Google's awesome Wi-Fi Assistant, which was previously available only to Project Fi phones, will be opening up to all Nexus phones in the coming weeks. The feature lets your Nexus — with your permission — connect to all open Wi-Fi networks that it finds, offloading data usage that would otherwise end up costing you on a limited mobile data plan.
With Wi-Fi Assistant enabled, which you'll soon find behind a settings gear in your Wi-Fi settings, your phone still always be scanning and will latch onto any open network that it can find that doesn't require a login or captive portal check before connecting. The best part about this is that it does the checks for you without any of your input, so you don't have to bother hunting around to find a Wi-Fi network — just use your phone and let it do its thing.
For your protection, when your phone connects to an open network via Wi-Fi Assistant, all of your traffic automatically passes through a Google VPN, keeping the data safe from the potential dangers of an open Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi Assistant is also regularly checking the speed of the networks it connects to, and is very willing to drop off of the Wi-Fi if it's slow or unstable, which gives you the best experience. After using a Project Fi phone for well over a year now, I never turn off Wi-Fi anymore and simply let it handle things, saving me dozens of megabytes per month.
Together with the ability to switch between multiple mobile data networks, Wi-Fi Assistant was actually one of the biggest selling points of Project Fi — bringing us closer to the idea of just connecting to any data source that was available, without you having to worry about the specifics. With that feature coming to Nexus phones, it's yet another one of Google's great value-added services that can be a huge benefit to Nexus owners, currently and in future buying decisions.
The feature will roll out to all Nexus phones running Android 5.1 or newer, and in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, UK and Nordic countries. The process will take a few weeks, but we will start to see it on some phones right away.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.