I'm planning to cross the country this year, supported, and am wondering what is the best/most efficient in size/cost/benefit technology to take in order to stay connected to current news, emails, blogs, books etc.? Is it possible to have satelite connections thus not worrying about towers? Suggestions and advice wanted.
You can get an iPhone for $50-$200 with a two year contract. A full access data plan will run you anyewhere from $50-150 months depending on factors on ly you can judge. An iPhone has everything on it you think you must have. (I've used Apple products all of my electronic career so that's where I go but I imagine there are excellent Android phones, I just don't know anything about them.)
Satellite commnication is not an option; those are dedicated, expensive, bricks. Your tour organizer may have one in their kit. In fact, that's a question you might want to ask them .
The smartphone stays with you on the bike and can run music, GPS, mapping, heart rate…there is no limit to wwhat you can have loaded up. Be sure you have a sturdy case and a lanyard. Buy the unit several months before your trip. Invest in a good book about the phone's operating system so you understand how it works and how to talk to the OS to get it work the way you want it to. INstall and practice with all of your apps many weeks before your trip.
You will also need an auxiliary charging system. Smartphones have stupid small batteries but they are built assuming you are charging every day. I plan to use a solar-powered battery pack that tops off the iPhone rather than trying to rig a generator or directly hooking into a solar panel. That purchase decision for me is a few months off. I have the case (OtterBox defender model) and the mount.
Try to enjoy this shopping experience. A smartphone will change your life in a subtle way but once you've learned how to use it, you're going to wonder why you didn't get one a few years ago.
I strongly support the editorial position that you do not need any of these things on a bike trip. You really do not. Electronic toys and furniture are hassles when you're on a bike trip. They're expensive and small and hard to keep track of and charged and they're fragile. I'm taking my iPhone on my next several trips simply because I have one, not necessarily to use it for anything in particular. I may end up keeping it packed in a bag instead of mounted on the handlebars of my recumbent.