Using Wi-Fi on Android Phones

Man holding a Samsung phone and a stylus


Wi-Fi settings available on Android vary depending on the specific device, but the concepts are similar across them. This walkthrough demonstrates how to access and work with Wi-Fi-related settings on a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.

Wi-Fi Settings on Android Phones

Settings - Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge

Android Wi-Fi settings are often distributed across multiple different menus. In the example shown, settings affecting the phone's Wi-Fi can be found in these menus:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Wi-Fi -> Wi-Fi Direct
  • Wi-Fi -> MORE -> Advanced
  • Airplane mode
  • Advanced Calling

Wi-Fi On/Off and Access Point Scanning on Android Phones

Wi-Fi - Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge

The most basic phone Wi-Fi settings allow a user to turn the Wi-Fi radio on or off via a menu switch, and then to scan for nearby access points when the radio is on. As in this example screenshot, Android phones typically place these options together on a "Wi-Fi" menu. Users connect to any Wi-Fi network by choosing a name from the list (that disconnects the phone from its previous network while initiating the new connection). Lock symbols shown on the network icons indicate network password (wireless key) information must be supplied as part of the connection process.

Wi-Fi Direct on Android Phones

Wi-Fi Direct - Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge

The Wi-Fi Alliance developed Wi-Fi Direct technology as a way for Wi-Fi devices to directly connect to each other in a peer-to-peer fashion without needing to be connected to a broadband router or other wireless access point. While many people still use their phone’s Bluetooth for direct connections to printers and PCs, Wi-Fi Direct works equally well as an alternative in many situations. In the examples shown in this walkthrough, Wi-Fi Direct can be reached from the top of the Wi-Fi menu screen.

Activating Wi-Fi Direct on an Android phone initiates a scan for other Wi-Fi devices in range and capable of making a Direct connection. When a peer device is located, users can connect to it and transfer files using the Share menus attached to pictures and other media.

Advanced Wi-Fi Settings on Android Phones

More Settings - Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge

Next to the Wi-Fi direct option, many Android phones display a MORE button that opens a drop-down menu for accessing additional, less commonly used Wi-Fi settings. These may include:

  • buttons to control Wireless Protected Setup (WPS)
  • options to control on-screen pop-ups notifying when the phone detects nearby Wi-Fi service
  • "Smart network switch" - a Samsung technology that causes the phone to automatically disconnect from Wi-Fi and use the mobile network instead when it detects issues with the Wi-Fi connection
  • a battery-saving option to stop the phone from automatically scanning for Wi-Fi access points
  • an option to enable the phone to use the Passpoint public hotspot system

Airplane Mode on Phones

Airplane Mode - Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge

All modern smartphones possess an On/Off switch or menu option called Airplane Mode that powers off all of the device’s wireless radios including Wi-Fi (but also cell, Bluetooth and any others). In this example, the Android phone keeps this feature on a separate menu. The feature was introduced specifically to prevent phone radio signals from interfering with aircraft instrumentation. Some also use it as a more aggressive battery saving option than ordinary power saving modes provide.

Wi-Fi Calling on Phones

Advanced Calling - Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge

Wi-Fi calling, the capability to make regular voice telephone calls over a Wi-Fi connection, can be useful in several situations:

  • When in areas with cell coverage that frequently drops out or that have no coverage
  • To conserve talk minutes on a service plan with limited talk time (although some types of Wi-Fi calls may still count against minutes depending on carrier and plan)

While the idea of being in a location without cell service but with Wi-Fi was hard to envision some years ago, the continued proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots has made the ability to choose more common. Wi-Fi calling in Android differs from traditional voice over IP (VoIP) services like Skype in that the feature is integrated directly into the phone’s operating system. To use Wi-Fi calling, a subscriber must be using a carrier and service plan that supports the feature – not all do.

In the example screenshot, the Advanced Calling menu contains an Activate Wi-Fi Calling option. Choosing this option brings up an explanation of the terms and conditions for using this feature, then allows the user to place calls.