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Your Android phone knows how good public Wi-Fi is before joining

by Justin Herrick | January 23, 2018January 23, 2018 1:00 pm PST

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network is handy, but sometimes the data speeds aren’t all that great. Usually, there are a bunch of people on the network at the same time knocking the overall quality. Google, however, would like to take out the guesswork and let you know if a particular open network is worth your time. So you won’t have to constantly switch between LTE and Wi-Fi if a local connection turns out to be congested at the mall, in a restaurant, or while jumping between bars.

There’s a new feature with Android 8.1, which started rolling out last month, that allows users to see how good an open network’s connection is prior to joining.

When you’re out and about, head to your phone’s settings. Head to the same settings you normally do to establish a connection to a Wi-Fi network. If there are any open/public networks nearby, your phone will show the signal strength as well as the speed for each.

Here’s how Google describes the speed labels:

  • Very Fast: You can stream very high-quality videos
  • Fast: You can stream most videos
  • OK: You can read webpages, use social media, and stream music
  • Slow: If you can use Wi-Fi calling, you can make phone calls and send texts

Just remember that Android 8.0 Oreo is barely on any devices, so chances are that you’ll need a Pixel or recent Nexus phone to take advantage of this feature. Otherwise you’re going to have to wait until someone like Samsung or LG launches a new flagship and hope they include the latest version of Android. Aside from Google’s own hardware, virtually nothing has Android 8.1 while Oreo’s first release continues to struggle.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...