iPassConnect for BlackBerry: Exclusive Hands-On w/ Enterprise Wi-Fi App

The new iPassConnect for BlackBerry app gives iPass customers with RIM smartphones access to more than 140,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. CIO.com was first to lay thumbs on the new software, and it's both easy to use and potentially invaluable to frequent travelers, though not perfect. Here's why.

Mon, September 14, 2009

CIO — Today the vast majority of high-end smartphones support Wi-Fi connectivity. That's because Wi-Fi generally offers faster data-transfers speeds than 3G cellular networks, making for a better mobile experience while reducing strain on wireless carriers' networks and decreasing associated cellular data costs for users.

image of iPassConnect for BlackBerry Icon
iPassConnect for BlackBerry Icon

Few stand to benefit more from the inclusion of Wi-Fi in mobile devices like BlackBerrys than enterprises with large corporate smartphone deployments. That's because free or low-cost Wi-Fi can be employed where available in place of cellular networks, and organizations can choose cheaper wireless service plans for users, potentially saving significant cash over time, while simultaneously providing higher bandwidth for staffers.

Thanks to companies like iPass and its iPass Mobile Office service, connecting to Wi-Fi networks across the globe really couldn't be simpler. iPass Mobile Office customers get access to the company's roughly 140,000 Wi-Fi hotspots at popular establishments such as McDonald's and Starbucks in more than 80 countries.

Today iPass released the brand new iPassConnect for BlackBerry client, which brings the same iPass Wi-Fi connectivity options to BlackBerry devices that are available on Windows Vista, XP and 2000; Max OS X 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6; Symbian S60 Third Generation devices (versions 9.0, 9.1, and 9.2); Windows Mobile 5, 6 and Pocket PC 2003; and the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPod touch.

iPass was kind enough to pass on iPassConnect for BlackBerry to me before anyone else outside the company, and I spent the last week or so putting the app through the motions. Here's my take on it.

Affordable Pricing

iPassConnect is compatible with all Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerrys running handheld OS v4.5 or higher. And users with Wi-Fi BlackBerrys that support UMA, or Wi-Fi calling, like the BlackBerry Curve 8520, can employ iPass Wi-Fi networks to place voice calls.

The best part about iPassConnect: You have only one "master" login name and password for any and all iPass Wi-Fi networks; no individual user names, passwords or payment details are needed.

iPassConnect for BlackBerry Login Screen
iPassConnect for BlackBerry Login Screen

And the service is relatively affordable, especially if used frequently. iPass's North American customers pay approximately $36 per user per month under the company's Global 33 Enterprise Flat Rate plan for 100 active users, according to Rick Bilodeau, iPass VP of product and solutions marketing. "Active user pricing" plans mean companies are only charged if specific users log into the iPass network in a given month, so 100-user-plans could actually cover 400 to 500 mobile employees depending on how often they use the service, Bilodeau says.

Volume licensing discounts are available, and the costs cover usage on both notebook and smartphone platforms, so iPass users with BlackBerrys and Mac laptops aren't charged any more than employees with just notebooks.

iPassConnect for BlackBerry is the very first global enterprise Wi-Fi client for BlackBerry smartphones, Bilodeau says. It's meant for the average road-warrior, but international travelers will see the greatest cost-savings benefits, since iPassConnect can vastly reduce international wireless roaming charges, according to Bilodeau.

iPassConnect for BlackBerry can be deployed by IT via BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) so no user intervention is required. Or iPass users can download and install the app themselves via iPass's website or RIM's BlackBerry App World for free.

Here's a quick walkthrough of the iPassConnect for BlackBerry, as well as my first impressions of the app.

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