- when you don’t need 3G speeds (UMTS or HSDPA) and / or
- you don’t want to access the Net and / or
- GPRS, or, if the handset (unfortunately, the HTC Universal isn’t one of them) / network supports it, EDGE speeds are sufficient for you.
You can, however, disable this functionality manually. This, however, means you end up having to seven issue taps (Start Menu / Settings / Phone / Band / “GSM” (or, when you want to switch back to 3G, "Auto") in the “Select your network type” drop-down list / OK) every time you want to switch between the two modes on a Pocket PC. (Incidentally, the situation is even worse on the current, pre-touchscreen Symbian S60v3. Starting from the Standby screen, you need at least (not counted in how you exit the settings applet) 13 (!) button presses: Programs / two times down + once left / Tools / Settings / one down / Phone / one up / Network / Network Mode / up or down and Action to select the one you’d like to switch to. This, BTW, also means 3G MS Smartphones, not having a touch screen, also require slightly more actions than the touchscreen-enabled Pocket PC’s, where no D-pad pressing is required.)
The band switcher dialog can be seen in the following screenshot:
(Note that there will be no “Band” tab on non-3G – for example, most TI OMAP-based Windows Mobile – models because they don’t support 3G and, therefore, there would be no point in providing a related tab for this.)
In addition to preserving battery life (by, again, disabling 3G whenever possible), there’s another utility area where knowing this all can be very useful. Some phones are continuously switching between 2.(7)5G (GPRS / EDGE) and 3(.5)G (UMTS / HSPA) modes when there is little 3G signal. A classic example of models like them is the HTC Universal. In these cases, you will want to disable 3G completely to avoid further annoyance, because this constant to-and-fro switching means you, generally, will have far less net speed than with even pre-3G technologies (GPRS / EDGE).
BandSwitch to the rescue! This utility is a god-send for anyone that wants to quickly en/disable 3G. For example, if you want to surf the Net as quickly as possible, you quickly enable 3G mode and when you’ve finished, just go back to GSM mode. A screenshot of the main dialog:
(VGA, Landscape mode)
(the same in Portrait mode, on a QVGA Pocket PC; note that it shows the freeware version; this is why some buttons are missing from the bottom, as opposed to the previous screenshot. The same in VGA is HERE.)
The current version is commercial and, at Handango, costs $14 (via Paypal, a bit cheaper as you don’t end up having to pay VAT)
Older versions, on the other hand, are free; the latest, free version is HERE (mirrored HERE, should you want to avoid having to register). (Note that the links at freewareppc.com and freewarepocketpc.net no longer work.). It’s a bit simpler than the already-commercial, 2.x versions. However, if you’re price-sensitive and don’t need Wi-Fi / BT / phone dis/enabling, the free version can be perfectly suitable for you (like me).
Note that it has a bigger brother, CommMgrPro (related thread HERE), which, at Handango, costs $19. It adds Wi-Fi / Bluetooth etc. control and timing, very nice icons but, otherwise, is pretty similar to how the band switching works. That is, if you only want the basic functionality, you won't really need it.
Also note that there are several alternative, script-based solutions (see for example THIS); they, however, require some manual hacking / installation and are, therefore, not necessarily the best for non-pros.
After installing it (and at last once running and/or restoarting the device), a brand new “A” icon (A stands for “Auto”) will be displayed on the Today screen, at the bottom right, as can be seen in the following screenshot:
Just click it to bring up the GUI. In there, just click the button belonging to the mode you’d like to use – GSM if you want to disable 3G and UMTS (or the default Auto, of course) if you want to enable it. That’s it – now, just click “Hide page” to hide the dialog and you’re all set. After some 15-20 seconds of reconnecting, you'll use the selected network.
There is a related thread HERE – may be worth reading.