How to connect to the internet when there’s no internet

Even phone booths are going where hotels fear to tread.
Even phone booths are going where hotels fear to tread.
Image: Reuters/Keith Bedford
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It remains a mystery why some of the fanciest hotels in the world, which offer everything from free designer toiletries to chocolates on your pillow, still charge a separate—and often extortionate—fee to connect to the internet. If you’re in a foreign country, you often have no choice but to pay the hotel; using mobile internet with data roaming is pricier still.

Be-Bound, a new app launched recently and available only on Android for now, promises to help when you have network coverage but no internet connection (or when you don’t want to cough up for internet access, whether because of frugality or stubbornness). Even without an internet connection, it gives users access to a small suite of services, including search, email, weather, stocks, maps and Twitter, among others.

It works through text message, which, like an internet connection, is simply a way of moving information around. Request your email through the app and it will send a text message (much like how you can tweet via text message without an internet connection) to its servers, which process the request and deliver the data back the same way. Be-Bound charges a small fee to act as the go-between, but it still works out to be much cheaper than either paid wifi or data roaming.

Be-Bound can be useful when you have an internet connection, too. Like the mobile web browsers Opera Mini and UC Web, which route traffic to your phone via their servers and crunch it before passing it on, Be-Bound also compresses data before delivering it to your phone. This isn’t a big deal for people with unlimited data plans, but for those who have to mind their data consumption (because of roaming or fixed data plans), it’s immensely useful. Indeed, Facebook just last month bought an Israeli data-crunching company as it pushed ever harder into the developing world, where data consumption is a chief concern for smartphone users.