What is the benefit of WiFi on a smartphone?

I’ve been trying to decide between a Blackberry Curve 8530 and a BB Tour 9630, and I’m leaning towards the Curve only because it’s a bit cheaper, but if cost was no issue, I’d probably go for the Tour. The only thing missing from the Tour, which reviewers aren’t happy about, is WiFi capability.

I’m not sure what this means to me- if I have a data plan which includes internet, how would WiFi connectivity benefit me?

If your data plan is unlimited and has reasonably good coverage, then it probably won’t.

Mostly, as I understand it, WiFi lets you get data onto your phone without having to count it on your data plan. You might only get 500 megs per month on a fairly basic data plan, for instance, which is easy to blow through if you’re watching a lot of streaming video or what have you.

Any data you access through the wifi doesn’t count against that limit.

Wi-fi might also be faster than the data bandwidth from your cell phone company.

chrisk pointed out the main benefits.

There are also fringe uses of WiFi on a cell phone such as using it to stream media from computers on the same network (video, in particular), sharing files, using your phone as a WiFi hotspot, etc.

If your carrier’s network goes down, or if your service is canceled for some reason and you still have the phone, you can still access a WiFi hotspot to get internet access. But honestly I have AT&T and an iPhone and despite all the complaints you hear about the network being down, I’ve only experienced that twice.

Let’s say I wanted to be able to take advantage of the possibly faster WiFi connectivity (I have an unlimited data plan, so the only benefit of WiFi for me would be speed), would my phone automatically seek WiFi connectivity, or maybe this is a phone-specific setting? Not sure how phones distinguish between the 2, or if that’s a user-controlled thing.

Phone-specific is my guess, but on my Android phone, you can configure it to either connect automatically, notify you of available hotspots whenever they appear, not to do anything until you manually connect, or simply turn off WiFi altogether.

I have it set to automatically connect at home where my connection is faster, but not at school where the connection is slow and unstable.

That’s a phone specific thing.

WiFi is also handy when you can’t get a cell signal.

Wifi is faster and uses less battery on my phone.

Also, I can get onto my corporate network at work with the Wifi. I could do it on the cellular network, but then I’d have to use my SecureID every time I wanted access to work stuff.

I’d guess, though, that if I can’t get a cell signal, then I’m likely in a remote-ish area that probably doesn’t also have WiFi, or are you talking about being inside a building (i.e. store/coffeeshop) where I’m getting a bad cell signal?

You can use it to surf if you’re on a plane that has WiFi. I was on an American Airlines plane on Friday that offered WiFi connectivity - but not cell connections - to anyone with laptops, smartphones with WiFi, etc.

Wifi is much faster than 3G.

Not necessarily. Internet speed depends on the underlying connection to the ISP behind the router.

Plenty of cafes, etc., will have a barely-adequate connection split between all their customers and times like that your private 3G connection might actually be faster.

There are planty of places here where I can’t get a cell signal but the building has wifi, so… yes.

Sure, but - for example - if you have wifi at home you’re likely to get a much faster connection via it than via the 3G network. My iPhone uses my home wifi far more often than it uses 3G because it’s massively faster.


That would be random subsections of my house, including a checkerboard in my home office. I can’t even count how many phone calls were dropped on my cell simply because I nodded my head or moved over 12 inches and had forgot to put the phone on roaming (killing any data usage). But my wireless router is in this very room!

wi-fi is way faster use it to make skype calls that wont use your minutes

Yes, exactly. There are a lot of places in Manhattan, for example, where the density of buildings makes cell coverage spotty. And if you go deep inside of a building, it’s often harder for the signals to get through the walls.

Wifi has advantages if you are usually in an area with wireless internet (e.g. work, home.) The 3G plan allows you to connect to the internet anywhere. Usually, the cell companies sell the 3G plan and the phone plan separately, therefore, you could get a phone with WiFi without the 3G plan (saving a substantial amount of money.) My co-worker is doing this now with an unlocked iPhone. He has it connected to his non-AT&T plan and only uses the Internet while connected to wifi.

Yeah, I have to be standing next to a window in my house if I want to be sure of a cell phone connection, which is the big reason I still have a landline. I also work in an office that frequently has poor to no cell signal in it. But both locations have easy-to-connect-to WiFi.