Smartphones and Wi-Fi: Why This Should No Longer Be An Option

I was surprised when I first learned that the Blackberry Storm would not have Wi-Fi. This was especially surprising to me since the other recent new Blackbery, the Bold, does have Wi-Fi. 

It seems more and more of the upper-tier smartphones include this feature, and it got me wondering if it should be a feature a potential user should insist on. For me it definitely is.

Keep in mind that if you think Wi-Fi as just a high-speed data pipe, then I believe you’re underrating what Wi-Fi can do for your device. Here is why I’d insist on Wi-Fi in what, let’s face it, are hand-held computers that happen to make phone calls.

I Have My Own Network, Thanks

If you’ve put a high-speed network in your home, why shouldn’t you be able to add your device to it? Why send all your data through Verizon, or AT&T, or whoever when you have your own? To be sure, at most points in the chain you don’t have any control, but where you do have control, why not exercise it? 

Speed

No matter how fast your 3G connection is, a good Wi-Fi implementation will beat it. Probably handily, and in many cases by a wide margin. Why should your device not be allowed to take advantage of this speed? And this applies not only when you’re at home, but also at the many Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country. 

No “Data Clock”

Even if you have “unlimited” access on your data plan, many carriers still impose limits (i.e., “unlimited” doesn’t really mean unlimited). By putting the device on a Wi-Fi network you not only get faster speed, you get off the carrier’s data clock. 

Battery

Wi-Fi access takes less juice than 3G, extending your device’s battery life.  

Applications

Perhaps more important than anything above are the kinds of applications your device can support when it becomes part of your local network. Below are just three examples from the iPhone that show what can be done.

Remote — Apple’s own remote app lets you control iTunes music playing and remote speakers throughout your system. This is a great example of the convenience you can get with devices on the same network. 

Air Sharing — Get on your network, then mount your iPhone as a local drive to your Mac. Now just copy files back and forth. Wonderful!

ACTPrinter — Get on your network and “print” to your iPhone. 

There are many other examples on the App Store as well, and they’re likely only scratching the surface of the potential a hand-held computer has when residing on your personal network. 

Summary

The point is that Wi-Fi opens up a smart device to a world of different applications that are not nearly as practical (or maybe even possible) when it’s limited to a specific carrier’s network. 

If you think of Wi-Fi as simply a speed increase (though it’s worth it for that, too), then I believe your thinking is short-sighted for this new generation of devices.

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