Technology companies continually improve the technology being used to produce Smartphones, so much so that you can literally use your Smartphone — depending on the model — as your personal digital assistant, GPS navigational device and email-checker, among many other things. It can essentially become a replacement for other electronic organizers and even pocket calendars you might carry around.
Smartphones have, indeed, become increasingly popular across many of today’s generations. Since 2005, the number of Smartphone users has increased exponentially. In fact, the November 2009 AdMob Mobile Metrics report found that the top devices used for WiFi were the HTC Dream, Motorola Droid, as well as the iPod Touch, which is essentially in the Smartphone family of devices.
One of the most useful aspects of newer Smartphones is that they come built with WiFi integrated into the phone. This means that, just like your laptop or netbook, you can access WiFi networks at virtually any wireless hotspot or on any network as you’re traveling and out and about. Unfortunately, there’s also a downside if you want to use the WiFi built into your Smartphone. Most wireless carriers require you to purchase a monthly data package that carries a sticker price of anywhere from $30 to $50 or more per month. The most expensive of data plans give you unlimited web usage and typically cost $50 and upwards.
Paying for WiFi on Smartphones
Though Smartphones constitute much of the WiFi activity going on in the United States today, there are two sides to the issue of paying for WiFi on your Smartphone and not paying for this service. The WiFi technology built into many of today’s Smartphones give it the ability to connect to wireless networks anywhere, just as you can do so with your laptop or netbook. The difference, however, is that a small version of an operating system — Windows and Android happen to be the most popular — runs on the cell phone and acts as the gatekeeper to the Internet. Only after you pay the required monthly fee to the wireless carrier are you able to use both the mobile web and WiFi service on your phone.
Many individuals would rather prefer only using WiFi networks to surf the Internet rather than paying for access to the wireless carrier’s 3G or 4G cellular network. In addition to paying for access to the 3G or 4G network, you also get to use the phone’s WiFi. The fact that wireless carriers make you pay to access the WiFi on your phone is because customers could, theoretically, use a WiFi network for making phone calls instead of paying the wireless carrier. This is possible because of various apps that can be downloaded to your Smartphone, such as VoIP applications and programs like Skype. To thwart this loss of income, wireless carriers typically block or disable the Smartphone’s WiFi functionality until you pay for a data plan for the Internet.
Though wireless carriers actually require you to pay for a data plan in order to have a Smartphone, many technology-savvy users have found various ways to get around this. For example, many BlackBerry smartphones, such as the BlackBerry 8820, can use WiFi without a data package if you take a few steps to first delete the username and password specified in the TCP section, select “WiFi Browser” as your default Internet browser and select “Turn On WiFi Connection” in the “Manage Connections” section.
You can perform similar steps on many other Smartphones branded to AT&T and even T-Mobile. However, in most cases you must find a way to actually disable the data service on your phone before you use the WiFi so that you’re not accidentally charged or billed for using WiFi services. This can be done by installing third-party apps like APNDroid for Android-branded phones or by actually calling up the wireless provider to get this done.
Smartphone Data Plan Options
Nevertheless, chances are that if you’re interested in a Smartphone than you’ll be looking into paying for a data plan simply because it’s the easiest way to access the Internet without going around the wireless carrier. You can find data plans for your Smartphone from virtually every major carrier on the market, including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile.
The data plan you choose to access the Internet on your Smartphone largely depends on the type of web surfer you are and how much data you’re going to be using and downloading. Most carriers have tiered pricing structures that increase the more data you use. For example, AT&T’s basic Smartphone plans start at $15 per month, but this is recommended for casual users who may not use their Smartphone Internet access every day. This basic plan only allows for 200 Megabytes of data usage. Two other plans allow for 2 Gigabytes and 4 Gigabytes of data usage at a price of $25 and $45, respectively.
With all of AT&T’s Smartphone data plans, you can use the WiFi at any of AT&T’s hotspots as well as on your own WiFi network at home. Of course, a voice plan is required as well for all Smartphones.
Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have similar plans as AT&T. If you want to use the WiFi on your Smartphone at home to make most of your calls over your WiFi network with VoIP apps and programs like Google Voice or even Skype, what you can do is pay for the lowest-cost data plan as well as the lowest cost voice plan. The total for this ends up being around $60 per month no matter which wireless carrier you choose.
All in all, accessing the Internet over WiFi with your Smartphone is perhaps one of the smartest things you can do if you want a cheap way to make and receive calls as well as browse the Internet. Though paying for the required data plan and voice plan with any wireless carrier can be pricey, you might be able to buy a Smartphone and then use the WiFi over your own home network, all without even contacting the carrier to sign up.