I've just returned from a trip to Croatia and after reading Albert Wenger's post '5 days and nights without my Blackberry' I thought I'd share my own thoughts on how I use my iPhone when I'm disconnected.
Unlike Albert's, my SIM card was fine, stuck in the middle of my iPhone 4 this time rather than on top where it was in previous iPhones. That meant I was less scientific in my experiment. Albert had no networking capabilities at all, not voice, SMS nor data, while I was just without data because outside of the US it's generally $19.97/MB, a price that invites only the direst need for data. As a result I think I was more annoyed about the lack of data because I was still using my phone for a bunch more things beyond using it as a watch. Here's my usage behavior in ascending order with respect to time.
~No Email: Albert said he would check for phantom emails, which keeps him in high correlation with BB user behavior. I did this as well on the iPhone, but with a twist. After a day at the apt I had unlearned the email checking habit, but if I was on the move the 'could not activate cellular data' notification that I received instigated a new habit. I would constantly turn the WiFi setting on and off as if to literally sniff for WiFi networks, even though my nose was several inches from the glass. Once in the port of Rovinj I actually found a free WiFi hotspot and I stood there long enough to pull down 3 days worth of emails, but no longer. Taking in those emails made me feel like the Escapist taking a breath of air after being tied in a sack, thrown into the river and having to undo chains and ropes and such.
Some Phone: I did use my phone as a phone...I had voice coverage in Hrvatska (Hrvatska means 'Croatia' in Croatian) on their HR VIP network and although price was a bit of a deterrent I had no dropped calls, even though I hadn't received my bumper yet, so I probably stayed on longer than I should have. I would take the calls from mom and the occasional one from work that I recognized as important, but for questions I tried to have family text me rather than leave voicemails. Calling voicemail from the iPhone seems wrong anyway, but especially so when there are international rates associated.
More SMS: Beyond that I also used it for both personal and social SMS: the SMS command line came in handy for telling mom and sis' I was ok, and for updating Foursquare by SMS so I could both tell friends and bookmark for myself what places and restaurants I had visited. I noticed that I had much less patience for entering in address details in a foreign country, moreover I was actually satisfied in some cases just to put in the name of the city. When I arrived '.@porec' I gladly peeked back at my phone seconds later to see the rather expensive text confirmation 'Ok we've got you at Porec!' from 50500.
Music: But the most important difference was that most of my apps were perfectly useless without a data connection. The only ones that were used a lot were the iPod and Rdio apps - Rdio works great offline if you spend the time to sync your music to mobile (look for the orange checkmarks).
Camera: I used the camera app more than the music apps, and here are some photos of what I saw each day that I thought were a bit out of the ordinary.
The biggest time-sink - Games: Throughout seasons 1-4 of the iPhone saga you would never have seen more than a few games on mine, and right now I only have one that I had just downloaded before leaving. The one I had was more than enough, Angry Birds which is #1 paid app in Croatia (and 59 other countries) is so for a reason.
The fact that I used a game more than any other feature on my iPhone really stuck with me. Maybe that's why in China and other countries where data is generally not an unlimited resource games are the biggest mobile pastime. Maybe that's also why even Apple is starting to drive patents for games
I'm a little embarrassed but I think I've played 150 levels now of Angry Birds, destroying increasingly organized and reinforced structures to get to the thieving pigs. I did this while I sitting idle on airplanes, on buses, on the beach, in bed and pretty much everywhere. Rovio, the game's creator does a very good job making it look like you have beaten the game a few times before it unlocks more levels and you realize that there's nearly no end to the little piggies. I'd suggest to try playing with that Beatles song on, I find it helps performance, as does anything by Biggie Smalls :)
Notorious B.I.G. via last.fm