In this day and age of always-on networking, not being able to get online can feel crippling. Having 3G or 4G connectivity is great, but when it is a free wireless hotspot you need, finding it can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have JiWire’s Free Wi-Fi Finder app.
You can walk around and see if an open wireless network appears on the list of available networks on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Or look for the little “WiFi available” signs in storefronts. People in the know download and install the Free Wi-Fi Finder app from JiWire, which displays a map with all open hotspots near your location. Take a look at the map, find a network, and then head over that way. Getting online just got easier.
Other network finder apps pose a conundrum. You need to find a hotspot to get online, but the app needs you to be online to search the directory and tell you where the hotspot is. JiWire, on the other hand, allows users to download a copy of the hotpost database, with more than 150,000 locations worldwide, to use in offline mode.
I downloaded the JiWire Free Wi-Fi Finder (listed as Free Wi-Fi) from the iTunes App Store for this review. Free Wi-Fi’s database is a subset of the one used by JiWire’s Wi-Fi Finder, as this app lists only free hotspots.
Find That Hotspot!
The main part of the app is a map, with all the hotspot locations displayed as dots. Green dots represented open wireless networks. Red dots meant the hotspot required users to have a password.
There is a right panel, which displays the hotspot locations in a list format when opened. The panel covers up the right half of the map and displayed ads on the bottom. I could filter the list of all available hotspots near a specific location by “location type.” For example, I could filter the list to display only cafes.
Tapping on a hotspot on the map displayed a little bubble with the name of the location operating that network and an icon designating the its location type (restaurant, airport, car rental, barber, salon, bus station, etc). Tapping the bubble for more detail opened up a left panel with more details, such as the establishment’s phone number and two buttons: Bookmark and Get Directions.
The “Bookmark” button added the hotspot to my list of shortcuts, handy if there were certain networks I used on a regular basis. “Get Directions” would not work if GPS location was disabled. It would have been nice to be allowed to just enter my starting point and have the app calculate directions.
I could open up the left pane with hotspot details by selecting a hotspot from the list format on the right panel, as well. When I did that, the map was completely obscured by the two panels. The detail panel didn’t have that much information; it could have all easily fit in that bubble on the map.
The app has a search box and a menu bar with six buttons: Near Me to find open wireless networks near my GPS location, Recent for a list of the last few hotspots I’d connected to, Bookmarks for the list of hotspots I’d saved, Database for downloading the hotspot directly to use in offline mode, Key to see what each location type icon means, and Information to add new locations. The search box could be used to do a fine-grained search, such as by zip code, business name, or a specific address.
I could manually add hotspots to JiWire’s database. Clicking on the ‘i’ Information icon at the top of the screen opened a window where I could type in network details and assign a category to the hotspot, such as café, hotel, and airport. While Jiwire is working with paid and free providers to add them to the directory, it was nice to have the option to add locations manually.
Location Database Available Offline
As mentioned earlier, if I took the time to download the hotspot directory beforehand, I can still search for a hotspot later when I have no connection. This is really useful when I am in an unknown location and I need to get online, but don’t know where to go. This is an improvement over Boingo Wireless Wi-Finder.
The first time I tried the download, the app crashed midway through the process and I couldn’t easily get back into the app. The second attempt worked smoothly.
A Little Easter to Get Online
Free Wi-Fi Finder is a handy app for anyone on the go. If Wi-Fi hot spots are a necessity, having an app like JiWire’s Wi-Fi Finder will simplify the task of finding a hotspot whenever you need one, wherever you are. While the offline access is fantastic, I kept wishing JiWire had put in a VPN service much like the one available in Boingo’s Wi-Finder. Yes, you can use the device’s built-in network finder, but it’s much easier to use an app like Free Wi-Fi Finder to see a simple list of all your options.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc