Review: Android-based Wi-Fi stumblers

Four easy-to-use wireless management and security tools that cost under $2

Wi-Fi stumblers are handy when checking for channel usage, signal strength, security status, and detecting rogue access points, in situations where enterprise-level tools aren't necessary. We recently reviewed stumblers for your PC or laptop. Here's a look at a few Wi-Fi stumblers for your Android smartphone or tablet, which makes it even more convenient for quick and simple wireless checks.

Meraki WiFi Stumbler (Free)

This is one of the most basic Wi-Fi stumblers, but can still be useful for simple channel and signal checks for access points in the 2.4GHz band.

Once you open it, you'll find a small bar graph showing how many access points are detected per channel (1 - 11 only), which can quickly help you identify possible channel overlapping. It also displays in numerical values how many SSIDs and access points are detected. You'll also find a SSID list, displaying the channel(s), signal (RSSI in dB), security type, and any detected access point vendor. Though it displays the security type, it doesn't distinguish between the personal (PSK) and enterprise (EAP) modes of WPA or WPA2.


It automatically sorts the SSID list alphabetically and doesn't let you sort by any other means, which could be an issue when browsing through a dozen or more SSIDs. It does however group access points with the same SSID and represents them as one entry on the main list. But the signal shown will only represent the access point with the highest signal.

When you click on an SSID (whether one or more access points), it displays the BSSID/MAC address of the access point(s) and a small live line graph of the signal over a minute in time. Only the AP with the highest signal is charted on the line graph, but it displays numerical signal values next to each AP on the list.

On the bottom of the app you'll find a convenient Email Results button. Tap it and it will automatically summarize the scan results in the body of a message and also attach a CSV document, which includes the relevant details and the GPS coordinates as well.

Wifi Analyzer (Free)

This is a more advanced Wi-Fi stumbler, giving you multiple ways to view the access point details. In addition to the common 2.4-GHz band, it also supports the 5-GHz band on supported devices. Though by default it's Active Directory-supported, you can actually hide the ADs for a week at a time via the Settings.

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The access point list displays access point details: SSID, BSSID/MAC address, security, channel (1-14), and signal (in negative dBm) via a graphical bar and numerical readout. It automatically groups access points with the same SSID and lets you expand to see each individual access point entry. You can sort the access point list by channel, signal, openness, alphabetically, or in natural order.

Though by default it only shows WPA or WPA2, you can make it show full security methods via the Settings. Then you can distinguish between the PSK and EAP modes of WPA/WPA2 and the TKIP and CCMP encryption types.

If you're connected to an access point, you'll also see the details (SSID, MAC, and IP) on top of the access point list screen.

You can export the access point list by sending it to Email or another app, which exports the basic access point details in XML format (that's very user-friendly), and/or take a snapshot of the screens, which you can then manually transfer or send.

The channel graph screen shows each access point's current channel and signal, even showing the channel widths, great in helping identify channel overlapping. But do keep in mind, it won't properly show 40-MHz channel widths, which are optionally used by 802.11n and required for 802.11ac. The developer says this is a limitation of the Android OS.


The time graph screen shows a line graph displaying the access point signals over time in negative dBm values, which you can also filter to show only selected access points.

The channel rating screen gives you recommendations on channel usage, basically showing which ones have the least signals. The signal meter screen can help you find a selected access point with a visual signal meter and sound effect.

Wifi Tracker ($1.56)

Designed for larger wireless surveys, audits or war drives, this stumbler logs the Wi-Fi details and GPS location info for you to export a variety of ways. It can produce and send a KML file for Google Earth viewing, CVS file for Kismet or spreadsheet viewing, and can even upload real-time to or your own web server.

When you open the app and start scanning you'll see detected access points and their basic details in the small upper window and then estimated location on a Google Map. To see the complete access point list you can toggle the Google Map off to make the access point list more visible.

Wi-Fi Stumblers

The access point list on the device shows just the SSID, signal (in negative dBm), and security type, which includes the type (WEP, WPA, or WPA2), encryption (TKIP or CCMP) and the WPA mode (PSK or EAP). The channels aren't shown on the device, but are included in logs as the frequencies instead of the channel numbers.

On the menu you can quick export the data. In the Settings you can configure uploading and a couple different settings. You can set it to log only open (no security/encryption) access points, reduce scan speed to every 7 seconds, and filter duplicate access points based upon the BSSIDs.

WLANController WiFi Scanner ($0.99)

This Wi-Fi stumbler is designed for larger wireless surveys, audits, war drives and basic rogue access point detection of the 2.4 GHz and (on supported devices) 5-GHz bands. The app serves as a sensor/client for a cloud-based distributed Wi-Fi scanning solution, so no results are shown on the device itself. You must sign up for their free or paid service to view the scan results online.

This solution also supports remotely scanning via iOS devices and Windows and Mac computers. Wired scanning is also provided for supported devices/computers. Windows 7 computers can even be configured as soft wireless access points in addition to a Wi-Fi scanner.

You can either sign up for their service via a link in the app or on their website via your computer. Then you'll receive a profile ID and key, which you input into the app. When it connects to their server it starts uploading the scanning results from your one or more sensors/clients.

Once you logon to your account, you can click the Scanner tab to view the results from your Android and any other devices/computers you have configured with the service. You'll see all the basic details: SSID, BSSID/MAC address, security type, channel (1-14), and signal (in negative dBm or percentage). It also shows when each access point was last seen and estimated distance.

Though it shows the security type (WEP, WPA, WPA2) and encryption type (TKIP or CCMP), it doesn't distinguish between the PSK and EAP modes of WPA/WPA2. The developer said this is due to issues arising in normalizing the display of this detail via the multiple sensors/clients they support, but will likely add this capability in the future.

Access points with the same SSID are grouped together. You can filter, sort, and group the access point list via any of the criteria. You can also assign each a class type (sanctioned, unsanctioned, ignore, rogue, and neighbor) to, for example, help track unauthorized access points at your location. You can also view estimated access point locations on a Google Map via the Topology tab.


Meraki WiFi Stumbler is one of the simplest stumblers, but can provide basic channel and signal checks and offers quick exporting. Wifi Analyzer is more advanced, but exporting could use some improvements. Wifi Tracker is a simple but powerful app for conducting larger scale surveys, audits, or war drives, also supporting GPS mapping. WLANController WiFi Scanner is similar, but is a cloud-based solution that supports multiple scanners, can provide basic rogue access point detection, and even deploy soft access points on Windows 7 PCs.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He's also the founder of NoWiresSecurity that helps businesses protect their Wi-Fi with enterprise (802.1X) security and On Spot Techs that provides on-site computer services.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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