The Happy Marriage of Wi-Fi and Smartphones

Carl Weinschenk

The teaming of wireless and cellular in the same mobile device intuitively is a potent combination. That "no brainer" is backed by new research from vendor Meraki and the NPD Group.

Both pieces of research are discussed in this story. NPD says smartphones represented 28 percent of domestic handset sales during the second quarter, a 47 percent hike over the year-ago quarter. The key number: 20 percent of new phones were equipped with Wi-Fi.


The more creative approach was taken by Meraki. The company randomly chose two sets of access points and compared usage rates between this year and last. The study showed a massive increase in usage (Apple device usage grew by 221 percent, Research in Motion's BlackBerries by 419 percent, and Nokia devices by 114 percent). The percentage increases show that more people are using smartphones to perform Wi-Fi tasks.


That tracks findings from ABI Research that the writer cites. The story says ABI found that 74 percent of people with Wi-Fi capabilities on their smartphones use it, and 77 percent say they want the functionality on their next phones. The story points out that Wi-Fi traffic involving Intel-based devices, primarily laptops, declined. This indicates that smartphones and other small devices are the primary movers in the melding of cellular and wireless.

The Wi-Fi/smartphone mutual admiration society has a lot of members. Recently, Ovum identified Global Positioning System (GPS) and Wi-Fi as the two most popular features for smartphones. Of 77 new devices, 59 offered GPS and 49 provided Wi-Fi capabilities. GigaOm's Om Malik points to the synergy between the two platforms in various posts. In this one, he offers insight into the Meraki survey; he discusses a Drivescape/Decipher survey in this post. The theme through Malik's comments is that 3G and Wi-Fi are driving each other.


In the earlier post, Malik refers to claims by Tropos Network that can be found in this press release. The release says the three-year-old Google wireless broadband network in Mountain View, Calif., continues to grow. It now transports 600 gigabytes of data daily and has, according to Google, 19,000 users. That's a 3,000-user gain during a recent 30-day period. The story also references claims by AT&T that 49 percent of its Wi-Fi network users connect via smartphones. Says Google's Karl Garcia:

We've seen the iPhone and other Wi-Fi enabled handheld devices as significant drivers of the high demand we see. Currently nearly a quarter of all devices that connect to our network are handhelds, compared to almost none when we launched the network.


The bottom line is that Wi-Fi and smartphones are different ways of achieving the goal of enabling device owners to engage in voice and data communications. They are partly competitive-folks using Wi-Fi are bypassing the cellular network-but both stand to win more than they lose through the partnership.

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