With carriers trending away from unlimited mobile broadband plans and towards tiered buckets of data, wireless hotspots are becoming more attractive than ever. Finding one on the go, however, can be a challenge. Boingo, a Wi-Fi network service provider makes that a little easier today with an update to its Wi-Finder software for Windows, OS X, iOS and Android devices.
The app was originally designed to help Boingo subscribers find connectivity at the company’s more than 350,000 hotspots around the world, but now is useful for non-subscribers as well. Using the app, you can see all nearby hotspots — both on or off of Boingo’s network — get directions to them, see the SSID, or network name, search for networks in other locations and more. The app can also be configured to notify when a network is nearby, and on all devices except those running iOS, can automatically log you in.
Wi-Finder won’t show private hotspots, so don’t expect to see your home Wi-Fi network or that of your neighbors. Boingo says it’s only showing other commercial hotspots in the app, but the software supports crowdsourced network information: successful connections to open hotspots are logged and sent back to Boingo for inclusion in the directory database.
There are plenty of other apps to find free Wi-Fi: JiWire’s is one I’ve recommended in the past, both for Android and iOS. But I pay for Boingo’s $9.95 monthly plan as a backup plan to my 3G devices, so I’ll likely keep Wi-Finder installed as it now supports other free Wi-Fi networks. At the moment, the app requires connectivity for search results, but Boingo expects to improve Wi-Finder to include offline storage of the wireless network database.