where my Storm won't be able to connect with the network.

The area between Olympia, Wash., and Longview, Wash., is where my access to mobile email and web browsing may be less certain. The enhanced services area (dark green) looks pretty constricted on a map I captured from Verizon Wireless' website (below).

But I should still be able to make a call in case of emergency!

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