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Find open hotspots with WifiMapper

Need hotspot access right now? This app will help you find reliable connections all over your city, or elsewhere.

Nicole Cozma/CNET

Using a mobile hotspot means that you'll have Internet access on your tablet or laptop when you leave home or work. But what if you don't have signal, or you forget your hotspot on your desk? That's when you may be looking for an open hotspot out in the wild, and WifiMapper -- newly available on Android -- is just the app to get the job done.

While there are several precautions you'll want to take before using a public Wi-Fi connection, if you absolutely need to, this app can save you from having to drive around looking for a good connection. The added benefit of comments from Foursquare and other users of the app help you find the right hotspot. Here's how to get started:

  • Grab a copy of WifiMapper for your Android or iOS device. Make sure you're using the app provided in the link for your device type, created by OpenSignal, as there are several apps with the same name.
WifiMapper map of hotspots. Nicole Cozma/CNET
  • The app will show you a map of your current location, as well as list of nearby hotspots. The hotspots with a gray Wi-Fi signal in the oval require a password, while the green-colored ones are open/free. You can move the map around to look at other areas of your city, or even search by city name at the top of the screen.
  • If you're within range of a free hotspot, you can tap the Connect button to the right of its name. (iOS users will need to tap the name of the connection first.) When a password is required for a connection, you'll be presented with a prompt to enter it.
Hotspot information in the WifiMapper app. Nicole Cozma/CNET
  • Once you tap on a hotspot name, you'll see a bit more information about it. If you want to leave a comment, you'll need to log in with Google+ (Android) or Facebook (iOS). Foursquare users can look up a location through their app and leave comments there.

Using public Wi-Fi connections isn't ideal, but they are useful if you're trying to do something like kill time before an appointment, or on a road trip.

What do you think of the WifiMapper app?

Share your thoughts in the comments.