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5 Wi-Fi analyzer and survey apps for Android

Products can include Wi-Fi stumblers, heatmaps, active surveying, more

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The free Wi-Fi Visualizer app from ITO Akihiro provides a very simple heatmap surveying functionality along with a couple other Wi-Fi tools. We evaluated version 0.0.8 of the app.

After opening Wi-Fi Visualizer, you see the Scan screen, which displays details of any current Wi-Fi connection. Alongside the IP details and basic wireless statuses, it also shows the channel width and center channel -- both welcome additions. You can also page through the tabs to see a nice channel and signal graph of the 2.4GHz band and each subset of the 5GHz band, but it would have been nice to have at least all the 5GHz band on one page.

There’s also a tab for the SSID List on the Scan screen. You can’t filter the list, and sorting is limited to just SSID and BSSID. However, you can save a snapshot of the SSID list and the graphs to come back and view later. This is a convenient feature not all other free apps offer.

On the Heatmap screen, you can name and create a new project. Once you add the floor plan, a simple quick tap logs the data point. It saves both the signal and link speed of the connection. Unfortunately, unlike the other survey apps, it only logs the stats for the AP you’re currently connected to. This can be a problem if you want to see whether signals from one AP are interfering with another's on the heatmap; it’s just not possible. There’s also no export feature in the app, but you can do a manual screenshot or come back later to view the saved heatmap.

Wi-Fi Visualizer - network map [ITO Akihiro] ITO Akihiro

On the Network Map screen, you can view a tree of the devices detected on the network. It’s basically a simple IP scanner. It shows the IP and MAC addresses and network names of the infrastructure components, like the router, in addition to the client devices. This is a nice bonus feature not seen in most other Wi-Fi survey apps. You can even click on a device to open the web browser to its IP address in case there’s some sort of web-based GUI.

On the Chart of Signal Strength screen, you can view a signal graph over time for the AP you’re connected to. You can adjust the amount of time shown. Though very simple, we also liked how it had a static line indicating the typical border line of roaming at -80 dBm.

Even if you require a better surveying tool, this app still might be worth adding to your toolbox for its network map view and ability to save network lists.

WiTuners Mobile

WiTuners Mobile is WiTuner’s main on-site surveying tool; we evaluated version 5.0.5. The company offers two flavors of WiTuners Mobile: A free version that limits you to saving just five survey data collection points, and a $599 version that has no survey data limits and includes lifetime support.

In addition to passive surveying, the app can also perform active surveys using iPerf or ping. Furthermore, the paid version can be set to do continuous data collection, which lets you watch the charts remotely in real-time with WiTuners Planner.

WiTuners Mobile - AP list [WiTuners, Ltd.] WiTuners, Ltd.

After opening the app, you’re shown right away the details for the nearby APs and can optionally connect to the desired AP within the app. This seems useful, but we were caught off guard at first because most surveying tools don’t pop-up with a network list right away. After that you’re taken to the main survey screen with a row of menu icons up top. A quick tip then pops up describing how to access the main system menu (by long-tapping the screen). That's a good thing, because otherwise that would never have occurred to us.

The pop-up tip also says you can touch and drag APs to their locations. This is because the app automatically places the APs onto the blank workspace. But since we hadn't even added a floor plan map yet, this feature felt a bit messy, like the app was getting ahead of itself. It’s a neat feature, but it would be nice if it were an on-demand function you could optionally utilize later.

After poking around the app for a couple minutes, we found what seemed like a lot of neat features, but it was still unclear how to start a project. Turns out there is no defined project creation process or even any way to save projects. This confused us in the beginning, especially because the survey data disappears after exiting the app. However, WiTuners Mobile does automatically back up the survey data, and you can restore the data in order to resume a survey. You can also sync the data to the cloud and use it in WiTuners' other products, or import floor plans from the cloud, but it would still be nice to have a typical project-based file system in the app.

When surveying, you must double tap a location to collect the data, whereas most other survey apps require just a single-tap or long-tap. A double-tap is a little odd and could potentially be problematic if you don’t tap in the same place both times. We liked how you can add notes, photos and other media to the map, but at first it wasn’t apparent how to add these things to a specific location.

You can filter survey results based upon the Wi-Fi band, SSID, and rogue or non-rogue APs. Like two of the other survey apps, you cannot easily show just a single AP. When viewing the heatmaps in the app, we noticed there is only the signal-based heatmap. However, the PDF report the app generates does provide additional heatmaps for overall Wi-Fi quality and SNR. Additionally, it includes a channel utilization graph and tables of the raw survey data.

From the eye icon, you can access a menu of other screens to view a summary of nearby APs, list of nearby APs, channel utilization graphs and a rogue AP list.

We feel the WiTunner’s app is trustworthy enough for use in business environments, but we're unsure about using it for larger networks.

(Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. Through On Spot Techs he provides Wi-Fi design and site surveying services. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service.)

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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