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Where Wi-Fi went wrong: the tale of the portable internet radio

In the last couple of days, I managed to get my hands on a rather good piece of kit, the View Quest WiFi200 'pocket' internet radio.It's an interesting device, in that it's supposedly the smallest internet radio out there.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

In the last couple of days, I managed to get my hands on a rather good piece of kit, the View Quest WiFi200 'pocket' internet radio.

It's an interesting device, in that it's supposedly the smallest internet radio out there. Calling it a pocket radio might be stretching things a bit, although a coat pocket might qualify, but it definitely is portable.

In operation, the thing is fairly easy to set up (although it does require some manual-reading). It provides enough sound for use in the kitchen or whatnot, and has a headphone jack for private listening or connection with more serious speakers. Nice piece of kit, costing around £70-£80.

But here's the rub — it's a portable internet radio that you can't really use on the go. Why? Because those great dreams of ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage never bled through into reality. The WiFi200 really needs DAB or, heck, even FM built in to make it an indispensable companion in 2010.

Even in situations where open Wi-Fi networks are available, the common use of an interstitial page ("Click here to agree to our terms and conditions" — a sensible precaution on the part of the communications provider, given worrying developments such as the Digital Economy Act) frequently renders the WiFi200 useless. The network is there; the device can connect; it just can't get through to the online services it needs to operate.

This is not to say the portable internet radio is completely useless, because it really isn't. It's great as long as you have an unsecured network available with no landing page, or a secured network with a key that is known to you. And perhaps, in the future, it will be common to have apps that turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot (they already exist; they're just rare, clunky and often banned in operators' terms and conditions — hint: T-Mobile has no problem with such usage on its monthly smartphone data plan).

But, for now, the WiFi200 and devices like it provide a salutary reminder of how the Wi-Fi provision side has not been terribly well coordinated with the Wi-Fi usage side. Lest we forget, we're supposed to be entering the age of the Internet of Things, with scads of connected devices all around us.

Perhaps View Quest's next portable internet radio should have an embedded SIM instead.

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