In this article I will review WMWifiRouter -the first phone-as-a-hotspot software- of which a test version was released in November 2007. The first commercial version of WMWifiRouter was released in March 2008, and roughly estimated there have been more than 600.000 downloads of the WMWifiRouter application.
A little while ago I reviewed the Wi-Fi Router application on the HTC HD2, but unfortunately this very handy application is not pre-loaded into the ROM of the T-Mobile USA version of the HTC HD2. Furthermore is this an application developed by HTC, and unfortunatly you can’t simply download it and install it on any Windows Phone.
“WMWifiRouter instantly turns a compatible Windows Mobile phone with wifi into a wireless internet hotspot.”
In this review I will provide a step-by-step overview of the WMWifiRouter application, and cover as much of the features as possible. However I can already tell you that WMWifiRouter is a way more advanced tool compared to the HTC Wi-Fi Router application I reviewed before.
WMWifiRouter Setup Wizard
When you first launch/run WMWifiRouter from the start menu of your Windows Phone, you will directly notice a setup-wizard that helps you step by step through the configuration process. In this section I will cover each of the steps with help of some WMWifiRouter screenshots.
In the left screenshot above you can see that in the first step the WMWifiRouter application detects, that there is more than one cellular data connection available and asks you to select one via a pull down menu. I selected the Vodafone live! connection.
The second step of the configuration wizard is shown in the right screenshot above. It consists of creating a WEP key for the Wi-Fi Network. You probably have noticed that you can choose to create a hexadecimal or alpha numeric WEP key, that in the worst scenario is used to create a WEP key.
The third step in the configuration process of WMWifiRouter is self explanatory. You are asked to allow WMWifiRouter to change your connection-, power- and backlight settings for optimal performance. Of course you choose the left Windows Mobile 6.5.3 touch-tile to allow this optimization step.
In the right screenshot above you see the fourth step in the WMWifiRouter first-time configuration process. It is a notice that you are aware of the costs of data use if you don’t have a proper cellular data subscription.I do have such a subscription so I continue with confirming via the allow touch-tile.
The left screenshot above shows you the fifth and last step of the configuration process. You need to accept the end user license agreement (EULA), when you after you have read the EULA carefully.
The right screenshot gives you an overview of the WMWifiRouter main-screen. On the main-screen you can see two rows of three large fingerfriendly buttons, of which each starts a specific operating mode of WMWifiRouter. The different operating modes of WMWifiRouter will be discussed in the next section, while the close/exit button is the red one (2nd row, right).
WMWifiRouter Operating Modes
After you have completed the WMWifiRouter setup-wizard, you can choose one of the five different operating modes of how you want to use the application on your Windows Phone. The operating modes use the available radio’s of the device in different combinations, so that the end-user can choose the most appropriate in a specific situation.
You can see in the screenshots above that you can select an operating mode by tapping on one of the touch optimized buttons, or you can select an operating mode from the pop-up menu (via the left soft key labeled “connection”).
Cellular to Wi-Fi – Mode 1
The first button on the left from the first row, starts the cellular to Wi-Fi operating mode of WMWifiRouter. This operating mode is configured via the in a previous section described setup wizard.
In a new screen you can see that WMWifiRouter is initializing the cellular to Wi-Fi mode, just like in the left screenshot above. You can see the overall status of the operating mode, just below the heading in the middle of the upper part of the screen (Starting up …). The status of each of the separate radio’s is listed in the middle of the screen (Cellular - power on and Wi-Fi – Waiting for cellular).
A small intermezzo. In the bottom area of the screen you can see three buttons: (1) statistics button, (2) battery button, (3) stop operating mode;
Both the screenshots above provide an idea of the information, which you can access via the statistics button (that I mentioned above). In fact it gives you an overview of real time information about the cellular to Wi-Fi operating mode as well as the real time status of the Windows Phone. In the left screenshot you can see the types of real-time information you can access, while as an example you can see the battery information in the right screenshot above.
Back to the general overview of the cellular to Wi-Fi operating mode.
In the right screenshot above, before the intermezzo, you can see that the cellular to Wi-Fi operating mode is ready. The WMWifiRouter_2220 wireless network is created, and the password 1234567890 is listed in the pop-up on your Windows Phone. The WMWifiRouter is ready to connected.
I view the available networks on my Windows 7 powered notebook, select WMWifiRouter_2220 from the list and enter the password 1234567890 and click on the connect button. In the screenshots above you can see that I’m connected to the WMWifiRouter Hotspot !
Cellular to USB – Mode 2
The second operating mode of the WMWifiRouter application is the cellular to usb mode, which reminds me of the default available internet sharing capabilities of Windows Mobile (since Windows Mobile 5.0 AKU2). I must admit that this is one of the great features that I love about Windows Mobile, since you can use your Windows Phone as a USB-modem for your Windows powered notebook.
The WMWifiRouter cellular to usb operating mode follows a similar conceptual reasoning by sharing the cellular data connection over USB with your notebook. However the main advantage is that you have all this functionality bundled in one application.
Cellular to Bluetooth - Mode 3
Cellular to Bluetooth is the third operating mode of the WMWifiRouter application. Just like the previous cellular to usb operating mode shows the cellular to bluetooth operating mode strong conceptual similarities with the internet sharing capabilities of Windows Phone:
“[...] there are two ways of sharing the cellular data connection with your Windows powered notebook: (1) via USB cable, and (2) via Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN).”
The great advantage of WMWifiRouter is again the easy of use, and the all in one type of application.
For some strange reason, which I need to investigate a little more I can’t make use of the cellular to bluetooth operating mode on the HTC HD2. It might be caused by one of the third party applications that I have installed to review.
I got in touch with the WMWifiRouter developer and it seems that the non-standard Bluetooth stack on the HTC HD2 is the root cause of the greyed out cellular to bluetooth operating mode. While most Windows Phones use the Microsoft Bluetooth Stack, the HTC HD2 uses a different one that isn’t supported yet in WMWifiRouter.
Wi-Fi to USB - Mode 4
WMWifiRouter operating mode four is the Wi-Fi to USB mode, which means you can use your Windows Phone as a Wi-Fi modem/card for your Windows powered notebook.
To my knowledge there is no notebook or netbook (even the really cheap ones) anymore that doesn’t have a Wi-Fi card build-in, however I can imagine that this wasn’t the case in 2007/2008 when WMWifiRouter was first released.
USB to Wi-Fi - Mode 5
The fifth and last operating mode of WMWifirouter is the USB to Wi-Fi mode. This mode allows you to share files on your Windows Phone or over the Wi-Fi card of your Windows powered notebook. This operating mode reminds me of a Windows application I reviewed some time ago: Connectify, transforms a Windows 7 laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Personally I think that the average users will mainly use the first three operating modes, while the last operating modes are more for experts and specialists who use this tool in specific situations.
WMWifiRouter Options, Tools and Configuration
The most impressive part of WMWifiRouter is the extensive set of tools and configuration features.
An excellent example is the intermezzo with an overview of real time information about the cellular to Wi-Fi operating mode as well as the real time status of the Windows Phone. See section cellular to Wi-Fi operating mode.
You can access the extensive tools and configuration features via the right touch tile “options” in the main screen of the WMWifiRouter application.
In the right screenshot above you can see the different tools: (1) reset all settings, (2) show log, (3) save support info, and (4) usb, (5) bluetooth, (6) wi-fi;
By checking the “show log” feature, you can create a kind of system log that is shown on the screen. Via the usb, bluetooth or wi-fi menu’s you can for example switch the modes or change the power control.
Furthermore you can change the support info in a support.txt file in the WMWfiRouter installation folder on your Windows Phone. This is really helpful in case you need feedback or customer support in a troubleshooting scenario.
The configuration options are almost endless, which supports the reasoning that WMWifiRouter is a highly advanced connection suite that can help both Joe the Plumber and an IT expert.
In the left screenshot above you can see the unfolded configuration menu. You have seen the cellular connection and Wi-Fi network menu items already in the first run configuration wizard. In fact these are the underlying configurations to use WMWifiRouter and transform your Windows Phone into a hotspot.
In the right screenshot above you can configure the IP Range for the WMWifiRouter mobile hotspot. In the example the range of 192.168.3.x is selected.
The menu item Battery allows you to enable or disable the feature that WMWifiRouter can shutdown the application based on the battery level or temperature of your Windows Phone. Yes can set the parameters via an easy to use step-by-step wizard.
WMWifiRouter can ping servers or retrieve webpages as a form of connection keep alive. Again there is a step-by-step wizard to guide you through the configuration process.
The screenshots above provide an overview of the advanced configuration options ! You can change the specific configurations by selecting an item from the tree-structure and choose the option from a pull down menu, or enter a value in some specific situations.
For example under the logger branch there is the branch save. From a pull down menu you can select yes or no to answer the question saves the log into a file.
In terms of usability it feels a little like the TouchXperience Advanced Configuration Tool written by Julien Schapman.
The last item in the configuration menu is called Port Mappings. This advanced configuration option adds the real router functionality, like you are used from a Linksys router for example. In the screenshots above you can see that I have added an FTP routing/port mapping to allow someone to access files via the FTP protocol.
The variations here are almost infinite here, and can suite both needs for personal use in your home network and IT professional in a corporate environment.
Overall WMWifiRouter conclusions and wrap-up
WMWifiRouter -the first phone-as-a-hotspot software-, outperforms the HTC Wi-Fi Router application in many area’s. WMWifiRouter is so much more than just a Wi-Fi Router application; I would describe it more as a suite of connection tools for the modern mobile professional.
I have tested WMWifiRouter 2.0.0 on the HTC HD Mini, the HTC HD2 and of course on the HTC Snap. I’m really happy to see support of this wonderful application for both touch and non-touch Windows Phones. WMWifiRouter also works perfectly on Windows Mobile 6.5.3, since the HTC HD Mini is powered by this latest version of Windows Mobile 6.x.
You can buy WMWifiRouter directly on the developer’s website for the price of € 14.99. For this reasonable price you can turn almost every Windows Phone into a wireless hotspot, Wi-Fi- or bluetooth modem, and use advanced capabilities that you normally only get on a full featured router.
For the users of the T-Mobile USA branded HTC HD2 this is the perfect solution to suite their Windows Phone with mobile hotspot capabilities, since the HTC Wi-Fi Router application isn’t per-installed on those versions.
I honestly hope that Microsoft can get Morose Media onboard of the Windows Phone 7 train, since this is a valuable connection suite for a broad audience !