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Thanks to the fact that my young twins have started attending a playgroup at our local church, I’ve started to work from a nearby branch of a popular coffee chain every Thursday, mainly to save on petrol and gain valuable writing time that would otherwise be spent driving. Although the establishment has its own wireless network, the Internet connection speed is pretty poor – so the alternative is, of course, to use my Windows Phone’s Internet sharing feature.
Now, as much as I love the platform, it does have one or two frustrating omissions. One of these is an easy toggle button to enable and display wireless networking, mobile Internet, Bluetooth…pretty much anything concerning communication.
Rather than a simple on/off button on the Start screen, users must open the settings menu and flick the on/off switch. No, it doesn’t take long, but it is very annoying, especially when you find yourself having to do it regularly, as I have one morning every week.
Surely there is an app-based solution to this?
Connection Tiles: What It Does and Doesn’t Do
After looking into the options on the Windows Phone Store, I settled upon Connection Tiles, a free app that (I thought) would give me easy on and off toggling for mobile Internet (required for setting up Internet sharing). Connection Tiles is compatible with Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.
Unfortunately, and this is the problem with Connection Tiles and other similar apps, there is no toggle available. Although a well-developed and stable app, all Connection Tiles really does is create a Start screen shortcut to the on-off switch. It also provides a Connection Center (below) which acts as a proxy Settings screen.
It speeds up the process of connecting to the Internet, a Bluetooth device or even switching into Airplane mode, but it doesn’t offer a single press toggle.
The reason for this isn’t a weakness in the app, however – Windows Phone settings simply don’t support this level of functionality in the way that Android and iOS do.
How Easy Is It to Setup a Connection Tile?
Although the connection tiles perhaps don’t live up to their promise, they are thankfully extremely easy to setup. Several options are available to be turned into tiles, all with a choice of icon:
- Airplane Mode
- New Text Message
- New E-Mail
As you can see, not all of these are connection tiles, and those that are not tend to be more effective. For instance, the New Text Message and New E-Mail options don’t drop you into the same old screen – instead, they take you directly to the corresponding new message screen.
Note that I do have a small complaint about this app. When connection tiles are used, you can choose to display a status label (basically, “on” or “off”). However these don’t always work, often displaying the wrong state.
Creating a New Connection Tile
Setting up a new tile on your Start screen is extremely easy. In my situation, I needed to set up tile to speed up connections to my mobile Internet.
With Connection Tiles open, select +Create a new Connection Tile. From here, select your Connection Type (or “tile type” as it should really be labelled), then give the tile a Title – I’m creating a cellular/mobile Internet tile, so I’ve named it as such. This can be a custom name, or you can accept the default.
Next, scroll down to Connection Status; here you can toggle the option to display “on” or “off” on the tile. This should update regularly in order to display the correct details, although it doesn’t always work as described, sadly. You should then select your Accent color– many are available, more than your phone might offer by default (I selected emerald green).
After this, select a suitable icon. Note that rather than a preset icon you can click the small + symbol on the right-hand side and select an image from your gallery to be used as a tile background.
Once you’re done, tap the OK symbol to proceed, where your connection tile will be previewed. Use the Pin to Start button to send the tile to your Start screen, where it can be sized as a 2×2 or a 1×1 tile.
From then on, you’re ready to use the tile – simply tap and enjoy the shortcut!
Should You Install Connection Tiles?
I really, really want to like Connection Tiles, as it tries so hard to be useful. For anyone wanting an easy shortcut to creating a new message, it is – but if you’re expecting the ability to toggle connectivity with a single tap of the tile, you’re out of luck. While the app name might imply that this is possible, sadly it isn’t.
I’m not going to blame the developers for this though. It seems evident that if toggling was possible they would have done so by now. The problem is with Microsoft, who despite doing so much work to make Windows Phone 8 a platform that can begin to compete with its more mature competitors, has let the side down with this omission.
A popular and competent app, Connection Tiles can be found in our list of the best Windows Phone apps. I’m sure that once Microsoft enable the functionality that Connection Tiles strives to provide then this will be a very good app (unless Microsoft simply makes them irrelevant), but until then this is an app that promises much but doesn’t manage to meet needs thanks to shortcomings in the platform.