An open Wi-Fi hotspot can be great when your mobile data connection isn’t cutting it, but not all public Wi-Fi is created equal. A new feature in Android 8.1 will tell you about a network before you go through the hassle of connecting to it. You won’t get exact speed measurements, but a general descriptor tells you if the network is lightning fast or slow as molasses.
Odds are you don’t have this feature on your phone yet. It’s still in the process of rolling out, and it’s only for Android 8.1 devices. That means just Pixels, Nexuses, and a few Android One phones. The few other phones that have been upgraded to Oreo are still on 8.0. So, consider this a glimpse of your future. This feature started showing up on some devices several weeks ago, but Google didn’t release it to all Android 8.1 devices right away. Now you can expect to see it on all Android 8.1 devices in a few days.
The new speed labels appear in your Wi-Fi network list, which is where you’d go when you want to connect to a new network. Next to each network for which Google has data, you get a description: Slow, OK, Fast, or Very Fast. These vague generalities area actually connected to real speed ranges, though. According to Google, slow is 0-1 Mbps, OK is 1-5 Mbps, fast is 5-20 Mbps, and very fast is anything over 20 Mbps. This is similar to Google’s built-in secure Wi-Fi auto-connect feature, which identifies stable networks and connects you to them via a Google VPN.
These labels give you a chance to save yourself the time and frustration of connecting to a network that isn’t going to suit your needs. If all you need to do is fire off some messages, the slow networks might be okay. If you intend to stream some Netflix, you probably don’t want to bother wrestling with such a network. The labels only show up on open networks, so those that require passwords or use sign-in pages won’t display a speed rating.
If you don’t want Google to report speed rating on networks for some reason, you can shut this feature off in the Wi-Fi settings. It’s under Wi-Fi preferences > Advanced > Network rating provider. The only option is Google, so change it to “None” to remove the labels. If you don’t want to shut the labels off, no action is required on your part.
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