Public wireless networks are becoming more and more prevalent within towns and cities, providing an excellent alternative to running up a large data usage bill on 3G or 4G. Often public Wi-Fi is “free”, perhaps afforded to customers of a particular shopping chain or Telecoms Company, or anywhere else where a transaction might have already been made.
Managing Wi-Fi on an Android tablet is largely straightforward, particularly on the most recent versions where a single widget can toggle the wireless networking on and off. However, this is an experience that can be improved with useful third party apps available from Google Play. The following free Android wifi app might well fall into the description of useful – certainly their descriptions present a compelling case – but do they deliver?
First up is Wifi History, a tool which should enable you to check the history of your wireless connections and display how long you were connected.
Now, in this case, we’ve actually stumbled across an app that is in Beta, and which reviews indicate does work. Unfortunately I had a little trouble getting anything out of Wifi History at first, but it seems that this is an app that displays connections retroactively – active connections are ignored until you switch to the next router, at which point the previous connection stats can be viewed.
This is useful, and once you get over the initial “where the heck is my data?/this app sucks” confusion, you’ll probably leave it installed.
Smarter Wifi vs WiFi Scheduler
If you’re looking for a way to determine when your tablet is able to connect to Wi-Fi without having to manually switch wireless networking on and off, Smarter Wifi might be the solution you’ve been looking for.
This tool is designed to let you schedule connections – useful if you have a 3G tablet with wireless and wish to prioritize Wi-Fi over a connection to your mobile Internet provider.
The interface is simple, but sadly this app just didn’t seem to work. I’ve tried it with Wi-Fi enabled and disabled before starting the scheduled time without any results – which is a shame, as this is a potentially good app (note that you might get different results on your device).
Fortunately, Google Play suggests an alternative, WiFi Scheduler, which enables you to setup multiple schedules. This is ideal for anyone who moves about a lot, and while there is no location-aware/geolocation aspect to the app, the difference is that this one works!
WiFi on AC Power
What do you do with your tablet on an evening? When you head to bed, do you keep your tablet close by? Perhaps you charge it, or switch it off.
One problem with night time is that if you leave your Android device on charge or just lying around, it might connect to your mobile Internet to check for and download any new emails, unless you have disabled 3G, enabled airplane mode or turned the device off. Using WiFi on AC Power, however, enables you to force the tablet or phone to switch to Wi-Fi when charging, avoiding unnecessary data usage.
In addition, this app disables Wi-Fi when your device is not charging. Although it takes a few minutes to get going and requires that Wi-Fi is disabled before you begin charging, this is a great little app.
Smart WiFi Toggler
Offering a little more flexibility than WiFi Scheduler, Smart WiFi Toggler is also the most polished app in this selection, offering a useful setup wizard when launched. This allows you to specify timeouts for connection as well as showing you how the app is controlled.
Auto-connection for each wireless hotspot detected can be configured and there are a whole host of settings that can be accessed via the cogs button in the top-right corner of the app. Smart WiFi Toggler also enables you to keep a log of your recent wireless activity, and for those with 3G/4G it also enables you to automatically enables Wi-Fi when mobile signal strength is low.
Note that Smart WiFi Toggler requires a period of training, so you’ll need to leave it running for a day or so to get the best results.
If you’re happy with your standard native Wi-Fi networking tools in Android, you won’t need any of these Android wifi apps – but if you’re looking for a way to force enable Wi-Fi when charging, automatically connect to certain hotspots when they’re near and keep a check of your wireless history, these are the tools you need.
Of course, there are many other great Wi-Fi tools for Android out there – which ones would you recommend?