Every day, thousands will pick up a new BlackBerry. For a good many of them, this will be their first BlackBerry; maybe even their first smartphone. We've all had that first day; poking and prodding a new BlackBerry, trying to figure out how it works. This series aims to make that process a bit easier.
Do you experience "blind spots" (no internet, email, or BBM) on your carrier? Are you having problems choosing the right data plan for your device? Is 3G just not enough G's for you? Have no fear; your Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerry is here. Wireless internet technology is a wonderful thing for users to take advantage of. It offers faster speeds, bypasses your data plan, and - with certain carriers - allows you to make unlimited phone calls (e.g., T-Mobile UMA). Thanks to coffee shops; airports; hotels; restaurants; and cable companies, Wi-Fi is everywhere. It's easy to enjoy the speed of Wi-Fi; click past the jump for step by step instructions.
Turning on Wi-Fi
It's pretty simple to turn Wi-Fi on. Click on the Manage Connections icon from the home screen or from the connections area at the top. You can either select the check box next to Wi-Fi or scroll down to Set Up Networks. Once logged into a location, be it your home or public location, you'll automatically be connected the next time you visit with Wi-Fi on.
Connecting to available networks
To start surfing the web, you'll need to access a local area network. This can be your Wi-Fi router at home, your local hotspot, or any other connection within range (including neighboring routers). After a few seconds of scanning, up pops a list of the nearest and strongest connections. Protected networks will have a lock icon next to them. These require a password to access. To avoid these, check the box next to Show Open Networks Only so that only open (i.e., no password needed) Wi-Fi and hostpot networks remain. To connect, simply scroll to the one you want and click or tap. That's all there is to it.
When connecting to a protected network a passphrase or password between 8-63 characters must be provided. These were created during your routers initial setup and prevent random people from accessing your internet. Just be sure you didn't misplace the code. If you don't have the network's password, you'll need to contact your System Administrator - the guy or gal who takes care of internet stuff. After entering the password, click connect.
That's all there is to it. The network name and signal strength will display at the top of your home screen. Best part is you'll never have to enter in that troublesome password again. Your information is stored under Saved Networks for the next time you sign on to that wireless network.
HotSpots, for lack of a better term, are public Wi-Fi locations. Sometimes they're unprotected and allow for immediate access. For example, public venues like Starbucks and Barnes and Noble offer free nationwide AT&T Wi-Fi access. When you're visiting one of these places, search for and connect to attwifi.
Unfortunately, some hotspots require authorization or charge a fee to connect. Certain cable companies now offer free Wi-Fi at any of their hotspot locations (e.g. Optimum, Time Warner) to their customers. To authenticate, simply enter in your username and password when prompted. It adds a few extra steps to the process but you'll be up and running in less than a minute.
Managing Saved Networks
Each time you access a network, it is saved on your BlackBerry for future use. To view, click on Saved Wi-Fi networks from the Setup screen. From here you can edit, delete, disable, and change the connect order; all by pressing the menu button.
||Move: Lets you change the connection order for saved networks.
||Edit: Allows you to change the name, SSID (network name), security type, and passphrase.
||Disable: This option stops your BlackBerry from connecting to a saved network.
Delete: Removes the selected saved networks
Options: On this screen you can change hotspot alerts or reset back to default settings.
Manually add a network
Don't feel like scrolling through multiple networks? For more experienced users, select Other Ways to Connect from the setup screen. The first option is Wi-Fi Protected Setup. By pressing a designated button on the router (selected models only), users can connect without entering in a password. Simply follow the directions on your BlackBerry.
The second option is to manually add a network. All you need to do is input the name of the Wi-Fi network in the SSID field. SSID's are unique names used to identify a Wi-Fi network. Many home wireless routers use standard names such as NETGEAR, LinkSys, etc. Next, scroll through and select a security type (WEP, WPA/WPA2 Personal, WPA/WPA2 Enterprise) from the dropdown list, type in the password, and click on Save and Connect.
There you have it folks, Wi-Fi in a nutshell. For those on tiered data plans, taking advantage of local hotspots at school, work, or home can help reduce data usage. Check out this poll Kevin ran last year on using WiFi. If you still have questions or issues head on over to CrackBerry's dedicated Wi-Fi Forum page.
To help get you started, below are links to each carrier's Wi-Fi/HotSpot location maps.
AT&T Wi-Fi locations
Optimum Wi-Fi locations
Time Warner Cable WiFi zones
T-Mobile HotSpot locations
Verizon HotSpot Directory