When Nokia started to put Wi-Fi into smartphones about three years ago they were pretty much the only company doing that and they were looked at suspiciously by both the competition and network carreirs. At the time a lot of people said they were not sure if Nokia would prevail with their strategy and that carriers would strongly oppose such phones.
If you look at the market these days I think it has prevailed quite well. All Nokia N-series phones have Wi-Fi built and virtually all competing mobile device vendors have followed their lead. Apple has it, HTC has it, RIM now has blackberries with Wi-fi and even Sony Ericsson has now started to put Wi-Fi into their camera feature phones (e.g. the new C905).
The way I see it, Nokia has made good use of their first mover advantage and currently offers the widest range of services over Wi-Fi. Here's how I use the built in Wi-Fi in my N95:
- Mobile web browsing (the number one application for every Wi-Fi enabled phone I guess), both the built in browser do a great job for surfing the web in general, using Google Reader for my RSS feeds, mobile banking, etc.
- My second killer application: VoIP telephony with the built in SIP client. I guess Nokia is the only company that has so far integrated a full VoIP client integrated in their software. It's fully automatic. When I get home, the N95 senses my home Wi-Fi and automatically connects. It's fully replaced my landline cordless phone by now.
- Automated podcast download: The podcasting application runs in the background and automatically downloads the latest podcasts when they appear. A very nice application and I've configured it in a way to only do it over Wi-Fi but not over cellular.
- Mobile Web Server: Very cool application to access my phones address book, calendar, camera etc. via my notebook's web browser. Here are some more details in case you never heard about it before.
- Picture upload to Flickr: When I travel to countries in which I only have an expensive mobile data subscription I rather wait to upload pictures to Flickr until I reach the cover of a Wi-Fi network. Shozu does a good job here with queuing pictures marked for upload and automatically sending them when a configured network becomes available.
- e-mail: When at home, my e-mail client (Profimail) uses the Wi-Fi instead of the cellular connection. Very convenient and cost saving.
- When I am traveling, I have my dongle dock with me and instead of communicating with the 3G network directly, most applications use Wi-Fi to the dongle dock which then sends out the data via 3G. Helps to save cost because in many country data over data only SIMs is much cheaper than a data add on to a SIM card with a decent voice tarrif.
- Some people us the 3G connectivity and the Wi-Fi as a Wi-Fi bridge for other devices. I prefer my dongle dock but I am sure such a solution appeals as well.
To see how the competition has reacted in the meantime here's a question to those with a non-Nokia smartphone: Which applications does your device offer today and which of those do you use?