Checking In on Holiday

I recently took my mobile phone on holiday abroad with me. It appears I wasn’t the only one, as I surprised at how many other holidaymakers I saw constantly on their phones — strolling along the beach, cycling along the coast or eating in a restaurant, people of all ages were making a voice call, sending a message or updating their social networks.

This in stark contrast to my last summer holiday, when people thought twice before making a call or sending a text message. I think there are a couple of things that have changed people’s behaviour. Firstly, staying connected has become even more essential than ever. I saw three teenage girls sat together in a restaurant, not talking to each other but looking at their connected devices — an iPhone, an HTC phone and a Nintendo DSi. They were all connected to the Internet, browsing away or accessing a social network.

Secondly, the cost of using a mobile phone abroad has come down considerably, and more people are aware of exactly how much it costs to make and receive calls. This is partly thanks to regulatory intervention, which has forced operators to cut the cost of roaming abroad. The summer holidays in Europe have historically provided operators with a much-needed boost to revenue under attack from falling average spending.

How did I use my phone? Well, I made a couple of calls but spent most of my time checking into locations using Foursquare. For me it was a great way of letting my friends and family know where I was. Using Foursquare I opted to post my location onto my social network, which saved me the hassle of trying to explain where I was to everyone.

The service also allowed me to explore places I didn’t even know existed. And as people can leave tips and recommendations, it helped me decide where to grab a bite to eat far more easily. I’ve become hooked on the feature and I’ll certainly be using it again on my travels. I had some fun ousting individuals to become “mayor” of some locations, and I’m hoping to become mayor of my local pizza supplier back in the UK, so I can claim a free pizza on Wednesdays.

Location-based services like Foursquare have been poised to take off for some time, and they still have a few hurdles to overcome. The service didn’t always work: on numerous occasions it couldn’t tell where I was. When I tried to check in, I received a message that my phone thought I was somewhere else. I’m interested to see how Facebook’s Places feature develops and whether it can improve this aspect of the experience.

I didn’t spend my entire holiday on the phone — there was still plenty of time for more traditional pursuits, but my mobile has now gained a permanent place in my holiday suitcase, alongside the swimming trunks and the bucket and spade.