Stop me if this sounds familiar (if it doesn’t, you’re not paying close enough attention). You walk into a coffee shop, where your phone hungrily gloms onto the open Wi-Fi network—probably called something like Netgear, or AT&TWiFi—and promptly stops working. The shop forgot to update the router’s firmware, or just bought a budget hardware in 1997 thinking, “internet’s internet!” and never upgraded again. Either way, your phone just invisibly sabotaged its own connectivity. You’re standing six feet from where you had flawless internet, and suddenly the information superhighway becomes one giant roadblock. It’s a small, but consistent (and infuriating) problem, and Google has finally taken steps to solve it. With the new Android 5.1 update, which began rolling out yesterday in the U.S., your phone will remember which networks you attempt to connect with have crappy Wi-Fi, and save you from ever hopping on their bandwidth again.
A few years ago, your phone’s Wi-Fi-hopping strategy made sense. Your 3G network was probably painfully slow, perpetually overloaded, and generally battery-crushing. You also probably had an adorably small data cap, measured in megabytes. I spent years bouncing from store to store, lingering outside of whatever restaurant had an open network just long enough to download some new music. AT&T even made an app for Android phones that would tell you where you could find WiFi—and it was super popular! The networks offered by cable companies, fast-food joints, and one candy store whose name I can’t recall, were a huge asset.
Today, though, LTE speeds are fast and efficient enough that you’re rarely better off on the sponsored connection at the train station. There’s almost never a good reason to keep stalling out on the same dud Wi-Fi networks. Android 5.1 spares you that agony, while still defaulting to reliable Wi-Fi networks when they’re available. Magic.
Most of the Android 5.1 update fixes small annoyances like this. You can connect to Bluetooth devices without plowing through three settings menus; you can access the Quick Settings from the lock screen. You can customize those settings, so you have faster access to only the things you use most (hello, Hotspot Mode; goodbye, pointless auto-rotate toggle). There’s extra security, so that even if someone steals and resets your phone, they won’t be able to use it. You can make better-sounding phone calls, if you’re on one of the vanishingly small set of devices that supports HD Voice.
It’s all great; the only catch is that you probably won’t get it anytime soon. While the Nexus 6 has already started seeing the update stateside, Google’s latest and greatest software still takes too long to percolate around the ecosystem for everyone else. But at least when you look down and suddenly realize you’re connected to a painfully sluggish Starbucks network, you’ll know the days of your anguish are numbered.