While I was traveling in India during November and December in 2008 I brought my iPhone along. Before I left for the trip I called AT&T to get my International roaming activated and also bought the $200 data package, that would allow me to transfer a total of 200MB of data, both upload and download. Not having used the iPhone outside of the country before, I was very skeptical that my iPhone would work at all and I will be able to receive my e-mails without being on the phone with iPhone tech support for an ungodly number of hours. As it turns out my fear was mostly unfounded. When I turned on the iPhone in Singapore it did not work before I realized I had not turned on the Data Roam option on the iPhone. Once that was done the iPhone worked flawlessly just about everywhere I went - Singapore, Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta), and Midnapore (a technologically backward town 100 miles from Kolkata). It even switched carrier automatically from Airtel to Vodaphone in the middle the train ride from Kolkata to Midnapore. The fact the iPhone worked through the train ride just amazed me. Think about it, right in the heart of this 1 million habitat San Fernando Valley, California, how many cell service holes do we find ourselves in the middle of? How often do we get dropped in the middle of conversation while driving on 101 or 405? I felt through out my trip like I was in Calabasas, connected to everyone 24/7. The world got so much smaller, thanks to the cell networks and the iPhone.
The connectivity was great, but a couple of incidents really brought home the power and value of this 24/7 connection:
Incident 1: I was about 7 days into my trip. I am still in Midnapore visiting my sisters. I am still suffering from jetlag and not sleeping that well. Since I am about 12 hours apart from PST, I would get e-mails and text messages all through day and night. So I kept my iPhone right by my bed, and check e-mail as I they arrive all though the night since I was not able to sleep that well as yet. So here I was half asleep, inside a mosquito net, in Midnapore at about 3:40 AM in the morning I get this text message from a friend that said: " ". I had no idea what she was talking about. I watched on TV until about 10:30 PM, saw India beat England and crawled inside the mosquito net trying to go to sleep. The world was perfectly normal and tranquil then. There was no news of anything out of the ordinary. Remember, 24 hour news has arrived in India with a vengeance and there is no shortage of news channels on the cable dial. So I respond to the text message that essentially says: " ". Within minutes I receive two similar e-mails, first one from my personal trainer Jon, that said "Are you ok?", and a second e-mail from Robin Borough that said "I just saw an article in the NYT about attacks in Mumbai... is everything ok where you are?". Then I realized what my friend was asking on the text message. So hurriedly I went on the NY Times site to read about the attack and find out what had started. The fact that I could read NY Times at 3:40 AM in the morning in Midnapore inside a mosquito net and find out what had been happening in Mumbai, when most of India was still sleeping and unaware of the terrorist attack in Mumbai was amazing. Ironically and sadly the early edition of the Cacutta Telepgraph, the edition that gets delivered to Midnapore in the morning missed the incident completely and had no mention of the incident when I read it the following morning. Thank God for the iPhone.
Incident 2: This again happened under the same mosquito net, at 2:00 AM in Midnapore 100 miles from Calcutta. Over the past three years I had a couple of occurrences of an eye condition called Iritis. This is caused by some form of infection that requires some serious medication to treat. For about 5 days I felt some pressure in my left eye that felt like the precursor of Iritis. One morning around 2:00 AM I woke up feeling worsening of my eye condition. It has been my experience in the past that when this condition starts it does not get better by itself it gets progressively worse until it becomes very very painful. And this morning I felt I was heading towards the direction of getting progressively worse rapidly. So I realized that I may have to see an ophthalmologist if the condition gets worse. In the event I saw an ophthalmologist in Calcutta I wanted for the ophthalmologist to have the benefit of knowledge of my past eye condition and the treatment I had received. I did not want to start this new doctor to start from scratch. Unfortunately I could not remember the names of the medications I had used. But fortunately my ophthalmologist is my neighbor, friend, and golfing buddy Steve Rauchman whose contact info I had on my iPhone. So at 2:00 AM from under the mosquito net I write this urgent e-mail to Steve describing him about where I was and my current condition asking him for the names of the medications he had prescribed me. The email address I had used was his personal e-mail and was intercepted by Steve's wife Paula. Within one hour she responded that Steve will be home within the next four hours and when he is home he will respond to my e-mail. I responded by back to her thanking her for the prompt response and also told her that in the hour since the last e-mail my eye condition had gotten worse and I was pretty sure that I will have to see an ophthalmologist, and I will be looking forward to hear back from Steve. I guess my e-mail of worsening condition had gotten Paula concerned and called Steve immediately. Within five minutes she responded back saying, Steve is not in the office and does not have your chart but he is very sure that this is the medication you had used for your previous bout of Iritis. You have to be in this really impoverished technologically backward place like Midnapore to realize what a communication miracle it is to be able to what I did within a span of one hour to get some urgently needed medical information all the way across the world at 2:0 AM in the morning without getting out of bed and without using a computer. Thank God for the iPhone.
I have seen the future. It is 24/7 connectivity across the world.