You need to add data service to your cellphone today, Luddite

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Yesterday I mentioned my excitement to the prospect of Opera making a version of Opera Mini native to Android. Those of us who use our phones for more than texting and calling all find it interesting, but then after talking to friends, I find I’m in the minority. The fact is, most of you don’t use your cellphone’s Internet connection, and that’s sad.

The promise at the turn of the century was that we’d be accessing the Internet from more handheld devices than computers, and while it’s true there are more Internet-capable phones than PCs in the US, we’re not where we though we would be, and it’s all your fault.

OK, not all your fault, but there are three distinct reasons why we’ve failed: The browsers that ship with most mobiles are crap, the carriers charge way too much for the service, and you’re scared of change. But we can fix all three quickly.

First up, you need to realize that the mobile Web isn’t just the postage sized weather reports it was a few years ago. Thanks to the popularity of devices like the iPhone and proxy-based browsers like Opera Mini, you have access to everything you can get to on your desktop.

Your phone’s integrated browser sucks, but you don’t have to use it, except to download Opera Mini, which, once installed, makes your phone quite usable as a portable Internet device. It’s free and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be using it today.

It takes your page requests and feeds them through the custom Opera proxy servers. This sends to your handset re-rendered versions of the Website made compatible with your phone. Thus, easy to read and navigate on a phone. It’s fast, too, as extraneous tags and code is stripped out.

Next up we need service. All phones have a per-Kilobit charge associated for casual browsing (like the previous step), but they also offer limited access plans for as little as $5 a month. Get one. Opera Mini isn’t tied into the limited sites that the built-in browser is, and you get full Web-browsing for pennies a day. You can thank me later.

Read your carrier’s fine print first, of course, as you might get hosed here. Worst case scenario you can always ask them to put you on a $15/month unlimited plan, made retroactive to the beginning of your billing cycle, which they usually do for you.

Lastly, you have to realize that every piece of information on the Internet is accessible through your phone. That little RAZR in your pocket can look up any factoid on Wikipedia, you can check your status on Facebook, you can get directions to anywhere in the country.

You just need to get used to it.

So go tonight, call your carrier, get a cheap data plan, and be like us. The phones are easier to use than you think they are, it’s not just for nerds. Any iPhone user, with the iPhone’s built-in data access, will tell you it’s worth it. But you don’t need to have an iPhone for the experience, you just have to want it.