Connecting: how and when

Your phone has different connection types that it can use to connect to the Internet and other devices. Each type has advantages, depending on where you are and what you want to do.

Action center on Windows Phone
Swipe down to reveal action center

The quickest way to manage certain connection settings, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and airplane mode, is to add them to action center. Once you've done that, you can view and change your connections with just a swipe and a tap. See Use quick actions on my phone to learn more. To find and configure settings for all connections, in the App list, tap Settings Settings icon.


This topic is about Windows Phone 8.1. If your phone is running Windows Phone 8, some options and icons may look a little different, and some features may not be available. Check to see which software version you have and find out if an update is available.

Cellular connectivity

Your phone uses a cellular connection when you make and receive phone calls. It also uses it when you text someone. The settings your phone uses for cellular connectivity are found in Settings Settings icon > Cellular + SIM and can vary by mobile operator. See Cellular and SIM settings for more info.

Data connectivity

When you do things like browse the web, send email, or use apps that connect to the Internet, your phone can send and receive data using either a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. When your phone is connected to both of them at the same time, it will try to use the Wi-Fi connection first.

Wi-Fi connectivity

Chances are pretty good that you're already familiar with Wi-Fi networks. If you have a wireless network at home or work, or have gone online with your laptop at a coffee shop, you've used Wi-Fi. Likewise, you can also connect to a Wi-Fi network with your Windows Phone. Wi-Fi connections can help reduce your cellular data usage, which is good if you don't have an unlimited data plan.

Your phone's Wi-Fi setting is turned on by default. To connect to a Wi-Fi network, go to Settings Settings icon > Wi-Fi, and then tap the network you want to connect to. If you don't see any networks, tap Map nearby Wi-Fi to open Maps and see Wi-Fi networks that are nearby. See Connect to a Wi-Fi network for more info.

Many Wi-Fi networks are secure and require you to enter a password to connect. Your phone can connect to open networks that don't require a password, and to secure networks that use any of these security protocols: WPA2, WPA, WEP, certificates, 802.1X, and EAP-SIM/AKA/AKA'.

With Wi-Fi Sense, you can also let your phone automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks for you. See Use Wi-Fi Sense to get connected for more info.


  • Wi-Fi Sense is only available on Windows Phone 8.1. (Wi-Fi Sense is not available in all countries or regions.)
  • Open networks aren't secure. For example, anyone can connect and possibly see what you're doing. Be careful when doing things online that require personal or sensitive information, or wait until you can connect to a secure network that you trust before doing these things.

Cellular data connectivity

Charges for your cellular data connection depend on the data plan you have with your mobile operator. You might be charged extra for data usage over a certain limit or when roaming (that is, when your phone connects to a cellular network other than your mobile operator's.) To help avoid additional data roaming charges, your phone is set by default to turn off your cellular data connection when roaming. See What's data roaming? for more info.

Your cellular connection options also depend on your phone model and your locale. Different locales often have different cellular infrastructure. In general, you can get data connectivity almost anywhere you can get a cellular connection (as long as data connectivity is available). This is great for when you're out and about and want to search the web to find nearby restaurants, shops, or theaters.

Your phone's cellular data connectivity settings are found in Settings Settings icon > Cellular + SIM and can vary by mobile operator. These settings can help you control your cellular connection and stay connected when traveling. See Cellular and SIM settings for more info.

And speaking of traveling, if you're on a plane and need to turn off your cellular and other connections, you can use airplane mode. Turning on airplane mode turns off all connectivity. (You can turn Wi-Fi, FM radio, Bluetooth, and NFC sharing back on separately, as allowed by the airline.) To turn it on, go to Settings Settings icon > Airplane mode.

Bluetooth connectivity

You can use Bluetooth to pair your phone with a Bluetooth accessory, such as a car kit or a headset for hands-free phone calls, or to connect to the Internet when using Internet sharing. You can also pair your phone with other phones and devices that have Bluetooth, so you can share files over Bluetooth. By default, Bluetooth is turned off on your Windows Phone.

NFC connectivity

If your phone has NFC (Near Field Communication) capability, you can pair it to another NFC-capable device by tapping them together. After it's paired, you can share photos, links to websites, contacts, and more. To turn on NFC, in Settings Settings icon > NFC, turn on Tap to share Toggle On icon.

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