USB SoftGSM

Swedish IT company Micro Systemation has developed SoftGSM, a software-based GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) solution that connects Macs to the Web using mobile phones. With SoftGSM it’s possible to browse the Internet, and send and receive emails using a USB connection and any compatible mobile phone. It’s also a welcome solution for iBook users, like myself – who have USB and ethernet ports, but lack any kind of mobile connection. The package contains the SoftGSM software installer and a cable – you provide the phone. I used a Nokia 7110e for the testing, but SoftGSM also supports phones from Ericsson, Siemens and Motorola. Different manufacturers use different connection ports on their mobiles, so it’s essential to ensure that the correct kit for the correct brand and model of phone are ordered when purchasing SoftGSM. The next hurdle is your GSM network supplier. I used Orange for this test. I had to contact the company and request a SIM update for my phone to make it data-capable. Without the update the connection will be terminated as soon as the network realizes your making a data call. It’s worth contacting your network supplier before you buy to confirm it supports data traffic. After instalation, you must adjust settings in the Modem Control Panel – select SoftGSM as both the Modem and as the Connect By method here. Now all you need do is open up Remote Access, hit connect and you’ll be online in seconds. Expect maximum speeds of 9,600bps, as this is the ceiling for mobile data traffic in the UK – though some higher-speed services are available (at a price) from some operators, for example, Orange. Web browsing at this speed is a slow, and costly, process, but it’s possible to visit any site on the Net. Emails tend to be small data packets, so sending and receiving these is reasonably quick. Two features available to users of the Windows versions of SoftGSM remain unavailable for the Mac. These are the Phone Book and SMS (Short Message Service) features – but SoftGSM has promised to place installers on its Web site for these services. The Phone Book will let you access and edit the data held on the phone using a Mac.

OUR VERDICT

The product does what it sets out to do, and is an excellent solution if you spend a lot of time travelling and need a way to maintain contact with work and home. The ability to send text messages and alter the contents of the phonebook will prove useful, but as it’s unavailable now we can’t be test this. Set-up is fairly cut-and-dried, and if you are a portable Mac-wielding, mobile phone-savvy person, and you need to get online anywhere, this is a good solution.

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