Having never properly set foot out of Australia until now, I have never realised the differences in day-to-day technology across the world – it’s really quite crazy. So for those who are as inexperienced with world travel as I was (and still am, really), here’s a bit of information of all the things I’ve discovered and compared with good ol’ Australia.
To sum things up in a sentence – European broadband is a million times better than ours, but Australian mobile networks are a billion times better than most European networks.
Most European countries broadband is already fibre, whether it be to the premises or to a nearby node – it’s there, and its extremely noticeable, even at public hotspots where I was getting 36MB/s download at a McDonald’s in Paris. WiFi hotspots are also available in just about every corner of major cities, you can even access a government funded free hotspot throughout the main squares of Florence in Italy, and the Brits have added hotspots into most of their phone boxes throughout London to keep their iconic red booths relevant. Wireless internet is infinitely more accessible than it is in most cities in Australia.
Mobile networks feel light years behind, though – especially in Italy where on some networks you can only get 3G in the very middle of their capital cities, and even then its pretty slow. Telstra , Optus and Vodafone Australia put most networks to shame, even Vodafone’s original network in the UK is inferior in speeds and coverage to that of Vodafone in Australia. It also doesn’t help that most buildings in cities like London, Rome and Paris are made out of thick types of rock which often blocks the signal to your phone.
Much like most things in Europe, especially the UK – getting a phone can be very pricey, with post paid being even more pricey. For example, to get a Samsung Galaxy S4 on O2 in the UK, their cheapest plan is 42 pounds a month, which equates to about $75AUD a month and includes a unlimited voice minutes, unlimited texts and only 1GB of data. You could get the S4 on a similar plan on Virgin in Australia for about $45AUD.
Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S phones, much like in Australia seem to be the phones of choice throughout Europe, with an honourable mention to Nokia with a few Lumia’s popping up around the place. HTC seems to be virtually non-existent, with the only HTC device I’ve spotted being owned by a fellow Aussie that I’m travelling with.
How tech is used
Technology in Europe seems a lot more important than it does in Australia, especially its WiFi connections – I often see elderly locals ask a waiter at a cafe or restaurant for a WiFi password, and cafe’s usually have big signs advertising the fact that they have free WiFi to customers, I have even seen “access to our WiFi network” as part of a combo meal in Italy.
Probably the most famous museum in the world, The Louvre even offers visitors Nintendo 3DS’ loaded with interactive maps of the museum for a small fee and tour guides operate with a microphone broadcasting over bluetooth to wireless headphones provided.
These are slowly coming into Australia, but self-serve registers in McDonald’s are the dominant way to order in Europe – you walk up and place your order on the screen in your language of choice, bring a ticket over to an area near the traditional registers and wait for your number to be called. This saved me multiple times from looking like a complete moron trying to speak words I had no idea how to say.
Also, for the car fans – London and Paris know how to flaunt off their stuff. Every corner in London has some form of supercar, whether it be a monster of a V10 Lambo, a sleek Ferrari or even as I witnessed, an Audi R8 drag racing the Ariel Atom (Think road legal, two door F1 car… kind of).
People can tell you what things are like in other parts of the world, even I’m trying to do that now, but after experiencing it for myself, it really is amazing how different things are – even technology. Travelling the world makes you realise all the things you take for granted, but also what you may be missing out on, too. It has given me a new perspective on things, even my silly old passion of technology.