8 Apps to Perk Up Your Android's Wi-Fi

A smartphone without Wi-Fi - is there such a thing? Using Wi-Fi not only speeds up a phone's ability to stream video and other Internet-related activity, it also doesn't eat up valuable bytes of your data plan.

But if you're not connecting at the fastest rate possible or you're stumbling around on wireless issues, here are some apps that could improve your experience.

There are apps to conserve battery life, switch you to a faster network, log you in automatically at Starbucks and save you from wasting a few tedious milliseconds every day. Try these out and tell me your own favorites. Switch to the strongest signal

If you tend to roam between the same Wi-Fi hotspots, don't get stuck using the hotspot on the other side of the building.

Use a hotspot switcher, like Wi-Fi Auto Connect from Green Robot Dev, which automatically switches your mobile device to the fastest available Wi-Fi network already approved on your phone.

This isn't a Wi-Fi manager. It simply switches to the strongest signal available and it does so well, and fast. By default, the app scans every 5 seconds in search of a stronger signal. That will drain the battery but it's easily adjustable to less frequent scanning.

+Wi-Fi Auto Connect (free).

Get on Starbucks free Wi-Fi faster

Can't be bothered with being redirected to accept Starbucks' terms to use its free Internet service?

Yes, there is an app for that.

The Starbucks Wi-Fi Auto Login automates the tedious task right when you walk in the door. Some users say this app also works at McDonalds, Barnes & Noble and other AT&T hotspots.

+Starbucks Wi-Fi Auto Login (free).

Unlock your phone

Step into your home's secure Wi-Fi network and these apps will disable the lock pattern or password so you can use your phone immediately.

Sure, typing in your password isn't such a big deal but on some days, every millisecond counts. When you leave your home's network, the phone locks itself up automatically.

Unlock at Home and Unlock with Wi-Fi are free but do accept donations.

Unlock at home (free).

Unlock with Wi-Fi (free).

Fix your Wi-Fi

Sometimes your phone just can't get a good connection to the local Wi-Fi network. Maybe your phone even shows you're connected but no data is moving.

There are apparently a few issues when it comes to Android and Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Fixer works around those to make sure your phone has the best connection it can get. Better yet, developer David Van de Ven keeps this app updated and even promises new features

Wi-Fi Fixer (free).

Keep Wi-Fi on

If having Wi-Fi on all the time is a must because, say, you're downloading a 2-hour movie, you can either keep checking your phone to make sure Wi-Fi is still on or install the Wi-Fi Keep Alive app.

As its name promises, the app keeps Wi-Fi on when the phone is "asleep" or plugged in. You, of course, must turn Wi-Fi on initially and when done, turn it off.

Wi-Fi Keep Alive (free).

Conserve battery

Wi-Fi is one of the biggest power hogs on your phone so it's best to turn it off when not in use. But who can remember to do that?

One of the simplest Wi-Fi power-saving apps out there is Wi-Fi Power Saver, which turns off Wi-Fi when no network is detected. You don't even have to configure it unless you want to.

For more options, the GreenPower Premium app uses location to automatically turn on Wi-Fi when in a designated hotspot, and then turn it off when not in range. It also manages Bluetooth.

Wi-Fi Power Saver (free).

Green Power Premium (99 cents).

Wi-Fi on/off button

When you need Wi-Fi working stat, there are thousands of widgets available to place an on/off switch on your phone's screen. But if you're searching for one anyway, you might as well get one loaded with details, like the Wi-Fi Manager.

It supplies different-sized widgets for your phone's screen. The largest widget shows which Wi-Fi network the phone is using and the speed and the quality of the connection.

You choose whether you want quality shown as an image,% or dBm's (decibels). And then, of course, just tap it once to turn Wi-Fi on or off.

Wi-Fi Manager (free).

Find free Wi-Fi

If you're searching for free Wi-Fi, head to JiWire, which has long kept track of hotspots worldwide.

Its database has more than 500,000 hotspots, some paid, some free.

It includes all of these in its lovely Wi-Fi Finder mobile app, which also accepts user input if you spot a hotspot not in JiWire's database. Plus you can download the entire directory for offline use.

Wi-Fi Finder (free).
Tamara Chuang is an outside contributor to TheStreet. Her opinions are her own.