It’s hard to be away from a Wi-Fi signal. Slower internet, data limits, no Spotify; it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Luckily; it’s increasingly unlikely that you’ll be away from a Wi-Fi connection for long. In any metropolitan area, there’s an almost limitless supply of hotspots. Everything from Starbucks to Walmart offers free Wi-Fi.
Sounds great, but how are you supposed to actually find the hotspots? It’s not like you can walk into every shop asking if they’ve got a Wi-Fi connection. You need some help.
In this article, I’m going to introduce you to five of the top Wi-Fi hotspot finders. Keep reading to find out more.
1. Wi-Fi Map
Available on: Android and iOS
Wi-Fi Map is a free smartphone app for Android and iOS. It’s one the most extensive tools you’ll find, boasting more than 100 million Wi-Fi points to choose from.
Its comprehensive coverage makes it an excellent choice for people who do a lot of traveling. It doesn’t only work in western countries; it also offers a complete service for the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
Wi-Fi Map excels further thanks to its active community. They’ve helped build the app into a monster, adding millions of passwords to protected hotspots – you’ll never need to bother a waiter or shop attendant again.
Finally, the app has a pre-populated offline mode. It might seem like an obvious feature to include, but some Wi-Fi finders don’t have one. It means you’ll be able to locate a hotspot even if you don’t have phone or internet signal.
Available on: Android and iOS
You’re probably already familiar with the Avast brand name. It’s one of the best free anti-virus suites available. What you might not know, however, is that the company also makes an excellent Wi-Fi finder.
When you fire up the app, it uses your phone’s GPS to find your location and show you the nearest hotspots. For each hotspot, the app will tell you whether the connection is open access or requires a password.
If you want to find hotspots further afield, just open the app’s menu and search by location.
As you’d expect from a leading security company, Avast Wi-Fi Finder also offers some Wi-Fi checking features. You can use the app to scan networks. It will tell you whether the network is secure and if you’ll encounter any safety and privacy problems by connecting.
Lastly, the app has a Wi-Fi speed test. It will save you from disappointment if you were hoping to use the connection to stream videos, but it’s only fast enough to send a few WhatsApp messages.
Download: Avast Wi-Fi Finder for Android | iOS [No longer available]
3. OpenSignal (WiFiMapper)
Available on: Android, iOS
Did you think Wi-Fi Map’s 100 million Wi-Fi points was impressive? Prepare to be amazed. WiFiMapper from OpenSignal offers a barely-believable 500 million hotspots around the world.
As you’d expect, all the points are clearly laid out on a map and easy to locate. But WiFiMapper doesn’t make this list just because of the volume of access points offered; it’s the extra features that really set it apart.
First and foremost is the Foursquare integration. The app uses the location-based social network to pull in information about the establishment offering the Wi-Fi – think quality of coffee, ambiance, peak hours, and menus.
Additionally, the app has an extensive filter. You can sort results by type, speed, quality of connection, and so on.
Like other apps, there’s also a vibrant community. They share passwords and other tips for each location in a bid to make your experience go as smoothly as possible.
Available on: Windows
The three apps I’ve looked at so far all rely on your smartphone. But what if your mobile device is unavailable for any reason? You’ll need a desktop app.
Unfortunately, Windows users are somewhat starved of choice. The free WiFi Hotspot Scanner software is probably the best of the bunch.
I know what you’re thinking; Windows already has a basic Wi-Fi scanner – it’s what you use to connect to networks! That’s true, but WiFi Hotspot Scanner introduces some additional features.
For example, the app will show you not only the network name, but also the network’s current security settings, the channel information, the MAC address, and other useful data that’ll help you decide whether you want to hit the “Connect” button.
You can also export the results as an HTML, XML, text, or CSV file in case you need to share the information with friends or colleagues.
Lastly, the app is portable. You can keep it on your USB stick along with all your other useful portable apps.
Download: WiFi Hotspot Scanner
5. Wi-Fi Space
Available on: Web
Obviously, the benefits of a web-based hotspot finder are limited. You need to have a connection to be able to use it.
However, that doesn’t mean they are without merit. If you’re connected in one location, you can plan your next move before you disconnect and carry on traveling.
The WiFi Space website lists more than 20 million locations around the world. They’re centered on North America and Europe, but there is some coverage of other places. You can search for locations by using the box in the upper left-hand corner, or just zoom in and out on a particular area.
It lacks the detailed information you’ll find in the smartphone apps, but it if you click on a pin it shows some basic details about the SSID and type of location (for example, coffee shop or train station). All the pins are color-coded; red means password-protected, green means open access.
Ultimately, it’s an always-available backup if you’re stuck without any other options.
Which Wi-Fi Hotspot Finders Do You Use?
I’ve introduced you to some of the best app, software, and websites for locating Wi-Fi hotspots. By installing a mobile app and a desktop app, as well as bookmarking the Wi-Fi Space website, you should always have a tool at your disposal when you need it.
Now it’s your turn to join in. What apps and websites would you add to this list? What’s your go-to tool when you need to find a hotspot? Why is it so good?
As always, you can leave all your feedback, suggestions, and opinions in the comments below. And remember to share this article with your friends on social media to see what they think.
Image Credit: StNewton via Shutterstock
Originally written by David Pierce on February 3, 2009
Explore more about: Wi-Fi Hotspot.