Android Smartphone Tools to Keep Your Wi-Fi Network Humming

Ekahau offers most comprehensive set of Wi-Fi site survey features in three-product test.

Wi-Fi site surveys

In the early days of Wi-Fi, site surveys involved running around with a laptop looking at simple signal levels. The next step was map-based tools that provided a good visual of Wi-Fi coverage, but still involved carrying a bulky laptop around. Today, we have apps you can run on your Android-powered smartphone or tablets. We tested three of them: Fluke Network’s AirMagnet AirMapper, WolfWiFi Pro from Enterprising Apps, and Ekahau Mobile Survey. (Read a story version.)

Fluke Network’s AirMagnet AirMapper App
Fluke Networks' AirMagnet AirMapper App

Fluke Networks' AirMagnet AirMapper App offers Wi-Fi surveying on Android devices, supporting the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It’s basically a simpler version of Windows-based AirMagnet Survey. A feature-limited demo version is free, while the Pro version is priced at $199. The demo version allows you to perform a full signal-based survey and shows coverage on a heat-map, but you’re limited to saving a single project and exporting/reporting is disabled. The Pro version also allows you to perform throughput surveys, showing data rates on the heat-map.

Fluke Networks' AirMagnet AirMapper App
Fluke Networks' AirMagnet AirMapper App

When testing the AirMagnet AirMapper in throughput mode, the current throughput rate in Mbps is displayed, which you can tap to see further details. During the testing you can also tap the annotation icon on the top left corner to add notes, a photo, audio clip, or video attached to the last data point location. AirMagnet also provides superior help and documentation, offering great in-app help shortcuts.

WolfWiFi Pro
WolfWiFi Pro

At a mere $50, WolfWifi Pro is the least expensive of the three products we tested, but doesn’t offer laptop-based software for further analysis of the collected data. WolfWiFi Pro provides Wi-Fi surveying and scanning tools, supporting the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The demo version provides unrestricted use of the Wi-Fi Scan and Channel Scan tools, but the Site Survey feature is loaded with a demo survey and you’re limited to only one additional floor plan and five signal readings. The full version removes the restrictions.

WolfWiFi Pro
WolfWiFi Pro

When you open the Channel Scan tool you’ll see a graph showing channel usage and access point signals in dBm values. You can also tap a channel number to view the details of access points on that particular channel.

WolfWiFi Pro
WolfWiFi Pro

When you open the Site Survey tool you’re greeted with a simple screen where you can create or open site survey projects. When creating a project all you’re prompted to do is select a floor plan image. Wolf WiFi doesn’t yet offer multi-floor support. To begin surveying, you can walk around the building and double-tap your location on the map to take signal readings. During or after surveying you can long-press on a reading to see the captured network and signal info.

Ekahau Mobile Survey
Ekahau Mobile Survey

Ekahau Mobile Survey is an Android app that provides Wi-Fi testing and surveying tools, available from Ekahau’s website for $399 when purchased separately. Ekahau doesn’t provide a demo version. When you open the app, you’re greeted by the Test screen, which contains a network health monitor. It monitors the access point signal level, data rate, packet loss, packet delay and rogue signals.

Ekahau Mobile Survey
Ekahau Mobile Survey

You can tap the bottom to display the network details of your current connection with Wi-Fi and IP details. You can also enable Background Monitoring so any network health alerts are saved in the logs, which we’ll discover later. On the Map screen is where you perform the surveying. After importing a floor plan image you can calibrate the map by selecting something on the map and inputting its length in meters. Then you can enter the survey mode via the menu options and long-press on your location to take readings.

Ekahau Mobile Survey
Ekahau Mobile Survey

In the app’s menu options, you can export the heat map image and monitoring logs via email. Plus, survey projects created with Ekahau Mobile Survey and their Windows-based Ekahau Site Survey software are compatible. So you can perform surveys with a lightweight mobile device and later export the project to a PC or laptop for in-depth analysis and reporting. And vice-versa; you can export projects from a laptop and import them to a mobile device to do further surveying. Plus, you can also move survey projects to different mobile devices.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer — keep up with his writings on his Facebook Fan Page. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service, and On Spot Techs, an on-site computer services company.