Useful mobile features: Network Mode

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Network Mode
There are a number of nifty features that are not available on all mobile devices or smartphones that people often do not pay attention to – until they need them.

One of such features is that commonly known as “Network Mode.” Basically, network mode is a feature found in your mobile’s Settings menu. It allows you to peg your smartphone to 3G mode, 2G mode, or auto mode. The issue is this: not all mobiles allow you this complete array of options. Here are the three possible options again:

  1. Auto (3G/2G) mode
  2. 2G-only mode
  3. 3G-only mode

You don’t have to understand all the technicalities, but you do need to recognise what the names/tags stand for so that you don’t get confused. One manufacturer may use the label “GSM” instead of “2G.” Same thing. If you see GPRS or EDGE, that’s 2G too. I hope I expressed that in a way you can understand. Here, in simple terms:

2G = GSM/GPRS/EDGE. 3G = UMTS/WCDMA.

Also, note that 2G/GSM/GPRS/EDGE = slow, while 3G/UMTS/WCDMA = fast.

Many phones give you the options for either auto or 2G only. Just two options. That may sound good and okay, but in my experience the full options is essential. Why? There are times that I need high-speed internet, but having only an auto option means that the device switches between 2G and 3G depending on which signal is stronger per time and location.

Meanwhile, a weaker 3G signal still delivers much faster speeds than the strongest 2G signal. At those times that I need 3G-only service, the full range of options come in handy. I simply peg the device to 3G-only and problem solved.

I have been in such a situation too many times, so I appreciate the full options being available on my mobile devices. So, how do the different mobile platforms fare?

Symbian: Full Options
Symbian always gave the full range of options. Every single Symbian smartphone has the full options.

Android: A little here and there
On Android, it is a mishmash. Some devices (be they smartphones or tablets) give you the full range, while others give you only auto and 2G-only.

iOS: Auto & 2G-only
On iOS, iOS allows you to switch between auto and 2G-only too (at least iOS 5.1 on the iPhone 3GS).

Windows Phone
On the few Windows Mobile devices that I have seen, it is just auto and 2G-only options too.

Nokia S40 and other feature phones
My experience with feature phones, but I have used a few Nokia S40, LG and Sony Ericsson feature phones. I still have access to a Sony Ericsson W595 and it gives only two options: auto and 2G-only. I however do not remember what the network mode options on Nokia’s S40 phones look like. Same goes for other manufacturers.

Need 3G-only at times?
At the moment, I am certain that Symbian/Belle devices and some Android smartphones/tablets gives the user the liberty to peg their devices on 3G only should there be a need. Take note: not all Android devices, so you have to do some research.

If 3G-only service is important to you under certain circumstances, do take note and be sure to look out for this when purchasing your devices.

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  1. This is one feature I really appreciated on Symbian. And Meego offers the three options too.

    On the android-running Pliris Blaze+, the two available options (as shown in the picture above) are Auto-mode and 3G-mode. I guess PlirisMobile decided to omit the 2G-only mode because the Blaze+ has a large battery (with an extra), but I still wish it was available.

  2. To get 3G only on Android, follow this steps:
    1. Open your dialpad and type *#*#4636#*#*
    2. It will open up a menu called Testing, select Phone information.
    3. Scroll down, you’ll see a dropdown menu. Select it and choose WCDMA Only.
    4. If it does not work Turn off the radio and turn it back on again.
    Cheers!.

  3. Harry Echemco says:

    All the Android devices I’ve tried, running version 2.2+ always have the full options. I realized how useful the feature is sometime last year, when Mr. Mo published how to make use of free and legal data allowance from Glo. Glo network then was so erratic that I was always going back to the settings to change things and see which works.

    Leaving the setting on Auto means the device will predominantly be on 2G and sometimes remain so even when 3G is available and 2G is not, leaving me with no service. So what I was doing was to keep switching between 3G and 2G connections manually as the need arises.

    3G is substantially faster than 2G, even EDGE, that I find it very difficult using EDGE when 3G connection is available, not even for the consideration of battery life.

    • Mister Mo says:

      All the Android devices I’ve tried, running version 2.2+ always have the full options.

      I have reviewed several Android version 2.2+ devices that don’t offer the full options. I still have access to two of them and checked again. I actually have a version 4.0.3 device here without the full options.

      It seems that certain manufacturers tweak the raw OS to provide the full suite of options.

  4. Eye_Bee_kay says:

    wow, Emmanuel, that is a cool tip. I just upgraded my knowledgebase with that *#*#4636#*#* info!
    //

    I have found that setting my network mode to a specific one is often not practicable for me
    I have auto / 2G / 3G availability.

    anybody would prefer the fastest ~3g.

    But…

    It is often the case at my end that one network mode would connect and another would not.

    so, I use Elixir 2 (Android) to easily flipflop between the modes with a tap. if one mode is slow or refuses to connect, I simply tap and switch to the one that does connect.

    if I had my way, I would stick to 2G permanently (to conserve battery) and use 3G for downloads only..

  5. Harry Echemco says:

    It seems that certain manufacturers tweak the raw OS to provide the full suite of options.

    Say tweaks could be very important in deciding which manufacturer is appreciated more than the others. I certainly would be piqued to try another manufacturer and realize that some of the features I’m already used to on my present device are missing.

    Sometimes, I don’t know which of the features are core Android features and which are tweaks from manufacturers. The Tecno T1 that I tried some months back has three sets of scrollable hardware toggle widgets from the pulldown menu but lacked the preconfigured operators’ internet/MMS settings. I have even seen one of these newer Sony Ericsson Xperia phones without the hardware toggle widget entirely. Why would Sony Ericsson not include such a handy feature in their phones.

  6. Noni says:

    I tried switching mine from the Auto option to 3G and actually got a worse service. So now I leave it at “Auto” and I mainly get 3G, though it fluctuates at times.

  7. jujukemist says:

    Sometimes, I don’t know which of the features are core Android features and which are tweaks from manufacturers. The Tecno T1 that I tried some months back has three sets of scrollable hardware toggle widgets from the pulldown menu but lacked the preconfigured operators’ internet/MMS settings.

    your comment just solved a puzzle I have had with d micromax A75 and the T1 thanks

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