Our mobile devices contain a remarkable amount of technology in a compact space. In this video, you’ll learn about cellular data networks, bluetooth connectivity, phone updates, and more.
One of the big connectivity advantages of a smartphone is that it’s connected to the internet. It has data connectivity through your mobile provider. And that means that you could use that device to be able to connect other devices to the internet as well.
One common way to do this is by turning your phone into a hotspot. You simply turn on the hotspot capabilities on one smartphone. And then everybody else who’s on that 802.11 wireless network can now use your phone to be able to get internet access. This functionality and the amount of data you’re able to use over this connection is often managed by your wireless service provider. So make sure you check with them before enabling this capability.
If you’re the only one who needs this internet access through your smartphone, you can simply turn on tethering. This means you can connect your laptop to your mobile device using the USB connection. Or if your laptop supports Bluetooth, you can enable that and create your tethered connection over that Bluetooth link.
Once that tether is in place, you’re able to use the internet from your laptop by using the internet connectivity from your smartphone. Again, your wireless provider would be able to enable or disable this tethering feature. And there may be additional charges for tethering your laptop.
There are many different wireless networks that you can enable or disable on your smartphone. There’s, of course, your cellular network for communicating to your mobile provider. There’s 802.11 Wi-Fi network connectivity. There’s probably Bluetooth radio inside of your smartphone. And many smartphones also include near-field communication, or NFC networks.
Many smartphones have an airplane mode that allow you to disable or enable all of these networks simultaneously. This way if you’re getting on an airplane and you need to disable all of these networks during takeoff and landing, you can click one button and everything will turn off. After takeoff if you then want to take advantage of the 802.11 wireless network on the plane, you can simply enable just the 802.11, and leave all of the other radios disabled.
Even if you’re not on a plane, you may want to have control over which wireless networks are in use. For example, if you’re not using Bluetooth devices, you may want to disable the Bluetooth functionality. In iOS, you can go to the Settings to manually enable or disable these different networks, or use the Control Center that you can swipe down from the top of the screen and enable or disable the different networks from there. There are many different ways to do this on Android. One common way is to go to Settings and then Wireless and Network Settings to be able to control what networks you’d like to use.
Bluetooth is what we call a personal area network, or a PAN. It allows us to connect to devices that are in our local area, usually about 10 meters from us. So we can connect keyboards and headsets and speakers, all in our local area.
To be able to use this Bluetooth device, we have to initially pair with the device. So if you’re using Bluetooth in a car, you would pair with the car. Then when you leave the card and come back, the car and the phone will remember that they once paired together, and you don’t have to go through the pairing process again.
The pairing process is relatively straightforward. You would first enable Bluetooth on your smartphone and on the device that you would like to pair with. Then you would put those devices in discoverable mode. And you should see the devices show up on your screen that are able to be discovered.
Usually the name of a discovered device will appear on the other Bluetooth device. That way you know you’re choosing the right one. So you would then choose the name of the device you want to connect to. And usually a PIN will appear on both sides so that you can confirm that you have indeed selected the correct device. Once you’ve confirmed the PIN, you then choose to connect, and the devices are paired.
To be able to connect our smartphone to a cellular provider’s network, there needs to be a radio inside of this device that’s providing that communication. This is called a baseband radio processor. This is different than the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or NFC radios that are inside of your smartphone. This one is specifically designed to communicate with the cellular provider’s network. It has its own firmware. It has its own memory. And even though you’re making phone calls over the cellular network, you really never see this particular part of the phone operating. This baseband radio processor uses a real-time operating system. This allows your phone to set a priority and be able to communicate over that cellular network.
The firmware associated with this baseband radio processor occasionally needs to be updated. And most often this update is occurring over the air, or OTA. You don’t really see this happening, although sometimes you may get a message that says that the radio has been updated for your cellular network.
One set of updates you might get are PRL updates. This is the Preferred Roaming List. These are common to CDMA networks, which are Verizon and Sprint networks here in the United States. These updates tell your phone which tower it should be communicating with. And usually these updates are provided over the air.
Another set of updates you might receive are PRI updates. These are Product Release Instructions. These have specific radio settings, like ID numbers, network codes, and country codes so that your phone knows exactly how to use the wireless network. These are also updated over the air. So you may never know that a PRI update has occurred.
Every mobile device on these wireless carrier networks can be tracked through a unique code called an IMEI. This is an International Mobile Station Equipment Identity code. Every smartphone has a different IMEI so your wireless carrier can allow access or disallow access based on this IMEI value. If you’re purchasing a phone, you may want to check the IMEI to make sure that it’s not locked. So when you receive the phone, it’s able to be activated on your carrier’s network.
A different type of identifier is an IMSI. This is an International Mobile Subscriber Identity. This is an identity that is associated with you and not with the mobile device. This IMSI could be provisioned in the SIM card, which means you can move the SIM card between different phones and still maintain access to your wireless provider’s network.
If you want a secure channel of communication between your smartphone and another device, you may want to enable VPN functionality. This stands for virtual private network. This creates a secure channel between your smartphone and another device.
The software you’d need to enable this VPN is often built into the phone operating system, although there is third party software you can install onto many phone operating systems that provide VPN connectivity. This may require additional configuration on your side, for example, things like the VPN server that you’ll be connecting to, the account name that you’ll be using, whether you’ll be using an RSA secure ID token generator, and other requirements as well. Sometimes the VPN administrator will send you a single file that will then update your phone with the correct VPN details.