This blog post is part of a series of posts based on a couple of 90-minute hands-on technology workshops for education grad students. The first workshop, Going Mobile introduced students to mobile technologies that would help support their learning. The second workshop Getting Your Head in the Cloud introduced the concept of the Cloud and a few useful apps.
The first part of "Going Mobile" is a module on Getting Connected. Many mobile devices have been designed as connected devices – that is, in order to use a significant portion of their capabilities, they need to be connected to the Internet.
Generally, there are two ways to connect a device to the Internet: (1) Wi-Fi, and (2) Cellular. Wi-Fi uses a connection over the local network to connect the cloud. Where 3G or LTE uses a connection via the cellular network.
Wi-Fi networks are local connections, they’re typically faster, and cheaper. However Wi-Fi networks typically only work within a close range, such as a single household or building.
Cellular connections use cellular towers and satellites to connect between your device in the cloud. The big advantage to cellular networks is that you can access them from anywhere you have cellular coverage. However, the further distance and the technologies that are used are not as fast as Wi-Fi networks and require more power (battery life).
In general, you want to use Wi-Fi whenever you can to connect to the Internet. As it will be both faster and less expensive.
On most devices, you can tell how you’re connecting to the network by the symbols indicated in the top corner of the device. For example Wi-Fi usually has the symbol, where cellular uses a variety of symbols but usually includes letters such as 3G, edge, LTE.
Typically on Wi-Fi the signal strength is indicated by the number of circles radiating out of the icon.
Cellular signal strength is indicated by the number of bars. Note that the number of bars tell you about the signal strength, they don't tell you about what protocol is being used. Protocol and signal strength together determine the speed of your network.