By Joseph Moran
January 15, 2009
The WMWiFiRouter utility ($29.99) turns some Windows Mobile smartphones into Wi-Fi hotspots.
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Morose Media WMWiFiRouter Utility
Pros: Affordable solution for gaining Wi-Fi Internet connections; free trial offered.
Cons: For Windows Mobile only; device compatibility not guaranteed; connection speeds can be slow; rapid battery drain.
If you subscribe to Internet data services from your cellular carrier and want to make use of that connection on a notebook PC, you have a number of possible options. These include buying a cellular modem, springing for a new notebook that’s got one built-in, or, if it supports tethering, using your phone as a modem.If none of these approaches are feasible or desirable and you’ve got a Windows Mobile-based, Wi-Fi-equipped smartphone, Morose Media’s WMWiFiRouter can give you yet another option. This $29.99 utility makes your cellular data connection available via Wi-Fi, essentially turning your phone into a wireless hotspot.
Compatibility & setup
Broadly speaking, WMWiFiRouter should work on any Windows Mobile 6 or 5 (the latter with AKU 3.3 or higher) device that has Internet Sharing enabled (you should find it in the Accessories folder). On the other hand, given how carriers tend to tweak their hardware, compatibility can’t quite be guaranteed.A fairly extensive list of compatible devices is provided at support.wmwifirouter.com/devices/, though it’s important to note that no device is “officially” supported—the list was gleaned from user feedback, not developer testing.
We put WMWiFiRouter through its paces on a T-Mobile Dash running Windows Mobile 6; a device on the compatibility list, albeit with the caveat “Works for some users, but not for others (60%-40%).”We didn’t have any difficulty getting WMWiFiRouter installed on the Dash (you can do it via .EXE or .CAB). During the install process, we did receive a warning message saying that the software might not display correctly since it was written for an earlier version of Windows Mobile, but we didn’t experience any subsequent display problems.
When you run WMWiFiRouter for the first time, a setup wizard walks you through the detection and configuration of the phone’s cellular data and Wi-Fi connections. This is not an entirely automatic process and the settings to chose won’t necessarily be obvious to the non-technical, but WMWiFiRouter’s online documentation is helpful in this regard. (WMWIFiRouter supports encrypted Wi-Fi, but only via the antiquated WEP.)
Once connection settings have been configured, you can specify which of the five available connection methods you want WMWiFiRouter to use. When we selected the cellular to Wi-Fi connection type, WMWiFi router automatically launched and linked the Dash’s two connections, a process that took about 30-40 seconds.
Once complete, we were able to locate and successfully connect to the Dash’s ad-hoc Wi-Fi network using a Vista notebook (both with and without WEP encryption turned on). An extra 30 seconds or so later, the PC obtained a DHCP-assigned IP address from the phone and we could access the Internet.
In our testing, Web browsing performance via WMWiFiRouter ranged from OK to excruciatingly slow, which we attribute to the Dash’s lackadaisical EDGE data connection. A connection speed test at www.speedtest.net reported as high 221Kb/sec down and 49Kb/sec up, but we also experienced periods when browser page requests were met with chronic 504 “gateway timeout” errors even though all wireless connections were up and running. (The 504 errors suggest WMWiFiRouter was waiting for responses from the EDGE network.) Bottom line–while WMWiFiRouter may be usable with WMWiFiRouter in some cases, for best results you’ll probably want to use a 3G connection.
In addition to the cellular to Wi-Fi connection method, WMWiFiRouter supports several other connection types like cellular to Bluetooth and cellular to USB. We successfully used both of these connection types on the Dash, though the cellular to Bluetooth mode works only if your phone supports the PAN (Personal Area Networking) Bluetooth profile.You must also manually pair your phone and PC prior to using this connection. WMWiFiRouter’s Internet connection performance was the same irrespective of which connection method we used.
Advanced configuration & customization
Whenever WMWiFiRouter has a connection established, the software can provide link statistics so you can see how much data has been transferred across any of the interfaces. The software will also allow you to customize a number of network parameters, such as the IP address range used, port forwarding rules, and whether and how your cellular data link will remain connected while idle (by default WMWiFiRouter pings www.google.com every 60 seconds).
WMWiFiRouter will also monitor battery life and device temperature, and can be configured to turn off the connection if a defined threshold for either is reached. Needless to say, running cellular data and Wi-Fi connections simultaneously on a mobile device for any length of time is an excellent way to quickly drain a battery dry, so it’s advisable to keep the device plugged into AC power or at least have the charger close at hand. Rapid battery depletion is less of an issue when using the other connection methods.
There was one major wrinkle during our testing of WMWiFiRouter. We noticed that the software would frequently become unresponsive to key presses, particularly when trying to reconnect after having disconnected or immediately after viewing connection statistics.
About half the time, the problem was resolved by returning to the Windows Mobile home screen and then re-entering the application, but other times it was necessary to end the program via Task Manager and restart it, and on a few occasions, the only way to regain control over the application was via soft reset of the device.
Due to the nature of the software and the differences among Windows Mobile devices, you’ll definitely want to try WMWiFiRouter on your phone before deciding whether to buy the software. You can download a 21-day trial version from www.wmwifirouter.com—a full 30 days would have been better, but three weeks should be enough time for most users to determine whether the software works well on a given phone.
While the responsiveness problem we encountered prevents us from recommending WMWiFiRouter unreservedly (and we wish it provided WPA encryption), we still think it’s worth a serious look for anyone that wants more flexibility when using a phone’s Internet connection.
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology journalist and product reviewer. Article adapted from PDAStreet.