Nokia E61 smart phone
The Finnish firm's would-be BlackBerry beater
The E61 is a 3G device, but I tried it first with a GSM/GPRS SIM from O2. The E61 also has Wi-Fi connectivity, but Nokia hasn't done a good job of making it easy to use. Out of the box, the phone provides no indication it's within range of a WLAN access point. A visit to the phone's applications menu reveals a Connect. folder, but while there's a clearly labelled Bluetooth app there, you won't find a Wi-Fi or WLAN icon. There is Connection Manager, and opening this you're presented with a 'Availab. WLAN' option, which lists all the local access points. But it doesn't let you connect to any of them, offering instead the opportunity to define the highlighted network as an "Access Point".
Nokia defines an Access Point as any connection source. This is a crucial distinction and one that hints at how the E61 manages multiple connectivity technologies, but is nontheless confusing to folk used to reading 'acess point' as an alternative to 'base-station'.
But back to Wi-Fi. Selecting 'Define access point' from the Options soft menu asks you to confirm that this is indeed what you want to do. Press 'Yes', however, and you're told you have to go to an entirely different application, "Conn. Settings", to do so. It doesn't take you there, you have to go and find it.
It's not part of Connection Manager - you have to go to a completely different folder, Tools, and select Settings, which has a Connections entry. Clear as mud. Here, there's a 'Wireless LAN' option, but its only entry is 'Show availability', set by default to 'Never'. Changing it to 'Yes', produces a second setting, 'Scan for networks', which lets you specify the polling frequency: you can choose between 1, 2, 5 and 10-minute periods.
Now you get a tiny icon at the top of the screen: four small squares arranged in a square. This is apparently supposed to convey the presence of Wi-Fi base-stations in your vicinity. Still can't connect to any of them, though. To do that, you have to go into Connections' 'Access points' option, where you'll see the carrier-specific GSM, GPRS etc links installed when you first powered up the device. From the Options soft menu, you have to select 'New access point', from which you can manually select a WLAN connection type then search for a network you can use and enter the appropriate WEP, WPA, WPA 2 or 802.1x security settings.
Phew - got there at last. Now, go to another location and you have to go through the entire process all over again to connect to a different network. If Windows Mobile can simply display a list of local WLANs and allow you to connect to one - security policy permitting - there's no reason why S60 can't.
The method to Nokia's madness is the Access Point Group, which allows you to bring together connections and define the order in which the device will try to connect to them. The idea is that you define a list of connections the E61 can step through until it finds one that allows internet access. This way you can always make sure it tries the high-bandwidth connections rather than simply defaulting to GPRS every time.
Alas, the implementation fails to deliver. Name an Access Point Group 'Office', and you can add the now-defined office WLAN access point and perhaps your GPRS link as a back-up. You can have multiple groups, but no single connection can reside in more than one group. So, if you want a second group, entitled 'Outdoors', which will contain just a GPRS link, you can't, unless you create a new Access Point that mirrors the one already defined. If an Access Point isn't in a Group, it won't be used
The upshot is that you may as well have just a single Access Point Group containing all your IP connections, from WLAN down to GSM dial-up, and leave the E61 to work its way through this list. If it can do that in response to a list you've defined, it can do so automatically in response to a list it maintains internally, saving you all the bother. Unfortunately, it doesn't.