BGR Breaks it Down: Keep your data connection alive on S60 handsets

With the ever-increasing popularity of handsets like the iPhone, Pre, Curve, Storm and so on, US mobile users are clearly warming up to devices tied to unlimited data plans. In fact, many would argue that owning a smartphone without unlimited data is mind boggling. In July of 2008, Nielsen estimated that 14 percent of US wireless subscribers had unlimited data plans. Following the tremendous success of devices like the iPhone 3G and BlackBerry Storm, we’re certain this number has ballooned since Nielsen’s report. Considering there are over 275 million wireless subscribers here in the US, we’re probably looking at somewhere around 50 million unlimited data plan-toting people currently gobbling up the nation’s wireless bandwidth.

Devices by RIM, Apple and Palm take advantage of unlimited data plans and keep a data connection alive at all times. Why wouldn’t they? This active data connection allows apps to go from dormant to useful with minimal delay — when it comes to UX of course, every millisecond counts. Enter S60 devices. Because the US is pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to Nokia’s target markets, S60 handles data differently. Abroad of course, unlimited data plans are not in abundance as they are here. Data is more expensive so every kilobit counts. As such, S60 handsets leave it up to applications to initiate a new data session each time they need to communicate. Since data sessions are then closed when an app is done communicating, users save money by minimizing throughput. Abroad, this is a great cost-saving feature. In the US, it’s merely a burden.

Since BGR HQ just took on a few new Nokia handsets, we were promptly reminded of S60′s connectivity data connectivity issues. As it happens however, a Nokia rep alerted us to a solution. Buried deep within the device settings where even most S60 power users we discussed the matter with couldn’t find it, there is a simple setting that can be adjusted to keep your data connection alive. On your S60 handset go to Settings -> Connection -> Packet Data, change “When Needed” to “When Available” and then key in your Access Point. You’ll now find that your handset keeps a data connection alive and when you launch data-dependant apps, they will spring to life much faster than before. Of course battery life will be affected to some extent, but you’ll have to decide which you value more: longevity where battery life is concerned or efficiency where usage is concerned. Unfortunately, it’s a choice S60 users are currently forced to make.

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