Most people who travel with a smartphone and a laptop would like to be able to use the phone as a cellular-wireless modem for the notebook. There are a variety of ways to do this, including physically connecting the two devices with a cable and a wireless connection with Bluetooth.
WMWifiRouter, an application from Morose Media, adds a new option: it turns your smartphone into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect to wherever you go.
I’ve used this software on a variety of Windows Mobile Professional devices, and it has become a permanent part of my kit.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The primary advantage of this approach is range. If you’re connecting a laptop to a smartphone with a cable, obviously the two devices have to be very close to each other. Bluetooth gives you a bit more range, but an intervening wall can bring that to an end. Wi-Fi transmits data over a much wider area. As I write this, I’m on my back deck, and I have a solid Internet connection thanks to WMWifiRouter running on a smartphone that’s on the other end of my house.
Another advantage over Bluetooth is flexibility. If you’re going to make a Bluetooth connection between your smartphone and you laptop, naturally your laptop has to have Bluetooth. Not all of them do, while these days you’d be hard pressed to find a laptop without Wi-Fi. This means you can use WMWifiRouter with more devices.
Also, you can use WMWifiRouter with more devices at the same time. It lets you connect multiple units, whether these be laptops, handhelds, Internet tablets, or of another type.
A cable provides the fastest data connection, but Wi-Fi comes out well ahead of Bluetooth.
Naturally, how fast you end up connecting to the Internet is going to heavily depend on the speed your smartphone connects to the cellular-wireless network. I’ve tried it with both 3G and 2.5G smartphones and I’ve generally been pleased with the connection speeds.
The primary disadvantage of WMWifiRouter is it’s murder on your smartphone’s battery. A smartphone that is running Wi-Fi and has a 3G connection at the same time runs out of juice surprisingly quickly.
You can save some power by turning the smartphone’s backlight off, but most of the time I’m using WMWifiRouter I have the phone plugged in. This is where Wi-Fi’s range comes in handy. You can plug the phone in, turn on Wi-Fi, and you’re free to roam around your hotel suite, office, or house. If you’re planning on using this set up in your car, I strongly suggest you invest in a car charger.
WMWifiRouter will keep your smartphone from going to sleep when it’s acting as a hotspot, which is another reason you should keep it plugged in. Otherwise it’s very easy to end up with a completely drained phone.
In contrast, Bluetooth uses much less power, and a cable hardly any. Still, keeping 3G going continuously is hard on a smartphone, no matter what you connection is.
There’s some configuring you have to do to make a connection between your smartphone and the laptop, but it’s no more difficult than pairing these two devices with Bluetooth.
I won’t get into the technical details here — that’s what the manual is for — but WMWifiRouter lets you change the name of your hotspot and set a WEP password, so your access point isn’t wide open for anyone to use.
An important part of setting up this application is making darn sure you have an "all you can eat" data plan. The monthly prices for these range quite a bit depending on what carrier you’re using, but they are cheap when compared to to phenomenal bill you’ll surely get if you use WMWifiRouter without an unlimited data.
The standard price for this application is €19.99 (about $30 USD) but Morose Media is currently offering an early adopter discount reducing the cost to €14.99 (about $22.50 USD). That’s a good price for a useful utility like WMWifiRouter.
To try it out for yourself before buying, you can download a time-limited trial version from the Morose media website.