6 ways to make the most of Wi-Fi on your Android device

Find out how many hotspots your Android handset has saved, use less data on metered Wi-Fi networks, and more.

6 ways to make the most of your Wi-Fi on Android
Credit: Ben Patterson

It’s easy to take Wi-Fi for granted. Most of the time it just works, no thought required. But even if your Wi-Fi connection is placidly humming away, there are still plenty of Wi-Fi settings on your Android device worth tweaking.

For starters, you can decide whether you want your Android device to bug you about available public Wi-Fi networks, and you can view—or forget—any Wi-Fi network you’ve previously saved for automatic connection. You can also decide whether your phone’s Wi-Fi radio stays on when your Android device is asleep, or put data caps on any metered Wi-Fi networks that you regularly use.

Read on for six ways to make the most of your Wi-Fi on Android, starting with...

See all the Wi-Fi networks you’ve saved

Whenever you connect to a new Wi-Fi network, your Android device commits it to memory and will seamlessly connect to that network whenever it’s in range.

See all the Wi-Fi networks you’ve saved Ben Patterson

In just a few taps, you can check each and every Wi-Fi network saved on your Android device.

The nice thing about Android (as opposed to iOS) is that you can view a list of all the Wi-Fi networks you’ve saved. Tap Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the three-dot overflow icon in the top right corner of the screen, then tap Saved Networks.

”Forget” a saved Wi-Fi network

Now that you’re looking at a list of all your saved Wi-Fi networks, you might see a few that you’d rather not connect to again—for example, one of those sketchy (and usually unreliable) public Wi-Fi hotspots that always seem to be floating around in malls, cafes and other public spaces.

Ben Patterson

Tap the “Forget” button to keep your Android handset from automatically connecting to a specific Wi-Fi hotspot.

To cross any off your list, just tap it and then tap the Forget button. When you do, the network will disappear from your Saved list and your Android handset will no longer connect to it automatically.

You can, of course, reconnect manually to a “forgotten” Wi-Fi network, but you’ll have to type in the network’s password again (assuming the network is password-protected) to do so.

Keep your Android device from bugging you about available Wi-Fi networks

By default, your non Wi-Fi-connected Android device will pop up an alert whenever it detects available Wi-Fi hotspots in the vicinity.

Keep your Android device from bugging you about available Wi-Fi networks Ben Patterson

There’s an easy way to silence Android notifications about nearby public hotspots.

That can be handy if you’re out and about in search of free Wi-Fi, but if you’d rather not connect to random Wi-Fi networks, all the notifications can get to be annoying.

To muzzle all the Wi-Fi alerts, tap Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the three-dot overflow icon, then tap Advanced and toggle off the Network notification setting.

Keep Wi-Fi on when your Android device is asleep

If you dig into Android’s advanced Wi-Fi options (Settings > Wi-Fi, then tap the three-dot overflow icon), you’ll find an intriguing option: the ability to set your device’s Wi-Fi connectivity to power down whenever your handset’s screen is asleep, or if it’s asleep without its charger plugged in.

Keep Wi-Fi on even when your Android device is asleep Ben Patterson

In general, it’s best to stick with “Always” when it comes to Android’s “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” setting.

While turning Wi-Fi off when you Android phone or tablet is asleep may sound like a tempting power-saving option, doing so has its downsides.

For example, turning off your device’s Wi-Fi radio doesn’t stop your handset from consuming data. Indeed, any apps running in the background may simply start gobbling up cellular data if your Wi-Fi is turned off, and if the cellular connection is spotty, your device might actually consume more power over cellular than over a solid Wi-Fi connection.

My advice: select Always for the “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” setting. But if you’ve got a good reason to put your Android device’s Wi-Fi radio to sleep, now you know what to do.

Stick with one frequency band

If you’ve got an Android device that supports Wi-Fi over the speedy 5GHz frequency band, there’s a way to make sure all your Wi-Fi connections are 5GHz all the time.

Stick with one frequency band Ben Patterson

If you wish, you can force your Android device to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots using the speedier 5 GHz frequency band.

Tap Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the three-dot overflow icon, then tap Advanced > Wi-Fi Frequency Band.

Now, pick a band: either 2.4GHz (slower, but longer range) or 5GHz (faster, but shorter range).

The next time your device joins a Wi-Fi network, it’ll be using the frequency band you specified. You can check by tapping the network you’re connected to under the Wi-Fi list and looking at the Frequency setting.

One thing to keep in mind: Not all Wi-Fi hotspots support the 5GHz frequency band, so don’t see surprised if you see far fewer available Wi-Fi networks if you choose the 5GHz setting.

Note: Still not connected at the right frequency? Try “forgetting” the network you’re connected to and reconnecting. 

Set a Wi-Fi network as a “metered” network

If you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network with a data cap (either because your Android device is tethered to a mobile hotspot, or you’ve got a stingy ISP when it comes to data), you’ll want to be careful that your handset doesn’t gobble up massive chunks of data by downloading big system updates or allowing apps to chew up data in the background.

Set a Wi-Fi network as a Ben Patterson

You Android device will ease off on data usage if you flag a Wi-Fi hotspot as a “metered” network.

Luckily, there’s a way to set your Android phone or tablet to take it easy when to comes to consuming data on a particular Wi-Fi network.

Tap Settings > Data Usage, select the Wi-Fi tab (assuming your Android device has both cellular and Wi-Fi radios), tap the three-dot overflow icon, then select Network Restrictions.

Now, flip the switch next to any saved Wi-Fi hotspot that should be treated as “metered” network.

This story, "6 ways to make the most of Wi-Fi on your Android device" was originally published by PCWorld.

Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon