An Android WiFi App I Need

I use wifi a lot on my android phone. I use it in my office, my home, my beach house, cafes I frequent, and offices of companies I frequent. I save the profiles for all of these locations and replace my carrier’s data service with wifi when I am in these locations.

But I don’t like to leave wifi on all the time on my phone. It eats the battery and it auto connects to weak wifi access points with generic names like linksys, netgear, etc. The latter situation can be particularly frustrating when I’m streaming audio or doing something important. It causes a lost connection and a broken session.

I’ve looked in the android marketplace for an app that solves this problem and can’t find it. Here’s what I am looking for:

I’d like to keep wifi off by default on my mobile phone. I’d like an app that wakes up the wifi every so often (user configurable but defaults to every 30 mins). The app then looks for a wifi access point that I have in my “whitelist” which would be the locations where I normally switch on wifi. The whitelist would be different from my saved profiles because I have saved profiles for names like linksys, netgear, etc. If the app finds one of these wifi access points with a good signal, it connects and leaves wifi on. If it doesn’t find a whitelisted wifi access point, it shuts down wifi.

The app would also check every so often to see that the phone is still connected to a whitelisted access point. If it is no longer connected, it would shut the wifi off on the phone.

As I said, I’ve looked in the android marketplace for an app that does this. I couldn’t find one. If one exists, I’d love to know the name of it so I can get it. If not, I’d love for someone to build this. There are quite a few apps that help manage wifi (quick switching on and off, etc). Maybe one of those apps can add this feature.

The wireless carrier’s data networks are congested and getting more so with the explosion of smartphones and bandwidth heavy applications. If phone users can efficiently and reliably switch on wifi when they have it, it will offload data traffic from the carrier’s networks and help reduce congestion. Mobile phone operating systems don’t do a great job of assisting with this stuff today. Over time I expect they’ll get better at it. But until then, I hope third party app developers can come in and fill the void.

UPDATE: I’ve downloaded three apps that were suggested in the comments; Tasker, Y5, and Locale. I’ve set up two of them, Y5 and Locale, and both seem to solve this problem. I think Locale does it in a more sophisticated way. But I am running both of them right now. I will let everyone know what works best for me in a future post.


Comments (Archived):

    1. fredwilson

      please do!

  1. Mark Burstiner

    So, Locale will track your GPS (if you leave that on like I do) and trigger based on whether or not you’re in a given radius. So, you can set Locale to turn on wifi when you’re within certain radii, like your office or home for example.Once wifi is on, my buddy Dave Matthews launched ToothTag at LAUNCH while I was there. It’s pretty cool. You can set actions for Wifi networks & other connections. So, it’ll auto check you in to UnionSqVentures on 4Sq when it sees that you’ve connected to its wifi network which will in turn be triggered by Locale.Update w/Market links:Locale:…ToothTag:

    1. fredwilson

      i will check out locale. getting a bunch of suggestions in the comments. thanks

  2. ErikSchwartz

    I think you could solve most of these problems with Locale set up geographic areas where wifi is turned on, it turns itself off otherwise.

    1. fredwilson

      erik – i just downloaded and set up locale. it’s awesome. i think you’ve solved my problem

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Locale is very cool. At some point I want to build a locale plug in that ties in with context provided by simple geo’s APIs.Things like turn off my ringer whenever I go into any movie theater or restaurant.

  3. Steve Hallock

    Hi Fred,There is an incredibly powerful app called Tasker that lets you build nearly any rule-based program that you want. You should be able to customize exactly what you want (maybe even more elaborate) without much trouble.Best,Steve

    1. fredwilson

      i will give it a trythanks

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      I was thinking about that one also. I have it installed and you can do really cool things with it.My only complain is that recently (I think it was with the update to Android 2.3.2, but maybe it was a bit earlier) they said that the OS didn’t let the app turn on and off the gps anymore. Appart from that, outstanding.

    3. CJ

      Another vote for Tasker – I’m probably going to implement Fred’s solution myself using it. It’s a great idea.

    4. Paul Smith

      What’s needed is the ability to recognize when you are within some radius of an arbitrary list of predefined locations, using only coarse (cell-tower) location. Can Tasker do this?

  4. andreaitis

    “If the app finds one of these wifi access points with a good signal, it connects and leaves wifi on.”Add another config:- Ask me if I want to turn wifi on- Automatically turn wifi onBattery drain is a big issue for me on the Android — have you found anything that really helps preserve battery power?

    1. fredwilson

      for some wifis (home, office, beach house), i’d want it to be auto onbecause i plug my phone in in these locationsbut i agree that asking is a good idea for many wifis

    2. Mark Burstiner

      I find running a custom ROM solves most common issues. I’m on Cyanogen 7.0 right now on a Droid Incredible & the battery life is vastly improved. I have the HTC brand extended battery and I can make it from 8AM to 9PM & still have some juice left. Custom ROMs kick a ton of the bloatware & seriously improve efficiency. If a custom ROM is an option for you, & you feel comfortable with rooting, it’s the best option.

    3. Fernando Gutierrez

      Battery is, in my opinion, Android’s weakest point. I’ve tried many things, but many of the recommendations out there are not really interesting (setting email to autoupdate every x hours and things like that are not a solution!).I’ve recently tried one that seems to be giving me some more juice in a Nexus S: black. I read somewhere that AMOLED screens (Samsung Galaxy and Nexus S) turn off pixels when they are pure black and that saves a lot of power. I set up a completely black wallpaper and changed the settings in some apps that let you read with a black background (which, btw, I think is easier on the eyes) and I see that the % of battery use of display has decreased significantly. This is not huge, but every extra minute counts.

  5. Sanjay Parekh

    As I mentioned on Twitter, check out Y5. It turns WiFi on/off based on your coarse network location (not power hungry GPS). Also, JuiceDefender does this and much more. I’m using the free version of JuiceDefender which doesn’t do location based WiFi so I’m using both apps in conjunction with each other to make magic happen. And Y5 is totally free.Even with the free version of JuiceDefender, I’ve upped my battery life by about 20% so it now definitely goes all day long without needing a charge.

    1. fredwilson

      i will check these apps out sanjay. thanks

      1. Nuno Maia

        Also would suggest to check TASKER (allmighty powerful) and LOCALE (simpler more limited) for CONTEXT<>ACTION rules you can set based on a gigantic amount of parameters/variables.I use TASKER for basically… everything/anything

        1. fredwilson

          i’ve downloaded Y5, Locale, and Tasker. i’ve set up Y5 and Locale. they look to do the same thing and i’m worried they will somehow conflict with each other. but i’ll see about that. i have not yet waded into tasker. all of these seem like great solutions to my problem

          1. Fernando Gutierrez

            If you decide to try Tasker there are a few good articles and examples on it in Lifehacker (I’d put the links, but Disqus would not agree. A simple search will get them anyway).

          2. fredwilson

            thanks. i am going to dig into tasker. seems like a scripting solution forandroid. i love the idea of hacking around on my phone a bit

  6. roland

    This will be solved by better hardware and embedded software not at the the app level. In fact Nokia & Symbian already solved it (the battery life of Symbian and S40 is phenomenal, the battery life of Nokia’s other operating system, Maemo, is bad). And of course plenty of room to improve batteries as well.All Google has to do is hire some of the Nokia power management software and embedded software engineers :-)….Roland “Nokia Stockholm Phone Syndrome survivor who loves his N8, Nexus S and iPhone 4” Tanglao

    1. CJ

      Iteration. Symbian is a much more mature OS than Android so it should have much better power management. Android will get there, the question is, will we still care about it when it does?

    1. fredwilson

      cooli will check it out

    2. andreaitis

      I had tried the regular JuiceDefender and didn’t see much difference, but will give Ultimate a shot.It’s kind of ridiculous that we need to go to so much after-market effort, though. Battery power and preservation should be a core feature, not one we need to scramble around to fix.Thanks for the tips, everyone. And sorry to hijack the thread, Fred. ;-j

    3. Jamie Lin

      I’ve been using it for more than 6 months. Absolutely love it. Must have if you use an Android.

    4. scyphers

      Ditto to Juice Defender; I get between 2x-3x battery life on an EVO (which is hardly the most battery friendly device)

  7. Steve Hallock

    By the way, this is what’s fantastic about Android. Within minutes of this post, you had multiple solutions.Imagine trying to solve this on an iPhone or Blackberry…

    1. fredwilson


    2. steven75

      What’s to solve on and iPhone or blackberry? Neither of those platforms suffer from terrible battery life so those users don’t need to turn off wifi ever, really.

      1. Michael Kogan

        On the iPhone, you can hit a button that allows you to turn off autoconnect for wifi points that are not in your profile already – so iPhone doesn’t have an issuemy wife had exactly the same complaint – hit one setting button and bingo, it’s solved

        1. William Mougayar


        2. ErikSchwartz

          That doesn’t turn off wifi. Wifi is still awake and looking for your known networks.

        3. CJ

          You’re missing the point – the point is to not have wi-fi on at all until one is in range of one of these hotspots and then autoconnect.

      2. perfy

        Steven75 is correct.There is no problem to solve for here on iOS. Leaving wifi on doesn’t cause uses to complain about battery life, and you can turn on the setting to ignore unknown networks. You get the behavior Fred is looking for out of the box.And to Steve H, You make it seem like the solutions were custom developed within minutes of the post. They already existed and were just pointed out to him. If the android marketplace were better organized, maybe he wouldn’t have had to even make this post.Just food for thought.

        1. CJ

          Then why do they make external battery packs for the iPhone if battery life is so awesome? Maybe it’s not as bad as the Android but enough people think it sucks to create a viable marketplace for extended life external battery sleeves.

          1. Rick Baumhauer

            Whatever battery issues the iPhone has (and the iPhone 4 is a big upgrade from the 3G/3GS for battery life), they’re not caused by having Wifi on all the time. Those external packs are for very heavy voice and/or data users – they have nothing to do with Wifi constantly searching for networks draining the battery, as appears to be the case with Android.

          2. CJ

            Nor is it a significant drain in Android but it is a drain nonetheless.When you are a heavy mobile phone user, you take your battery savings whereyou can get it. Lots of little tweaks add up to a lot of battery life.

          3. David Chu

            I haven’t seen one person use an external battery pack on an iPhone4 in the real world. Manufactures make keyboard docks for iPhones, doesn’t mean there is demand for it.

          4. CJ

            I have and I have seen many more people talk about it. I don’t knock iPhone battery life but I have co-workers and family who have them and bitch about it just as much as I bitch about the battery on my Android. *shrug*

          5. David Chu

            Let’s be real. The number of people bitching about their iPhone4 battery life is no where near the number of people bitching about their Android phone’s battery life.Fred, by his own admission, carries a spare battery for his Galaxy S.

          6. fredwilson

            sometimes two of themi love that i can carry extra batteriesone of the many reasons i love android

    3. steven_amani

      You don’t know what you are talking about.

  8. Will Evans

    You could probably configure tasker to do this.

  9. Santosh

    Try uAccess. It’s a beta app. The battery manager is just a small part of its features.We’re working on constantly improving its features and above all it’s free. Feedback is appreciated and will be taken seriously.

    1. fredwilson

      I will take a look

  10. Jon Smirl

    Bluetooth might be another way to help with the power consumption. The OFDM wifi MAC is incredibly power hungry – it is designed that way to give high data speeds. Bluetooth is way more power efficient but only supports seven connections at low data rates. 802.15.4 (zigbee) fixes the 7 session limit but it is not deployed in phones.Simple idea – leave Bluetooth turned on. Whenever you get near enough to pair with a specific Bluetooth device located next to your wifi access point, also turn on wifi.Harder one – use Bluetooth for an IP connection. Do the background phone activities over this link. Only turn on wifi if a human picks the phone up.I’d like to see UMA deployed more instead having to have a femtocell sitting next to my wifi router. With UMA the phone could turn off the GSM radio.But as you can tell, the phone companies could care less about this aspect of cell phones since it doesn’t generate gobs of revenue for them. It is within their capability to fix this problem if they choose to.

  11. Marco Venanzi

    Hi Fred,just to let you know that in the android landscape the inq mobile Cloud Touch implements a smart WiFi manager that use adaptive algorithms for wifi scans, based on known networks, open networks, location change and speed. It also collect and share crowd sourced data to know when other relevant networks are available.Take a look :…Cheers,Marco…

    1. fredwilson


  12. bcarroll1234

    what you really need is software that multi-homes on several wifi networks simultaneously — triplicates every packet it sends, and then uses the first-responding packets (throwing the other two responses away). Latency and packet loss are the main problems, not bandwidth.

    1. fredwilson

      That sounds awesome but also battery hungry

  13. Getsaf

    This app already exist and it is AMAZING except it’s a slight twist to your description. The app learns WHERE you are when you are on wifi and turns on WIFI when you’re in those locations. No configuration necessary, it just learns by your use of WIFI.Called Y5 Battery saver…

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks. I’ve got it running now

  14. toofan

    What if you just turn off network notifications in android wifi settings? It will then not try to keep connecting to / notifying about random networks but will still connect to networks that are ‘known’.Dwipal

  15. paramendra

    This is the way to cut the phone companies completely off. Wifi plus Skype and the like.

  16. Stevec3412

    Tasked works really well for this..

  17. ShanaC

    So weird, I need this too!

  18. jkeera

    wish the silent button on iPhone was a wifi on/off switch like on some laptops.

  19. Alex Murphy

    I have a question, do you consider this to be a bridge technology?Were these free?If they were free, or even in the case where apps that fill a similar void, what are the economics behind building free apps that bridge a gap like this? I just don’t see the upside.

    1. fredwilson


  20. Marcuswerner13

    I have been using an app that works exactly as you describe called Auto Wifi Toggle for a while now. It runs in the background very unobtrusively and doesn’t require much in the way of setup.

  21. RichP

    Check out Settings Profile I use it to turn on WIfi when I hit 1 of 3 cell towers near my house, then I have it shutoff Bluetooth when I connect to my home wifi.

  22. NICCAI

    I was going to suggest an app that does some sort of geo-fencing to set preferences like ringers, but it looks like Locale does just that…

  23. Tiongsy

    My HTC Hero running Android 2.1 recognizes only the wifi networks I use. All the other wifi services that my phone catches don’t seem to interfere with it. The problem with my phone though is that sometimes it disconnects automatically from my preferred wifi networks when it goes to ‘sleep’ and reconnecting takes forever

  24. Magnus Söderberg

    And i who was gonna say if you help fund our company we will build it. But seems you got the solution already./Magnus

  25. Dave W Baldwin

    Reading thru comments, glad to see many of you realize it is a matter of Intelligence (Artificial).

  26. Goodvibes

    Try Profile Valet

  27. Rtolmach

    I have an Android phone on T-mobile. Even sitting at my desk (where the wifi is super), phone calls made when wifi is on are awful.

  28. Josh Gordon

    a propo, with the att&t + tmobile wedding looming on the horizon, i happened to read a great article on cnet describing the carriers’ motivation for using — and not using — wifi uma:

  29. famolari

    This is the exact use case that IEEE 802.21 (media independent handover) was meant to address.  A network side server would maintain a directory of Wi-Fi access points, their locations, characteristics, etc.  Then 3G signaling would handle location updates and message passing to tell the end device when it should power up its Wi-Fi radio.  Carriers, unfortunately, never really embraced it.  Multi-radio management will be a big area of opportunity.  With carriers implementing tiered data rates, it’s not just about battery life, it’s also about cost, not to mention matching the right service quality to the applications you’re using.  And with mobile data exploding, it’s also about helping carriers prevent congestion by offloading traffic where they can.  More radios, networks and contextual information are creating a complex set of connectivity choices. How these choices are architected and managed will become increasingly important to carriers, users, content providers, etc. Connection managers for multi-radio devices need to get more capable, intelligent and contextual.  If they do they’ll become the primary influencers of these choices and thus a critical piece of the mobile experience. 

  30. MikePLewis

    I would love this for the iPhone too. Have you heard of an app for that? I know this is an android comment string but us iphoners want some help too

  31. MikePLewis

    I would love this for the iPhone too. Have you heard of an app for that? I know this is an android comment string but us iphoners want some help too

  32. giovanni lombardi

    Fred, try an iPhone instead, rather than messing with additional software to fix an Android design issue. Plus it has a more robust app monetizing platform to boot, with much less App piracy then Android.=)

    1. fredwilson

      i will never use an iPhone

  33. kenberger

    Way back in 2002, I had a consulting client based in Switzerland that did all this and way more. I helped to get Intel invested, which was a big win for the principals.And the project got subsumed and then spit out within a few years…

  34. fredwilson

    i am sure it will eventually find its way into the OS, but for now, i thinkthere is an opportunity for a developer to do well with this feature