The new software update Android 5.1 fixes an annoying issue that has plagued mobile devices for years. You might recall plenty of times in the past when your phone automatically found a nearby WiFi network to access and connected to it in the background, only to provide a much slower connection than what your cell service was already supplying in that location. Now, an Android phone won’t do that anymore because it just became smart enough to properly prioritize whichever connection is capable of sending the most packets in any given period of time.
There are advantages to WiFi, most notably the lack of a monthly cap on included bandwidth from a phone carrier, so most users leave WiFi on anywhere they go in the hope that a store or other open network nearby will offer faster connections and uncapped data usage. Unfortunately too many of those networks are painfully slow or bugged in some way that causes your browsing to slow to a staggered crawl, even though a phone connection would be many times faster instead. It’s also worth pointing out that carrier networks have grown much more robust in recent years with LTE speeds that can rival many WiFi shared connections open to the public. The manual solution has been for users to selectively turn off their WiFi to improve performance… but not any more.
The Android 5.1 update that began rolling out across the U.S. this week includes a new firmware feature that gives your device the ability to recall which networks you have attempted joining in the past with poor results. The device can then cross-check that list in the future to prioritize networks accordingly, or keep you on the LTE from your mobile carrier when it is actually faster than the available WiFi nearby.
There are a few other fixes in the Android 5.1 update, and most including this one will go unnoticed by many consumers, though their innate sense of satisfaction with their device is likely unwittingly to rise as a direct result. You can also now connect to Bluetooth devices without needing to click through three settings menus, and Quick Settings are finally available from the lock screen directly. Google devs have also enhanced the Android platform’s security, so that a stolen device will remain unusable even if someone resets it until a dealer reauthorizes it with your information after checking a valid ID.
It will take weeks before the myriad of devices that are part of the Android ecosystem are able to be updated, but if your phone or tablet offers you 5.1 as an update it’s a download you should install with a smile.