The Difference Between Mobile Broadband & Internet Enabled Phones
By Aaron Charles
As more adults seek more mobility when using the Internet, the options for satisfying what they seek keep growing. A Pew Research study has shown that, as of May 2010, 40 percent of American adults use mobile devices such as Internet enabled phones to either browse the Internet or send email or instant messages, an 8 percent increase from 2009.
The Big Difference
Mobile broadband and Internet enabled phones give users plenty of options to access the Web. Between the two categories there's one major difference: Internet enabled phones are cell phones that have the capacity to connect to a cellular company's wireless Internet network, and mobile broadband refers to a number of devices, including notebooks, netbooks, USB modems and cellphones, that can connect to wireless Internet.
The difference doesn't make one category better than the other. They can't really be compared, since an Internet enabled phone is actually a device within the mobile broadband category. But when someone speaks about mobile broadband, you know that the "mobile" isn't referring to a mobile phone, but to numerous mobile devices that can connect to a wireless broadband network managed by a cellular provider.
So, if someone says, "I have mobile broadband," she may mean quite a bit more than simply a BlackBerry she uses to check her email. Verizon, for example, offers a mobile broadband service that can be accessed by a Verizon phone, USB modem, mobile hotspot device (which can spread Internet access to five other Internet-enabled devices), laptop or tablet. A user could own and use all of these on the same mobile broadband subscription. Other companies, too, offer similar service. For example, AT&T and T-Mobile provide access to their 4G mobile broadband networks via multiple devices.
Given this wide capacity and variety of devices, someone could become a subscriber to a cellular service offering mobile broadband without the intent to use a cellphone at all. In fact, instead of buying an Internet enabled phone to make calls and access the Web, she could buy a "phone enabled" notebook to do just that. With services like Skype and Google Voice that us voice over Internet protocol, we now see not just phones becoming mobile computers, but computers becoming mobile phones.
Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including Salon.com and "The Portland Upside."