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Android Wireless Networking Communications Google Network Operating Systems Software The Internet

Android Can Now Tell You How Fast Wi-Fi Networks Are Before You Join Them (theverge.com) 44

Today, Google announced that Android 8.1 Oreo will now display the speed of nearby open Wi-Fi networks to help you decide whether they're even worth the effort of connecting to. The Wi-Fi settings menu will now display one of four speed labels: Very Fast, Fast, OK, or Slow. The Verge reports: The difference between Very Fast and Fast, according to Google, is that you can stream "very high-quality videos" on the former and "most videos" on the latter. Most coffee shop dwellers should be fine with the OK level, as that's enough for web browsing, social media, and Spotify streaming. Private Wi-Fi networks that require passwords don't display any speed data since it's really none of your business and Google can't randomly test them, but they do continue to indicate signal strength. Google says network administrators can also opt out of Android's Wi-Fi Assistant showing speed info by using a "canary URL."
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Android Can Now Tell You How Fast Wi-Fi Networks Are Before You Join Them

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  • How? (Score:5, Informative)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @08:13PM (#55982067)

    Exactly how does one know how "fast" a WiFi network is without "joining" it? All you can tell is what the signal strength is (something already shown), the frequency, and the protocol (a/b/g/n/whatever). None of those will tell you how fast your actual Internet speed will be without connecting to it and trying it. It might indicate a cap on top theoretical speed, but how useful is that?

    I mean, a 100% signal perfect signal on an N access point with nobody else connected to it that is on a saturated uplink which manages 0.1 Mb/s with horrendous latency is pretty crappy.

    Are they saying that your Android device will, behind the scenes, actually connect to everything it can, without asking you, and TEST the link? What does that do for battery life? How much will that delay your connecting? How does that interfere with networks you have specifically chosen to automatically connect? How accurate is a quick test that might have touched the worst few seconds of use in the last hour?

    Or is this based on Google "sharing" speed information from one user into a cloud database? I don't see how that is going to be very accurate either- things change constantly. And that speed rating will very much depend on your EXACT signal quality.

    More questions than answers... the article doesn't help much, either.

    • Remember, if its something smart, the implementation must be stupid.
      So all it has to do, is to poke at it. So if it broadcasts to you, you already got a signal to sample.
      So if you can tell the connection limit of that, by the wireless signal standard, you can basically guess the max speed, since its far lower than what the cabled broadband in the back of the shop actually is.

    • I'm gonna go with cloud database. The article links to a FAQ that indicates you can turn this new feature off by changing a "Network Rating Provider" option from "Google" to "none". From what I can tell this option was actually introduced in the Android 8.0 preview back in May 2017, so they've had some time to build up a backend.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Exactly how does one know how "fast" a WiFi network is without "joining" it? All you can tell is what the signal strength is (something already shown), the frequency, and the protocol (a/b/g/n/whatever). None of those will tell you how fast your actual Internet speed will be without connecting to it and trying it. It might indicate a cap on top theoretical speed, but how useful is that?

      More questions than answers... the article doesn't help much, either.

      Are you sure you read TFA? [quote]Private Wi-Fi networks that require passwords donâ(TM)t display any speed data since itâ(TM)s really none of your business and Google canâ(TM)t randomly test them, but they do continue to indicate signal strength.[/quote] This implies that the network will be joined, tested and disconnected. If you don't want to participate you can block the "canary URL" or just put a password on your wifi like most people do. As its going end to end across the internet, yo

      • Or that, in addition to uploading mac, ssid and location data for random Wi-Fi networks, it's now also uploading speed test results.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Or it can do a combination of signal strength and speed and try to figure it out that way. After all an 802.11ac signal is worthless if it's weak but you have a stronger N signal nearby or things like that.

      A long long time ago, I had a WiFi card that could connect to an 802.11g AP on the 10th floor from the 3rd through a concrete-and-steel building. This was annoying because I had an 802.11b AP nearby that would because of its proximity and greater signal strength be faster than the 802.11g one would becaus

    • It's even worse. They have no insight into retries, hidden nodes, and periodic loads. In an always powered decent radio, you can look at channel utilization to see estimate load levels, but none of this shit is bang on or all that accurate. Since most socs are Qualcomm, hopefully they build in their spectrum analyzer functionality in future chips usually only in their enterprise chipsets. That would allow for a much better representation of better AP selection.
  • Does it Tweet?

  • by surfdaddy ( 930829 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @09:34PM (#55982507)

    ...and as of right now I don't see any evidence of that capability. Perhaps in a further point release?

  • is they're simply determining what the connection speed is between you and the AP. ( 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac )

    There is no way to know the bandwidth between the AP and the router / ISP without connecting to it and physically checking it.

    It will have one hell of a time determining mine as I disable wi-fi unless I need it while I'm out and about.

  • Napster "Speed" column [buzzfeed.com]: DSL, Cable, 56K, 14.4, Unknown

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