Using your phone as a modem via bluetooth

Anyone ever have issues with not finding a decent WiFi connection? Anyone else can’t be bothered to shell out for those mobile broadband USB dongle adapters plus the associated 15 odd quid contract just to be able to go online on the go without wifi away from home or work? Me neither!

I thought about connecting online through the phone in the past, but there was a need to carry around a USB cable plus the needing to install a CD full of software to do so – kind of uselss if you don’t have the CD on you when you need it.

There is a way however; I found this sometime back whilst searching for a way to connect wirelessly online on my laptop without needing to install the 100-odd MB of software that Sony Ericsson seems to demand. Without access to a decent WiFi connection, the alternative was the phone browser – but who wants to browse the full web via a phone browser?! Opera Mini does the job for short runs, but a computer screen wins hands down if I have the choice.

I will tell you how.

I’ve managed to get this working successfully on my sister’s Lenovo, and my Vaio laptop – both had bluetooth built in (YMMV), with three different phones – a SE P1i, SE C905, and a Nokia 6500 slide, so it is definitely not an isolated ability – AFAIK it is part of some GSM standard. Don’t count on iPhones being able to do this though (correct me if I am wrong though).

Now, first thing to do is to pair up the phone with your computer. The Dial-up networking service will have to be enabled for that bluetooth connection; again YMMV – in my case, I just checked a few boxes.

Once that’s sorted, this is where the magic lies: you create a new Dial-Up Connection:

  • With XP, this is achieved by going to the Network Connections, and clicking on Create a new connection in the task panel. The New Connection dialog pops up – follow this with “Connect to the Internet”, “Set up my connection manually”, “Connect using a dial-up modem”
  • on Vista, open up the Network and Sharing Center window, then click on ‘Set up a connection or network’ in the Task panel. Again, a dialog should appear with the ‘Set up a dial-up connection’ in the list somewhere. Select this.

A list of possible dial-up devices should appear. If the bluetooth pairing was setup properly, you should see a ‘Standard Modem over Bluetooth link’ or some variation of this. If you’ve paired multiple phones, then there might be more entries. Once you’ve got the right connection for your phone, proceed through the wizard.

The only detail you need to enter here is the phone number for this connection. Username and password does not matter AFAIK – I personally leave it blank – but the connection name should be meaningful.

This is the important part: the telephone number should be in this format: *99***x#  where x is the number that corresponds to the data account ID. Normally I try *99***2# first, then *99***3#  as these seem to correspond to Orange’s GPRS  / Internet accounts – *99***1# is usually the MMS account on my phones, but it might be the internet on yours.

This is a special number that the phone would recognise as a command to connect to the data accounts.

Once that’s set up, test dial it – Windows should confirm with you if it was successfully or not. Quick google test should confirm everything afterwards.

Obviously, running with 3G enabled is much nicer, but old phones or tariffs with 2.5G GPRS only can still do it, albeit at speeds harking back to the days of actual dial up modems. Pair this up with a Three £5/month phone internet add on, and that’s a new mobile road warrior in the making!

*unfortunately for me, I don’t have a spare unlocked 3G-enabled phone since my P1 was stolen. Such is life when you find a good thing, and it slaps you back in the face with a taunt.

5 minutes with the Blackberry Storm

If you’ve not been living under a rock lately, you should have noticed all those Blackberry Storm adverts that Vodafone is pushing lately, with over £1 million spent on promotion!

Anyway, I had a chance to have a quick play with the device at some random Vodafone store which was lucky enough to have one to demo with.

First impressions: very lovely looking device. 430×360 screen, bright, good definition.

Now, the main thing that everyone has been raving on about is the touchscreen, as this is a major departure for RIM who is known for their emphasis on messaging and physical QWERTY-based keypad phones. How does it play with just the screen alone?

The spring-mounted clicky screen (known in RIM’s marketing speak as SurePress) sounded very interesting when I first heard about it – it solves the issue of touchscreens lacking proper feedback, ignoring all that haptic feedback stuff. Press down, and the screen goes down, and clicks. Like a big button. Being capacitive, it is pretty sensitive to your fingertouch, but you cannot use styluses (or any other object) on this.

SurePress: I had my doubts before I demoed this – what happens when you want to use more than one fingers (like two thumbs) to type, like you would do on a normal physical keypad? Would you have to depress the screen before you can ‘type’ another letter (as Engadget thought), or does the Storm have some other trick up its metaphysical sleeve? 

I found the touch feedback great for menus, navigation, general usage and dialling. Typing an email/note/whatever was more awkward, but it does still allow you to type reasonably quickly, given time to practise – when you press down to type a letter, the screen goes down, but you can still enter other letters without having to depress the screen. So it is still quite usable if you like your touchscreens.

I still find I make too many odd niggly mistakes when finger typing on touchscreen keyboards however, and the lack of error correction and letter feedback doesn’t help (it is hard to see which letter you are pressing at times). Personally, I would prefer a proper keypad, but you might like using the screen far more than me!

The rest of the phone – all quite standard – it does audio and video playback, various messenging apps, web browsing (still slow though), phone stuff!

There is one gripe though: the adverts mention ‘Designed for Vodafone’ (or Verizon) – so the phone comes with 3G, but no WiFi connectivity – guess who dictated this! If the Bold can do it, why not the Storm? Quite a poor move on Vodafone’s part, as all the other major smartphones come with WiFi as standard – very useful when there is no 3G connection available. 

Nevertheless, it is very well built, and it spices up the choices available, but the OS does feel slow at times, and not entirely polished.

My conclusion? Nice to look at, nice to feel, not so great for me to use. The Vodafone rep I was speaking to made a good point: Bold for keyboard lovers, Storm for the media mad. (She loves her Samsung Omnia to bits, so she could claim to be relatively unbiased on the Blackberrys).

Anyway read this for a more in-depth review:

T-mobile G1 googlephone

Quick summary of what I’ve read from various posts from the blogosphere:

  • Great software – web browsing and touch interface is brilliant; open sandbox design of the OS means plenty of possible applications to do whatever you want
  • Google app/mail/contact syncing is excellent (providing you have an account), though some feel being tied to a Google account is a downside.
  • Poor hardware – battery is crap, lasting half a day of moderate use; design is flimsy, and IMHO rather ugly; 
  • Rather expensive overall for what is essentially a ‘beta’ phone.
Give it another year for the OS to mature with more manufacturers onboard with more form factors and better build quality (what happened HTC?!), and I think it will be a strong contender against the [Jesus?] iPhone and the Symbian phones out there. For now, definitely one just to watch.

Next mobile phone: which one?

I’ve been pondering for some time now on which phone to get. It’s been a month since I’ve gone through 12 months of my Orange contract, and now, I’m looking for something that I would definitely be happy with for the next 12 months. Requirements? it has to be better than my current phone, the SE W810, in every way, most notably:

  • music playback: with album/track ordering support, 3.5mm audio headset socket somewhere
  • camera imaging (ideally 3.2 MP+). Autofocus is a must. Flash light.
  • long battery life (what makes mobile phones mobile? not having to carry around a charger all the time)
  • torch light (never underestimate the usefulness of a phone light in dark creepy places)

The W810 suffers from not having proper album support which can order by track #, inherent with all Walkman 1.0 SE phones. The new batch of SE phones with Walkman 2.0 solve this problem, but they all seem to have the deranged corporate feature of borking some of the camera features just to keep the cybershot series of phones distinct; i.e. lack of autofocus on the W850 (lovely otherwise), no light/autofocus on the W880, no camera on the W950… and the W610 is basically a W810 with newer software and the lovely M2 memory stick instead of Duo (not worth another 12 months for).

Maddening? yes. Nonetheless, the W810 is a great phone, though it is rather disappointing that 1 year later none of the current batch of new phones really exceed it much, considering that near-identical W800/K750 phones were released almost 2 years ago

Anyway, several candidates spring to mind, with their pros and cons.

Nokia N95

The initial stats look impressive: 5MP camera, GPS, Wifi, as well as the latest version of the Series 60 Symbian OS. Hing showed me his the other day at the Arboretum park – very nice indeed, with a 3.5″ minijack at the bottom, and that dual-slide thing. It even flips screen orientation depending on how you hold it, and what ‘mode’ you have the sliding part of the phone.

Good things?

  • large internal memory (over 100mb, can’t remember exact number), micro SD expansion, #
  • nice large screen (proper 24bit colour range), QVGA resolution (common with a lot of phones now)
  • music software seems fully featured – plays back all the necessary formats – MP3, AAC, eAAC etc;
  • runs symbian (plenty of software to choose from, TV remote control too!),
  • GPS – mapping, etc,
  • multimedia powerhouse – pretty much an uberphone when it comes to feature. Did I mention wifi, light and car sat nav use too?

Negative points:

  • short battery life, many reviews mention that it rarely lasts more than a day. Definitely would need to stock up on chargers for this.
  • High cost (expected for something as highly spec’ed as this).
  • Average imaging quality – reviews show that it does not beat the SE K800 for picture quality, though under optimum conditions you can get some good details in; Also: shutter lag – pictures saved are noticably delayed from what you see.

Samsung U600

Beautiful looking slide phone, one of the thinnest out there. Played around with one in Carphone Warehouse (though the sales assistant didn’t seem pleased that I wasn’t out to get a new contract on the spot). First impressions were: nice camera, 3.2MP with autofocus, quick to take, comes out pretty well. Will need to see it under low light conditions however. Media playback seems decent, and the phone seems pretty responsive too.

Not so sures (need to find out):

  • battery life – previous samsungs seemed to have short-to-average battery life usage, having 1-2 days between recharges, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if this was the same, especially with the slim body. I could possibly live with 2 days though.
  • software? was not a fan of the LG/Samsung interfaces in the past; this is quite subjective though
  • Music output- does it have a socket/bundled adapter for 3.5″ minijack? plus what is the music playback quality like?


  • camera performance seems good, much speedier than the old Samsung D500, quality, whilst not K800-beating, is decent
  • Look – very nice looking phone, will definitely fit in the pocket pretty easily
  • Micro SD memory expansion slot – definitely needed for all those songs and pictures

Sony Ericsson P990

Smartphone, released rather late, so the specs did look underpar compared to the opposition, however, being the big brother to the newer SE W950 and M600, it has their features plus more, and recent firmware upgrades have meant many of the bugs which plagued the phone at release has reportedly pretty much resulted in a nice stable system to use. The user interface / input system – touchscreen, qwerty keyboard – might annoy some, but the P990 is a definite improvement over the original P800 with a number of input systems. Lack of 5-way thumbwheel (now a 3 way) is a shame though.

Hmmms (not so great):

  • Large size (bit of a brick here), though it is still pocketable, it is still slightly larger than the old P800, and looks slightly bigger than the N95 too
  • 2.0 MP camera – seems backwards compared to current phones today, though it is reported that the picture quality is better than that of the K750/W810 phones.
  • Software not as big a library as the Series 60 (aka Nokia smartphone) – the change to UIQ 3 has meant many of the older symbian UIQ software is obsolute, and unusable on this newer phone – plus the smaller userbase doesn’t help


  • Software (meaning at the very least we can extend the functionality of the phone). I know, I mentioned this as a neg, but the possibility balances the current drag. With more phones based on UIQ in the future, (and SE purchased UIQ last winter) this will at least be some leverage.
  • Uses memory stick duo (I have plenty of these cards, will save on getting new flash memory)
  • Decent battery life – considered much better than the highend nokia smartphones, lasting several days.
  • Wifi!

Sony W610

Just a quick comment on this; there is a big brother to this, the W660, which includes 3G support, though it is in my eyes slightly uglier to look at. Cons: similar to the W810 in build and feature list; slightly worse camera, but it is better than most of the other walkman2.0 based phones. Still 2MP. Uses M2 memory (bit of a pain, as it is more expensive for the lower memory capacities available right now compared to the others) Pros: latest firmware; walkman 2.0 means better music organisation, nicer (subjective) look. Same excellent battery life, and still decent picture quality.

Most phones on the market now will have decent bluetooth support (several years back you would be lucky if a phone could send files via bluetooth easily, let alone the whole addressbook), reasonably nice screens, triband/quadband/3G, and your general PIM features, so now, looking for a new phone will be placing emphasis on looking at the extra non-calling features that you might want, the quailty of the build, and most of all, battery life – the one thing that you can never have enough of. Otherwise, there are plenty of budget phones to serve your (minimal) needs out there.

More phones when I see them to come.