Why Your Next Mobile and Smartphone Must Have Wi-Fi Capability

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Why Your Next Mobile and Smartphone Must Have Wi-Fi Capability

Wi-Fi is an extremely useful and highly popular wireless technology, so much so that it is almost certainly a better idea to purchase a mobile or smartphone with the technology than without. Now that Wi-Fi technology is well established, the extra expense for purchasing a phone with Wi-Fi is minimal and has very little impact on the overall price of the phone. This buying guide explores mobile Wi-Fi and explains why it is so critical to have Wi-Fi with mobiles and smartphones.

Wi-Fi Overview

Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) is a signal transmission technology, used to transmit information wirelessly by use of high frequency radio signals. The technology was established in 1997, and though it was not used much at first, the rapid growth of mobile technology and continual Wi-Fi improvements saw widespread Wi-Fi adoption. Today it is one of the most popular and widely used wireless technologies in the world. Mobiles and smartphones that have Wi-Fi capabilities are able to connect to a network (such as a local area network (LAN), public network, or the internet) through a wireless access point. A common wireless access point is a wireless router. True Wi-Fi accords with the IEEE 802.11 specification, and a wireless network is only truly a Wi-Fi network when compliant with the 802.11 standard. There have been two major security protocols to keep data transfer secure over Wi-Fi networks. The latest is WPA2, and all devices released since 2006 must include WPA2 protection if they are to display the Wi-Fi trademark.

The Importance of Wi-Fi Capability

A little understanding of Wi-Fi goes a long way in deciding the needs it can fulfil.

Wi-Fi Internet Uses

If a mobile or smartphone has internet browsing capabilities and an internal Wi-Fi receiver, it can perform many more tasks than a phone without a Wi-Fi receiver: browse the internet, check and send emails, communicate via instant messaging and download and upload data. If the phone is advanced, Wi-Fi can be used to perform almost all of the same online activities that a computer or tablet can do. A smartphone can also use Wi-Fi to browse for, download, and use smartphone applications. Once downloaded, many applications require an internet connection to function, including media streaming applications and online gaming applications. With a Wi-Fi connection, many applications can update automatically for convenience by, for example, providing a notification when an email has been received. Wi-Fi can also be used to update a mobile’s internal settings, including time and date, and update weather notifications. Social media is now a major selling point for smartphones. Smartphones can bring together every social media account and sharing application in one place, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and LinkedIn, and with a Wi-Fi connection each application can be kept automatically up to date.

Wi-Fi Connection: Home

Wi-Fi offers wireless access to the internet, and there is no extra charge in connecting a phone to a home Wi-Fi signal via a router. This is in contrast to mobile internet data services which usually cost money and have data limits. Wi-Fi becomes even more important when there is no mobile internet data plan. Having said this, in the case of home routers money is still spent to gain internet in the first place. If the internet package has download limits, then these must still be observed when using the phone in the same way as when using other devices connected to the internet. Mobile and smartphone Wi-Fi can also be used to connect to a home network. This allows files to be shared between the phone, computers, and other devices. And thanks to high bandwidth, the speed of data transfer is just as good as transferring data with a mobile data cable.

Wi-Fi Connection: Away

Wi-Fi is available in many public locations, including airports, coffee houses, bars and restaurants, department stores, hotels, shopping centres, service stations, tourist locations, and other notable public places. Some Wi-Fi hotspots are free and open to all users (such as university Wi-Fi), which means the signal can be used freely without charge. More commonly, hotspots may require a password or a paid subscription to gain access to the signal. In the case of paid subscription Wi-Fi, charges are often reasonable and trial periods may be offered. It should be noted that there are many restrictions with free public Wi-Fi, and even in crowded cities it can sometimes be difficult to find a free Wi-Fi hotspot. This is why mobile data internet is a popular choice for using the internet when away from home. However there are a number of Wi-Fi hotspot locator applications to make the search for free Wi-Fi easier. Wi-Fi can be extremely useful to connect to the internet while abroad. Data roaming charges are often notoriously expensive and restrictive, but there is no charge for using free Wi-Fi hotspots anywhere, even abroad. Some network providers use Wi-Fi to route phone calls when the phone is in a foreign country. This avoids the need to impose roaming charges, which can be highly expensive otherwise.

Wireless Internet Tethering

Wireless hotspot mobile tethering is a useful feature which allows a mobile to use its data internet to generate its own Wi-Fi hotspot. Other devices such as laptops can then connect to the hotspot via the Wi-Fi signal. This is highly useful when wireless internet access is required on other devices, especially when there is an unlimited data plan on the mobile phone so that the internet can be used freely.

Purchasing a Mobile or Smartphone with Wi-Fi

There are various considerations to be made before purchase.

Wi-Fi Standards: Speed and Range

Since the original 802.11 standard (released in 1997), there have been numerous updates to improve Wi-Fi bandwidth and data rates, increase range, and improve compatibility across devices as well as improve security and fix minor issues. The latest standard is 802.11ac, and the most popular is the previous 802.11n. The following table explains the major updates and their associated improvements – make sure to check the phone specifications for the exact Wi-Fi standards it is compatible with.



Max Data Rate (Mbps)

Range (m) (Indoor/Outdoor)

















Access Points and Receivers

As evident by the above standards, the exact type of Wi-Fi and the associated data rates vary from between different phones and access points. To achieve a certain Wi-Fi standard in use, both the wireless access point and the phone must be able to transmit and receive in accordance with the same standard. For example, if a phone has the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi but the access point transmits at 802.11n, the phone will be limited to the features of 802.11n. Later Wi-Fi standards are backwards compatible with earlier standards, so there are no problems in connecting an older phone to a newer Wi-Fi access point or vice versa.

Connecting to Wi-Fi

Most mobiles and smartphones connect to Wi-Fi through system options or network options. The phone scans the vicinity for Wi-Fi signals, and then presents the available connections with information on possible password protection and signal strength. Connections without password protection can be connected to straight away, while secured connections will prompt the user to enter the correct password.


Phone Wi-Fi provides much value and greatly enhances the phone experience. For a small addition to the overall cost of the mobile, huge advantages are provided, and with potential access to lots of reliable Wi-Fi signals, important online tasks can be managed easily from the mobile or smartphone.

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