Accessing the Internet With Cell Phones: Getting Started

By: Christine Peppler

Access to the internet has been available via cell phones for quite a number of years and in many countries, especially in Asia, cell phones are the primary method of using the web. The major benefits of using cell phones for internet access are affordability and convenience. The cost of a cell phone is minimal compared to that of a computer and if the truth be known, most of us prefer to tote our cell phone around when we go out and about versus our computer.

The popularity of using cell phones for internet access in the US has not grown as rapidly as it has in many other areas of the world. Although nearly three quarters of all Americans possess a cell phone, fewer than one quarter of them are using their phones for internet based services. In the US, internet access via a cell phone can be achieved through either WAP or a wireless internet connection.

How to Connect

WAP, or Wireless Application Protocol, was developed specifically to provide internet access for mobile phones and PDAs. Because WAP was designed differently than the World Wide Web, users can best view sites designed specifically for WAP and therefore get a smaller, revised version of what is on the web. Many WAP based services offer the ability to retrieve e-mail, check stock quotes, obtain movie listings, flight times, and similar types of information. Services such as 4INFO and even Google offer a wireless search service designed specifically for mobile/cellular devices.

To use the wireless internet, a cell phone can either be used as a modem with a laptop computer to connect to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or it can connect to a cellular provider's data service. For instance, Verizon, Cingular, and Sprint all offer data service plans allowing internet access.

What is Needed

To make a connection to the internet, a cell phone must be web enabled. It should be either dual mode or tri mode so that it can handle both voice calls and data transmission. In addition, the cellular service provider must transmit via digital signals versus analog. Users will also need to become familiar with the data service plans to be well acquainted with any charges associated with the service. When necessary the cellular service provider should also be able to provide any needed cables and software to make the phone to laptop connection

Other considerations

As is true with almost any new service or product, those new to internet services via their cell phone should try it on for size at the store before buying. Not all service providers offer equal connection speeds. The display size on a cell phone is generally small which makes browsing of websites somewhat tedious but newer PDA phones offer screens that are significantly larger and certainly connecting to a laptop makes viewing easier as well. For users who just want to check e-mail and obtain information on the weather, stock quotes, sports scores, etc. the smaller screen of the average cell phone should not be a problem however. Smaller key pads, less memory, occasional connection disruption, and less power can be drawbacks of using a cell phone for internet access but improvements continue to occur. Overall, for those who like to stay connected the affordability and convenience makes using a cell phone for internet activity an excellent option.

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