Windows Phone – quick access to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Remember the days when you had a phone with a monochrome screen, just enough of a display to read a phone number or a text message? Remember the days when a mobile phone really was just a phone, when it had less computing power than the control centre of the Apollo moon program? In those days of the distant past, my phone battery seemed to last forever.

Compare that to now… I bet your phone has a large, bright, colourful screen, a processor which five years ago would have graced only the highest-specced laptop (someone nerdy will argue that), and it’ll be processing loads of stuff in the background even when it’s in your pocket apparently doing nothing. All those factors of this bright new world will be chewing through your battery like a plague of locusts at a vegetarian buffet.

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) has a battery saver function. What this actually does is cuts down on then phone’s activity (e.g. turns off multi-tasking, automatic e-mail delivery) from one handy setting rather than having to poke around at many different options… and there’s also an option to turn battery saver off automatically when the phone is charged. But there is more you can do to save that precious electrical juice… turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

If I’m at home or the office, I like to have Wi-Fi on, but Bluetooth off. In the car I have Bluetooth on (to hook up to the BMW’s in-car functionality) and Wi-Fi off. On a train I generally turn both off. So what I really need is a quick and easy way to get to both of those options, rather than having to dig around in the settings. Again, some kindly app developers have come to the rescue. Here’s a few (free) options…

ConnectivityShortcuts – very simply, places icons for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile network and flight mode on the start screen. A nice feature about this app is that you can customise the tiles, changing the colour and the icons… having said that, there is something wrong about setting the Bluetooth tile to pink or brown (or green, or red). This app gets a ten out of ten for simplicity.

Connection Tiles is extremely similar – the only difference is that you have a different set of icons to choose from, you can rename the shortcut tile, but you can’t change the colours. Eleven out of ten for simplicity.

WP Shortcut Tiles – this one does a little bit more because it also provides quick-access tiles for creating a new e-mail, a new SMS, sharing your status (to Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn) and the Music Store. The bonus feature with this app is live tile support – the Wi-Fi tile will tell you whether Wi-Fi is on or off. However, curiously, the Bluetooth tile doesn’t. Maybe there’s a good reason – there’s another (not free) app which offers displaying of the state of Wi-Fi and data but not Bluetooth.

And finally Toggle – same basic functionality again, adding tiles for quick access to data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ‘Airplane’. It offers a background task to update the tiles with the connection status – nice that it can be turned off, as we started off discussing conserving battery power. But the killer feature is reminders – you can set up reminders to turn vital connections on or off, and the reminders provide a quick-link to the connection in question. It would be nice if you could automatically schedule connections to come on or off – again, maybe there’s a good reason that this doesn’t feature in Toggle or the paid-for apps.

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