Wi-Fi shines through cloudy iPhone data packages

Calculating which Rogers data package you’ll need to comfortably (and affordably) operate your iPhone is a challenge. It’s not only adverse to our Internet surfing habits, but requires an endless string of addition, taking note of each click as well as the size of every page.

Rogers provides data usage estimates that suggest 400MB would allow up to 200,000 text e-mail messages or 3,100 Web pages or 1,360 photo attachments. These estimates point to an average 129K per Web page.

But determining an average Web page size depends on how you do the math and what sites you plan to see. According to Web performance and Internet marketing firm Website Optimization, the size of an average Web page in 2008 is over 312K, up from 93.7K in 2003. Web pages have more than tripled in size over the last years, says the site, and the number of objects has doubled, from 25.7 to 49.9.

Increased bandwidth speed is one reason Web sites are experiencing such growth and Web developers probably didn’t have future Canadian iPhone data packages in mind when creating them.

To determine the size of the Web pages you frequent, a free Web page analysis tool is available from Website Optimization. Type any URL in the field, click a button and a full page of statistics, including page size, will result.

Based on Web Page Analyzer’s calculations, visiting Yahoo.ca requires about 253K while Yahoo.com came up at 5K. Google search results, whether Canadian- or US-based, average between 6 and 21K. Other popular sites include: Wikipedia.org (139K), Facebook (172K), eBay.ca (300K), YouTube (302K), Amazon.ca (350K) and Canada.com (an astounding 1067K).

With the launch of the iPhone App Store, iPhone users have plenty of new ways to rack up their data charges. For example, Pandora now offers a free streaming Internet radio station. If you access this application on the 3G network, you’re looking at roughly 128 kbps. Three songs and ten minutes later, you’ve consumed about 76 MB of data.

Wi-Fi provides a silver lining. “If you’re on a limited data plan, you could certainly use Wi-Fi to augment your data consumption,” said Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group.

One of the iPhone’s most coveted features, Wi-Fi provides faster data speeds, less battery drain and no data charges. Rogers won’t charge you any fees to use Wi-Fi on the iPhone and doesn’t need to grant you permission to access individual Wi-Fi networks.

If an available Wi-Fi network is detected, the iPhone will automatically default to it. When you move from a 3G to a Wi-Fi location, or vice versa, your data connection will automatically transfer too. As the iPhone doesn’t support voice calling over Wi-Fi, automatic network transfers apply to data, not calls.

The iPhone and iPhone 3G received official Wi-Fi certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance on June 16, which means the phones were tested in an independent lab and met pre-defined security requirements and interoperability with other Wi-Fi certified devices, explained marketing director Kelly Davis-Felner.

“It’s got really, really good quality of service mechanisms in place,” she said. “If you are doing something like streaming music or playing a video game…the data gets through first and gets priority so that you don’t end up with latency that would end up ruining your experience.”

Apple claims up to 300 minutes of battery life for Internet usage and/or talk time over the 3G network. Using Wi-Fi, you can expect roughly 400 minutes of Web browsing and 600 minutes for e-mail, said Davis-Felner. Talk time statistics aren’t provided for Wi-Fi, as the service isn’t yet available. “People haven’t had the opportunity to be out there testing it,” she said. “But for all those data-oriented applications, Wi-Fi is performing much better from a battery life standpoint than the 3G is.”

Wi-Fi potentially offers increased security. “From a security point of view,” said Tauschek, “you might feel a little bit better about transferring sensitive data on a secure Wi-Fi network than you would on a 3G network.”

iPhone applications are now being designed specifically for Wi-Fi use. “A few have caught our eye because of their particular suitability to the Wi-Fi link,” said Davis-Felner, who pointed to Pandora, Apple’s Remote and the eagerly anticipated iCall application (currently in beta) – the proposed first to enable voice calling over a Wi-Fi network and save user air time minutes.

Business users may find NetSketch appealing, said Davis-Felner. “[NetSketch] uses Wi-Fi only and you can connect iPhones or iPod touches over a Wi-Fi network to collaboratively create drawings and doodles,” she said. While it’s positioned as a “fun” application, NetSketch could provide a way to collaborate and draw a business diagram or create a business process, she said.

DataCase will enable you to treat the iPhone as a wireless hard drive and transfer data onto it using Wi-Fi, said Davis-Felner. “If you’re looking to get documents off your computer and transport them, you can use this,” she said. FileMagnet is another file transfer application, she recommended.

According to Tauschek, mobile CRM platform Sales Force Mobile and Oracle’s Business Indicators are two key iPhone apps for the business market. “Those are the big first ones, but again, I think there will be more to follow,” he said. Tauschek also pointed to IT shops, which have the capability of using the SDK to port their own apps over to the iPhone.