Data plans tend to be limited, and connection speeds are sometimes not all that impressive. So when you use an Android phone (or any smartphone for that matter), Wi-Fi becomes an essential way to get online.
Today I’ll be showing you two different apps designed to make your Wi-Fi experience better so you can get better speeds and a more stable connection. These are both for Android, but you can actually use what you learn from them with any Wi-Fi device, including your laptop.
Improving Wi-Fi Connectivity At Home
Wikipedia says: “Many 2.4 GHz 802.11b and 802.11g access-points default to the same channel on initial startup, contributing to congestion on certain channels”. So while there are several available Wi-Fi channels, chances are that you and all of your neighbors are actually using the same single channel for your wireless communication. This causes interference and can slow things down.
You can always tell which Wi-Fi channel you are using using your access point’s configuration interface; but how can you tell what channels you neighbors are using? This is important so you know what’s free and where to switch, and this is where our first app comes in: Free Wifi Analyzer. With over 5 million downloads and over 61,000 reviews averaging 4.5 stars, Wifi Analyzer kicks some major butt, and provides a plethora of information about your wireless situation. Let’s take it for a spin:
This is the first screen shown when you launch the app, and right away, you can see how most of the networks around here are centered on channel 6. Only one network sits around channels 1-3, and channels 9 and up appear to be completely clear. Let’s swipe to the next screen:
Here, you get to select a network and see its signal strength graphically. This display constantly updates, and can also beep according to the signal level (more beeping means a stronger signal). This is fun because you can walk around with your phone like a metal detector and see where the signal grows stronger or weaker: Does this or that wall actually block your Wi-Fi signal?
The last feature I want to show you is what I call “the bottom line”. This is the screen where Wi-Fi Analyzer recommends which channel you should switch to:
As you can see, my home network sits on the absolute worst part of the spectrum possible. Wifi Analyzer says I should switch to channels 11, 12, or 13, and I tend to agree. Doing this will result in less interference, and thus in a better connection for everyone (even my neighbors will have less interference with their Wi-Fi connections!).
Okay, that’s great for when you are at home and you get to control the access point’s channel. But what should you do to get a better connection when you’re outside, at a coffee shop or an airport?
Improving Wi-Fi Connectivity While On The Go
When you’re in a public location, the biggest problem with the Wi-Fi connection is usually poor signal strength. In other words, the access point is simply too far away. This can be very frustrating, because you usually don’t have any way to know where to go for better connectivity. Which way is closer to the access point? If you start walking around, you may lose the connection or end up making it even worse.
Well, this is where Wi-Fi Radar comes in. This handy little app also enjoys some stellar reviews (over 1,100 reviews averaging 4 stars), and its claim to fame is its ability to show you where access points are physically. So you get a radar-like display with your phone in the middle, surrounded by access points. It comes with simple instructions:
So when using it, you will find yourself slowly rotating with your device. People may look at you oddly, but you can just tell yourself they are suffering crappy connections and you’re smarter. Once the scan starts, it looks like this:
This is the trickiest part in using the app. In the screenshot above, I have separated both bars so you can see them clearly. The brighter bark (around the 6% mark) moves on its own; the darker one (around the 20% mark) moves when you rotate the device slowly. Your goal is to keep them together. This means you need to very slowly rotate the device, a little bit at a time, while the progress bar moves. You are going to look pretty stupid while you’re busy doing this, but that is the price to pay for good connectivity.
This process takes a good two minutes, or even more. Once you’re done, you get a display that looks like this:
When you move around with your device, the display updates and things shift around. Even after all of this work, the display may not be correct; it is best if you have some point of reference, because then you can rotate the whole display as needed, using the “Result Offset” option.
This isn’t because the app is bad (it’s actually quite good), but because it is trying to do something that is remarkably difficult. If you’re patient and determined, you may find yourself enjoying the best Wi-Fi signal your airport can offer.
Other Wi-Fi Essentials
I am always on the lookout for awesome Android apps; did I miss an important Wi-Fi related application? Let me know in the comments, and I might review it!
Image Credit: ShutterStock