Publisher: OpenSignal, Inc.
OpenSignal is a wonderful tool for characterizing both Wi-Fi and mobile signals. It integrates with Google Maps to give you good detail on the cell you're connected to and those nearby, along with very effective WLAN reporting and test utilities. I'm floored that this one is free.
Publisher: MetaGeek LLC
While MetaGeek's paid tools are among the most popular in the wireless networking support space, you can get inSSIDer for free. This excellent Android-only tool would likely cost at least $9.99 if it were ever to hit Apple's App Store. The tool shows plenty of detail on the important aspects of Wi-Fi in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums if your device supports both, and is the one to have if you're only going to have a single Wi-Fi tool in your app line-up.
App: Network Info II
Publisher: Alexandros Schillings
This tool does a decent job with Wi-Fi and also shows detail on mobile carrier signals, Bluetooth, GPS-based location, and even how your device fits into the IPv6 landscape. Publisher Schillings has packed a lot of functionality into a deceptively simple interface. For a well-rounded look at all signals, this app is a great gift to the Android community.
App: WiFiMedic Pro
There tends to be no free lunch in the App Store for iDevice users looking for decent wireless tools. However, for less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can get WiFiMedic Pro. Other than showing the SSID and BSSID (specific access point) your iDevice connects to, WiFiMedic is sparse on actual wireless information. It's more geared towards speed tests and basic performance profiling of your own client. It's not bad, but does leave me wishing for a spectrum view and signal information.
Speaking of speed tests, Oookla's Speedtest app is one of the easiest and most reliable to use for both the iDevice crowd and Android users. When used in combination with other tools mentioned here, Speedtest helps round out the big picture of the wireless network, and is another one of those "everyone should have it" apps.
Fing is not a dedicated wireless tool. At the same time, a wireless network is part of a bigger topology and many of us are just as concerned with overall network operations as we are with deciphering Wi-Fi signal information. Fing is free for Apple and Android, and is a slick tool for figuring out exactly what a local network is made of from the host perspective. Utilities include network discovery, ping/traceroute, DNS lookup, port scanning, and more. It's crazy useful at a price that can't be beat.
App: WiFi Stumbler
Meraki's WiFi Stumbler is another Android-only WLAN utility, and it's been around awhile. Its functionality is limited to the 2.4 GHz spectrum, but the app is peppy and well laid out. You can easily e-mail network scans for later analysis. Details include channel, signal strength, and security used per WLAN. This app is due for a refresh to include 5 GHz, but whether Cisco (which recently purchased Meraki) will choose to bother with it remains to be seen.
App: Aruba Utilities
Publisher: Aruba Networks
Aruba Networks is a major player in the enterprise wireless market, and this app is certainly most beneficial to Aruba customers. Integration with the AirWave management system and analysis of client/AP/controller operations only apply to Aruba WLANs. However, the app also has dual-band signals analysis capabilities that anyone can benefit from. For free, why not?
Android's stock wireless utility shows what Wi-Fi networks are within earshot of the device, along with basic signal strength as measured in bars. It's also the starting point for joining networks and configuring security settings. When looking for rogues or open networks, it's an easy, no-cost first stop.
Like the Android equivalent, Apple's native Wi-Fi tool provides a high-level view of the local 802.11 environment. Though better than nothing, both platforms are sparse on the details that wireless support typically need. At the same time, anyone can take their phone out, pull up this window, and take a screenshot to send to network administrators to give a sense of missing or extra WLANs in a given location.
- Lee Badman
- Connect Directly
10 Free and Low-Cost Mobile Wireless Tools
We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.