For the previous Nokia Open Studio in New York, Nokia invited Martin Varsavsky, CEO of FON (A Wifi hotspot company) for the panel discussion. A clever move for both which I understand even better now that I've bought an N93 with built in Wifi support.
New Wifi Possibilities
I've been using the phone quite a lot since then over my Wifi network at home. This alone saves me a ton of money since I can now use my Wifi/DSL connection while at home instead of more expensive 3G connections. Also, using Wifi opens up a range of new things beyond eMail and Web browsing which I would have never thought about doing over 3G:
- Podcasts: Downloading podcasts directly to the mobile instead of first downloading them to the PC and then sideloading them to the phone via a memory card works like a charm over Wifi. I haven't done that in the past because as even with a cheap 3G price plan, downloading 30 MB podcasts was never an option. No problem over Wifi though. Nokia's got a great podcast catcher program which can download several podcasts simultaneously and automatically resumes after a paused or interrupted download without having to start from scratch. In addition it lets you listen to the first couple of minutes of a podcast so you can find out easily if it's worthwhile to download the rest.
- Blog reading with an RSS Reader: I've been doing this over 3G already but my blogroll is quite comprehensive and a complete update generates about 1.5 MB of traffic. No problem over Wifi. Luckily, Resco has just released a version of RescoNews for S60 3rd edition. I've already reviewed RescoNews a couple of months ago for 2nd edition phones and it is still my favorite mobile blog reader. The version for 3rd edition phones works almost the same way as the version for 2nd edition. Some enhancements have been done, though: First of all it can be used in both normal and landscape mode on the N93 and the configuration menu now also allows the user to choose which browser to use in case posts contain links or in case you want to see the original post on the web site. Wifi integration works well but configuration is still not straight forward. When setting the connection type to "always ask" the program just shows the configured 3G connections and leaves out Wifi connections. If you go to the settings menu however, it's possible to set the connection to use to a preconfigured Wifi profile. That's good enough for me as I only want to update when I am at home anyway.
- Flickr Uploads: Shozu is a great program to upload pictures to Flickr and other picture sharing sites. The latest version also supports video uploads to sites which support video. With image sizes almost reaching 1MB with the N93, uploading images gets easily expensive over 3G. So in case I can wait with the upload until I am back home, I pause Shozu and just hit a button when I am back home to upload the pictures automatically. Excellent!
It's Not About Technology it's About Money
Don't get me wrong, all of the things mentioned above can easily be done over 3G as well both from a technical and a practical point of view. What keeps people from doing it is price, especially when roaming to other countries. I think this will change in the future but for now that's how things are. So this is where Martin and FON come back into the picture. If he succeeds then a FON Wifi hotspot will be close in the future no matter where you go in the city so you can update your blogroll or download a podcast even while you are waiting for the bus.
Mixed 3G / Wifi Usability
Each application can be configured separately how to connect to the net. While I've configured the web browser to always ask which connection to use, I've set the blog reader and podcast catcher to always use my Wifi access point at home. Here's a wish to Nokia: A third option which assigns a priority to configured connections would be a cool feature. I'd use this for the web browser for example. In case my Wifi access point at home is detected, the browser automatically uses this connection. If it can not be found, the configured 3G profile would be taken instead without my intervention.
So, my thumbs are both up for the N-series Wifi integration!