Why Does a Cell Phone Need WiFi?

By Robert Schrader

As smart phones like the iPhone, HTC Touch and BlackBerry have grown in popularity, mobile Internet access has become more and more commonplace. Some smart phones are also equipped with built-in Wi-Fi adapters, allowing users Internet access in the event that a carrier-based connection is not available.

Mobile Internet

The basic premise of mobile Internet is that it affords users access to email, websites and Web-based applications using the same connection as the one to make phone calls and send text messages. Mobile carriers -- rather than conventional Internet service providers -- facilitate this access, so users can surf the Web wherever a mobile signal is available, regardless of whether or not a Wi-Fi connection is available nearby.

Mobile Connection Unavailable

When you lose cell phone reception -- in other words, you have "no bars" -- it isn't possible to make phone calls or send text messages. If your cell phone plan includes a mobile Internet or data package, you also won't be able to access the Internet during this down time. Wi-Fi adapters are useful in this situation because cell phones equipped with them can access the Internet whenever a Wi-Fi connection is available nearby, irrespective of cell phone service availability.

Excessive Usage

Although certain mobile carriers give users the option of purchasing unlimited data transfer, many limit the amount of Web data you can transmit to a certain amount of megabytes per month. If you need to download a file or simply surf the Web on your cell phone but you are approaching or have already exceeded your monthly limit, a Wi-Fi connection allows you to bypass this limitation.

Network Speed

Just as call quality and the speed with which you send or receive text messages can vary based on the strength of the signal your cell phone receives, so too does the extent to which you can browse the Internet quickly. If you're using a Wi-Fi-equipped mobile device and your mobile Internet connection isn't fast enough for you, connecting your device to a nearby Wi-Fi connection often affords you faster Web browsing and email access.