HTC 'Blue Angel' Wi-Fi PocketPC phone
Aka i-mate PDA 2k, O2 XDA IIs, Orange M2000 etc, etc
Blue Angel's preferred wireless connection mode is 802.11b - though it doesn't appear to have Wi-Fi Alliance certfication. It's got an up-to-date adaptor on-board, supporting not only the older WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption scheme plus the newer, more secure WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). Clicking the Wi-Fi button in Windows Mobile 2003's menu bar calls up the WLAN Manager app. Checking the Wireless LAN on check-box works, but not until you also click on OK, at which point Blue Angel goes off and sniffs the air for access points - select one and enter, if necessary, the appropriate passwords for access and authentication using 802.1x and various incarnations of EAP.
A list of local access points pops up in one of Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition's XP-style speech bubbles. Choose one and you're away. My hotspot-simulating open test access point appeared as expected, and I connected to it with a tap of the stylus. A 'W' appears in the Task bar to show you what your connection method is.
Move out of range of the base-station and Blue Angel will fall back on GPRS, but I found it takes a while for it to realise the WLAN's not there before scanning for alternative access points. The system doesn't activate GPRS automatically, rather it waits until you actually request data - you click on a link in Internet Explorer, for example - before connecting. Activating GPRS disables the WLAN, so if you happened to stroll back into an hotspot, you won't suddenly find yourself automatically switched to the new, faster connection.
On the i-mate there's a handy utility, Wireless Manager, that makes it easy to switch between wireless systems, swapping from one to the other with a single click. Alas, it simply says, 'WiFi connection in use' when the 802.11b radio is switched on, whether you're connected to an access point or not. You only discover you don't when you call up a web page and the machine suddenly initiates a GPRS link. Wireless Manager is tucked away in the Programs folder rather than the Start menu, so it's not immediately obvious that it's there. Another utility, WModem, allows a notebook connected via a Bluetooth, USB, serial or infrared link to use Blue Angel as a modem.
Since Wi-Fi is known to be something of a battery hog, HTC has incorporated a couple of handy power conservation tricks. For starters, you can set the device to disable Wi-Fi if the connection remains inactive for a certain time (2-5 minutes). You can also choose one of three radio signal strength settings under Power Save Mode. It's not scientific, but I wandered down a couple of floors from my access point and didn't see any appreciable difference in signal strength on any of the settings. Your mileage will vary according to your location, but it's probably a safe say that you can leave the PDA on the minimum setting and still get a decent signal.
GPRS and GSM signals also proved sufficiently strong to enable connections wherever I tried Blue Angel, enough to pull down web pages and email using Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition's unified MMS/SMS/email app, Messaging. As per previous versions of the OS, there's MSN Messenger, too, plus the usual Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. HTC has chucked in a fax application, a multimedia playback app, and a handful of other utilities.