Help me stop missing email
December 12, 2011 7:26 AM   Subscribe

It's time to start looking for a new smartphone. I have the Nokia E71, and I like it well enough but for one thing: I need a phone that can adapt automatically to a small number of wireless networks for email, as I move between them. What phone should I get, or failing that, what is this function/feature even called?

What I Need and Have:
Most of my requirements are simple: decent screen size, QWERTY keys, ability to tether, ability to read attachments (maybe not comfortably, but in a pinch) and ideally ability to do some limited editing of documents. I need to be able to set up the email so that my (GMail or Google Apps GMail) accounts (if I were to check them using a browser) sync with my phone and with Outlook on my computer. The E71 covers all these.

What I Need and Don't Even Know the Name For:
With my phone, I can set it to a single network (e.g. my home wireless network, or the provider's super expensive data network) but once set it cannot connect to any other network ever. Or I can have it not set to a network, in which case I can manually connect if I remember to do so. I have wireless at home and at the office, and I spend 98% of my time in those two places. What I would like is to be able to set the phone to automatically connect to the wireless network in 2-4 networks, and to connect to the provider's data network whenever its not in one of the pre-set networks. So for example, I'm at home and am connected to my home network and I get beeped when an email comes in. Then I leave my building and the phone switches over to the provider network while I walk to work and I get beeped when an email comes in. Then I enter my office and the phone switches to my work wireless network and I get beeped when an email comes in. I know I could do this with the wireless setup on my laptop, so why not my phone?

I'd prefer the phone do this on it's own, but it would be almost as good if it would prompt me whenever I entered a recognized network, which IIRC is what the iPhone does. I'd prefer that the phone do this natively, but I would consider software. I am not married to any operating system, but I use PCs at home and at work so it has to have some compatibility.

Also, as this question no doubt illustrates, I can do technology...stuff, but I don't necessarily understand it. So layman's terms please.
posted by sarahkeebs to Technology (11 answers total)
Where are you located? (Nokia adapts phone software for open GSM or for specific operators depending on the target market)
posted by infini at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2011

iPhone automatically prompts you to join new wireless networks as they come into range, and if you've already connected to one before, it'll just connect to it again without even prompting you, as soon as it gets in range.

I think Android and pretty much every other modern phone OS does the same.
posted by empath at 7:40 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Android does do that, yes. Once you tell it to log in to a particular network, it will automatically login whenever that network is within range until you tell it not to, and can "remember" multiple networks and switch between them automatically as you move around.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2011

Transferring between networks, even encrypted ones, is utterly transparent on Android. Set it up one, and you'll never need to worry about it again. The phone will move seamlessly from 3G data to wireless or between wireless networks without any action on your part. What you want is exactly what happens with my Android device.

ability to tether

Even better than this is the ability to be a wireless hotspot. No need to mess with wires. The Google-branded products can generally do this, while the feature may be locked out on other phones by the same carrier. It's one of my favourite features of my Nexus S.

If you prefer tethering though, most Android devices can do it now. Almost all phones now use easy-to-find and cheap mini-usb cables. No more Nokia-only or Samsung-only cables.

some limited editing of documents

Android, by default, can only do pdfs natively. Google Docs is available for free, and may be installed on your device, but I've found it pretty unsatisfactory. There are good, but paid, apps which can do the standard doc/xls/ppt office set. Documents-to-go is probably the best option.

I need to be able to set up the email so that my (GMail or Google Apps GMail) accounts (if I were to check them using a browser) sync with my phone and with Outlook on my computer.

Android works smoothest synching to Gmail/Apps Mail (I use both). Multiple accounts are pretty easy.

The best way to sync your phone, a gmail account and an exchange account, I've found is to get the gmail-to-outlook sync working, then the phone works automatically.

Honestly, I don't know if there are great solutions here for Android. Here's a run-down of some of the options.
posted by bonehead at 8:22 AM on December 12, 2011

It's bizarre that an E71 won't automatically connect to different access points. You won't really see that touted as a feature for modern smartphones since it just seems like such a basic thing that they all do.

According to this random forum post I found, "There is a new app available from the nokia download! applicaton [sic] called 'smart connect' which allows you to do this and is free." Maybe you could look for that app. The info is circa 2008 and it's from Australia so YMMV.
posted by bcwinters at 8:25 AM on December 12, 2011

On my Nokia 5800 (which uses mostly the same OS, Symbian S60), you can set the precedence of connections that it uses.

for example, If you have three WiFi networks that you normally connect to, you can set it to remember and automatically connect to those networks, and then put your cellular carrier last in the list, so that it only uses that connection if it can't see any of the others.

If that is what you are looking for, then I'd assume that any of the Android phones can do that, and I don't see why the E71 couldn't do it either, since it was released around the same time as my phone.

(this is based on my phone, yours might be different)
try opening the main menu and choosing settings->connectivity->destinations->internet.
find the entry in there that corresponds to the cellular carrier, highlight it, then choose the "options" button. Then select "organize" and "change priority". then select the entry you want to swap with.

you also might want to check each entry in that list (using "options"->"edit") and make sure that "use access point" is set to "automatically".
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2011

I have a Nokia 5800 as well and am able to do this, and I think the E71 follows a similar method as well, that's why I wondered whether the OP may have a phone adapted somehow for a particular provider?
posted by infini at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2011

Any smartphone should be able to do the things you want, so it's really a matter of budget and preference, subject to whatever restrictions you may have by virtue of geography or other factors.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:48 AM on December 12, 2011

An iPhone or any touch screen keyboard will feel like hot death to you after the glory of the E71 keyboard.

If you can't find a Nokia E7 where you are I highly, highly recommend the BEST physical keyboard-based phone ever made, and that's the BB 9900 (or 9930 if you want Sprint or Verizon). It connects to whichever wifi networks you've signed into seamlessly (unlike the E71, as you mention) and if you're ever going to do any document editing or for that matter write emails, get the BlackBerry.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:45 PM on December 12, 2011

Sorry, I meant Nokia E6, not E7 which is a slideout QWERTY, a form factor that I find far worse than the Bold/E71/E72/E5/E6.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:46 PM on December 12, 2011

OP here: my provider is TELUS, and I am located in Toronto. The major providers are TELUS, Rogers, Bell, and fido...

I know it's deeply bizarre that the E71 doesn't (sometimes doesn't?) connect. You can save a whole bunch of wireless access points. But in the email settings, you have two choices: "Always ask" and "user defined", and "always ask" is only triggered to ask when you go manually to do something like connect to inbox or send an email.

It sounds like a QWERTY Android phone will be my best bet, but I'll make sure the provider hasn't disabled that capability.

Alas I have a probably irrational visceral dislike of Blackberry, because all the BB people in my office have panic attacks when their network goes down. Granted it's only every two years or so, but still seems odd to have a phone that's doubly vulnerable.
posted by sarahkeebs at 8:16 PM on December 14, 2011

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