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TUTORIAL:switch between 3G (UMTS+) and GSM (GPRS/EDGE) modes to optimize battery life

18th November 2007, 02:18 PM |#1  
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A well-known fact is that there is a HUGE difference between the battery life if you use GSM or 3G phone networks. This means it’s the best to switch back to GSM
  1. when you don’t need 3G speeds (UMTS or HSDPA) and / or
  2. you don’t want to access the Net and / or
  3. GPRS, or, if the handset (unfortunately, the HTC Universal isn’t one of them) / network supports it, EDGE speeds are sufficient for you.
3G-enabled Windows Mobile (as with 3G phones running other operating systems; for example, Symbian) default to the “auto” mode, which means they will always switch to a 3G network whenever possible.

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.
Last edited by MikeChannon; 15th April 2009 at 11:29 PM.
18th November 2007, 05:46 PM |#2  
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Anything like this for CDMA phones? When I'm on AIM, I'd rather be on a 1X Network to save battery, but for web browsing I'd rather be on EVDO.
18th November 2007, 11:02 PM |#3  
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UPDATE (later the same day): note that, as has also been explained HERE, the no longer updated freeware (1.2.3) version of BandSwitch doesn’t work on the HTC Kaiser (TyTN II / AT&T Tilt etc.) because it uses a slightly newer way of band switching. There, you will either need to use the commercial version of the same app or Schap’s Comm Manager replacement with an explicit 3G band switch button available HERE. The latter works on both the HTC Hermes (TyTN) and Kaiser, but it seems to run great on all the other 3G-capable devices. Note that, on (W)VGA devices, the interface will be messed up (as it was hard-wired to QVGA devices) but you will still be able to switch between the two modes by just clicking the 3G title.

Finally, don't mistake these utilities for utilities that shut down (disconnect) your connection entirely; for example, GB-SOFT Tweak (see for example THIS for more info). This is a bit different from “only” switching bands because it disconnects a (stalling) data connection, while band switching also tells the phone what tower it should connect to and, therefore, also has an effect on the phone (non-data) part. That is, using GB-SOFT Tweak will have no effect on your battery life if you never use a data connection, while band switching still will (pre-3G networks not chewing through your batteries). This also means GB-SOFT Tweak is usable on non-3G models too, while the band switcher tools can't be.
22nd November 2007, 08:54 PM |#4  
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UPDATE (11/23/2007): let me also elaborate on the quick / automatic band switching capabilities of phoneAlarm, as a lot of you may already have been using it.

The full (but NOT the lite!) version of phoneAlarm, the winner of this year’s Best Software Awards contest in the Multifunction Phone Utilities category, is also capable of quick band switching, both manual (doable via two clicks) and automatic. The latter depending on the time, power/sync state, Outlook Appointment or even location – see the config screen of the latter HERE, inside the Location Service, by default, disabled feature. See page 19 of the official documentation for more information on how this should be configured.

To do this, first, you have to modify the profiles to enable band switching (instead of the default “leave in its position”), click the Settings icon on the far right of the Today screen plug-in (on VGA sscreens; on QVGA ones, it’s in the second row) and, in the Profiles tab,

1. select a pre-defined profile you’d like to assign the en/disabled 3G radio to. Note that you can always rename these profiles by clicking the icon . Then, you can assign a much more meaningful name to the profiles switching between the two modes; an example is HERE (renaming Home and Work). Note that if you do rename these profiles, you will need to switch to text mode with the “Profile menu as text (not graphic)” checkbox at the bottom so that the new labels are visible, not the old, icon-based ones
2. scroll down to Data band in the Radio settings and select the profile you’d prefer. Do this for both profiles; an example of configuring the two (dis/enabled) states (note the profile names at the top!) can be seen in the following two screenshots:

Press OK and you’re all set.
3. to manually switch, just click the leftmost icon on the Today screen and select the profile you’d like to activate:

Note that you can easily get rid of the other, listed profiles in the above-shown profile name / visibility settings dialog, by simply un-checking their checkboxes.

Finally, note that you can not only manually switch between these modes, but also automatically. The latter may be really useful when you, say, want to always have 3G between 10AM and 11AM. You can also define location-based criteria for band switching: for example, you may configure phoneAlarm to fall back to the battery-friendly GSM mode at home, opposed to work, where you can let it to go with full 3G bandwidth. All this can be based on several criteria; for example, the ID of the GSM / 3G tower at your workplace / at home (assuming they’re different because you’re not living in the close vicinity of your workplace).

phoneAlarm, on the other hand (as opposed to, CommMgrPro, the big bother of BandSwitch), doesn’t support pre-defined timeout for switching profiles. That is, you, say, upon switching to a 3G mode, you can’t configure phoneAlarm to switch back to GSM mode after predefined time. That is, relative timeouts can’t be defined. As opposed to absolute time – of course, you can always have phoneAlarm do the band switching at a pre-defined, absolute time. Not relatively to another time, though.)

Note that band switching, as opposed to the other tools I’ve introduced, isn’t necessarily done instantaneously (at least not on the HTC Universal and version v1.63 of phoneAlarm); only after a while, when a real connection is established. This can slow down accessing the web a little because of the band-switching and reconnection at starting to browse.

(Thanks to S.Christensen for initially pointing towards the new version of phoneAlarm!)
23rd November 2007, 12:26 AM |#5  
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Any hints for the smartphones?
23rd November 2007, 12:56 AM |#6  
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I have downloaded the freeware for 3G/GSM switch to try.

Before, for 3G/GSM switch, I have been doing this manually like this,
1. Create a shortcut (*.lnk) file which points to the *.cpl file that activate the event for Network setting to the exact tab and just click between 3G or GSM and exit and the rest will be done by the phone.
2. I can then activate this *.lnk file from anywhere like from softkey, tray icon, today screen etc.

Maybe my manual method does not work on Tytn2, but I have no Tytn2 to try.

For BT & Wi-Fi, I either use
1. Phone provided Wireless Manager.
2. Battery Status (Freeware in this forum)

By the way, one off topic question,
I did not get skype to work on my Flame. The install files in skype website does not have the download for Flame. So I downloaded the only available VGA version meant for Universal. Any idea how to get the skype to work on Flame?
Last edited by CWKJ; 23rd November 2007 at 01:06 AM.
28th October 2008, 10:33 AM |#7  
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I don't have the band tab, what should I do ?

I'm putting a 3G SIM in my phone but it doesn't recognize it's a 3G SIM.

My ROM is : 3.31.514.1

6th November 2008, 03:09 PM |#8  
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Good tool. Thanks!
20th June 2009, 04:15 AM |#9  
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Another MortScript-Based Solution
If you have MortScript installed, use the scripts from this post would be a good choise. That's the way to switch phone band with zero side-effects.

By the way, I noticed that on the latest WM6.5 beta ROM, with 'Auto' band set as default, I seldom need to manually switch phone band. The OS is so smart that it knows what time to switch to what band so as to ensure the best power consumption control & connectivity performance.
29th June 2009, 01:29 PM |#10  
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Originally Posted by Desigen

I don't have the band tab, what should I do ?
I'm putting a 3G SIM in my phone but it doesn't recognize it's a 3G SIM.

To show the band-selection tab on phone settings page, add this key to the registry:
HKLM\Software\OEM\PhoneSetting, add a new key named 'ShowUMTSBandPage', type:dword, value=1

Just make sure you are using a 3G Phone, & this is GSM only, not for CDMA system.
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