Wi-Fi Sense Windows Phone 8.1
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All you need to know about Wi-Fi Sense on Windows Phone 8.1

A few days ago we took an in-depth look at how Microsoft improved Data Sense in Windows Phone 8.1. Everyone on limited data plans should become intimately familiar with how Data Sense can help you. There are a few more ‘senses’ in Windows Phone 8.1 including Wi-Fi Sense and Storage Sense. Today we’re going to check out Wi-Fi Sense and make sure you understand everything there is to know about it.

Let’s make sense of Wi-Fi Sense!

Wi-Fi Sense

What is Wi-Fi Sense? It’s a really cool feature that Microsoft talked about briefly during their first keynote at Build earlier this month. It’s also a feature worth spending a bit of time on since it can really make life easier for you when dealing with Wi-Fi networks.

Wi-Fi Sense is a feature that does two very important things. It can help automatically connect you to local, open Wi-Fi networks and it can help share your own Wi-Fi credentials with your friends and contacts, but without the security compromise. Again, in bullet form for all of you scanning this post:

  • Automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks
  • Exchange Wi-Fi credentials with your Outlook.com, Skype and Facebook friends

Don’t worry, we’ll go into detail about those two killer features of Wi-Fi Sense below. Let’s start with how Windows Phone 8.1 will automatically connect you to over a million free Wi-Fi hotspots.

How to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks using Wi-Fi Sense

Wi-Fi Sense

To get started, we’re going to go into your phone’s settings and head to the Wi-Fi Sense section. Get there by tapping settings > Wi-Fi > Wi-Fi Sense. Depending on the number of wireless networks around, you might need to scroll down to see the Wi-Fi Sense section.

You should now see a toggle that says ‘Connect to Wi-Fi hotspots’. Go ahead and turn it on if you want your phone connected to nearby networks on your behalf.

Beneath that toggle you’ll see that Windows Phone 8.1 and Wi-Fi Sense can accept the terms of use for you when required by Wi-Fi hotspots and it can provide information if needed to connect. Some Wi-Fi hotspots open up Internet Explorer so that you can agree to their Terms of Service; Wi-Fi Sense will do that for you automatically. You can choose what info you want to give out to those networks and change the info. There are some defaults provided by Microsoft, but feel free to enter your own dummy information too.

Wi-Sense Automatically Sign

Wi-Fi Sense is a really nice Windows Phone 8.1 feature to make sure you stay within your data limits. We recommend enabling it if you’re on a limited data plan. Those on unlimited data plans might want to check it out too for those times you’re near a wireless hotspot with a stronger/faster data connection than your carrier’s network.

Share your Wi-Fi credentials with friends using Wi-Fi Sense

Wi-Fi Sense

How many times have you had friends over wanting access to your wireless network so that they could use their tablet or laptop? You’ll want to check out another neat trick that Wi-Fi Sense can do if you haven’t already made your home network guest-friendly.

Wi-Fi Sense can automatically share Wi-Fi networks with your contacts. Your friends will get internet access, but won’t ever have access to the shared password. They’ll obviously need a Windows Phone 8.1 device and Wi-Fi Sense for this to work, but it’s one of those features that will make life a lot easier for friends.

Again, you’ll need to go to settings > Wi-Fi > Wi-Fi Sense to play around with this feature. Scroll down and you’ll see the toggle to ‘Share Wi-Fi networks I select’. Turn that on if you want to share select networks with your friends. Who are those friends? Anyone who is a contact through Outlook.com, Skype or Facebook. It’s nice that you can select which of these networks get access through Wi-Fi Sense. Only want Facebook friends? Then just deselect Outlook.com and Skype.

To share a network you’ll need to select and tap the desired network in the Wi-Fi settings page. Tap it and select ‘Share network with my contacts’. You’ll need to hit the check mark below in the app bar to confirm your selection. And before it’s finalized you’ll need to reenter the password for that network.

Does Wi-Fi Sense make sense?

That’s it. Wi-Fi Sense is pretty straight forward and simple. Use it to automatically connect to local hotspots and use it to share selected networks with your friends. Have any questions? Ask below in the comments, hit me up on Twitter (@samsabri) or do the right thing and head into the Windows Phone Central forums.

Further reading:

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Reader comments

All you need to know about Wi-Fi Sense on Windows Phone 8.1

156 Comments

You have to set the various locations you want Wi-Fi on, in Cortana's note book under places.   In doing so those locations become "favorites."

Next you go to Settings/Wi-Fi and when the Wi-Fi is toggled off you will see a setting to turn it on "near my favorite places".   That setting need to be picked.

Finally, the Settings/Location services needs to be on.   At the bottom of that page it should say that it is tracking geofences.

Next, when you are away from one of your "favorite" places that you have defined, turn off the Wi-Fi.   When you get back to one of those "favorite" places it should turn back on and connect.   However, when you leave one of those locations it does not automatically turn the Wi-Fi back off.   If it turned itself back off when you left a "favorite" place it would be a very valuable "set it and forget it" feature.  Now, not so much...

Please vote on this at Uservoice.

http://windowsphone.uservoice.com/forums/101801-feature-suggestions/suggestions/5799383-wi-fi-geofencing-turns-itself-off-when-leaving-fav

Thanks man. I appreciate that...
Won't turn off on its own but it will activate when I'm near one of my favorites... Awesome thank you again.

Wish it worked the other way around.   at work, we have loads of wifi spots, but they are all secure, and every so often my phone keeps asking me if I want to connect.

I would rather have the wifi turn off as I get to work, and back on when I leave.

I tend to think that your useage would be out of the norm, however you are basically saying the same thing that oryan_dunn said in the forum.   It's my hope that MS sets up the feature so that you can specify whether or not Wi-Fi turns on at any particular "favorite" place.

A potential work around is turning off Wi-Fi sense, but still keeping Wi-Fi on for your home network with automatic connect on...

Today's experiment was a clear failure.  I verified all the settings and went out for a walk.  At maybe a quarter mile from the apartment I turned off the Wi-Fi.   As I walked back to the apartment I watched to see if the Wi-Fi would turn on and connect.  It had done so on earlier experiments turning on at the end of the driveway (it's a rural area, there's a considerable setback).    This time it never turned on, even to the point of not turning on when I got to the apartment.  I put it down to the GPS not polling during the time that I was "near" my favorite place within whatever boundry MS has decided "near" is.

Mine quite the opposite. I've been home 5 minutes after taking off my suit & putting stuff away... And after reading your comment I noticed that my Wi-Fi had turned on - not sure how quickly it did it but it was within 5 minutes after being home. I'll pay better attention next time.

are you sure it didn't turn on "near" home and you didn't actually look at it till five minutes after you got home?

yea, I'll be testing this feature a fair amount....

Worked fine today, turned on and connected without issue.  I also got notification from Cortana about a reminder that I had set.  One of the big differences is that I got the notification near the apartment instead of at the apartment.  

So I am still curious as to how often the location services polls and if it didn't happen to poll when it did but did later when I was actually at home, would the network have turned on or not?

I will continue to pursure this, but only on the thread that I linked to...   Good luck with the feature EvoLuTioNHeaVy

Problem im getting is that my WIFI needs proxy in order to run to internet when i connect to that only WIFI theres is written no internet access. but it doenst come to list of saved WIFI so that i can change the proxy in order to connect to internet. it shows wifi is connected with no internet access but that wifi isnt listed. Windows phone 8 was working with it correctly.

Why? I think its awesome. Share with friends. Make the world more simpler... Less money for cell phone companies data hungry pockets.. no more giving out my password. Win win.

I have to agree, especially since there is no details of how it is done.   Given there's no one that I want to share my Wi-Fi in the short term, I have it off.

I'm really loving the 8.1 refresh. I like Wi-Fi sense. Wi-Fi connections it's better for me as well after I did a hard reset on my 1520

Yeah mine would just stop connecting at home and not reconnect without toggling wifi on/off or doing a soft reset. Hard reset cleared that right up.

On the bright side, you get to try the new backup /restore. Having the start screen layout backed up is possibly the best part of this update. Within an hour everything was back as it was before.

My wifi also keeps losing its connection to the point I have to reset the router for it to find out again but reseting my phone would be a pain in the neck. All my music, all settings, the apps, stored images, enter all my passwords... Damn it!

I have that same issue, with WiFi all of a sudden not working until I reboot the phone. Yesterday I had the same happen with cell service. I've had these issues since getting the 1520 in Dec. And this is with WP8.0. So, not surprises it's also happening with 8.1...

I use it to turn on the Wi-Fi at my school and house, when I'm near. I also like it so I get Wi-Fi at the white house for, well you know...

Has there been any word on why the "Keep Wi-Fi on when phone is in sleep mode" option is missing on Lumia devices after the WP8.1DP has been installed?  Seems like a strange option to have disappear (and I really miss it).

Yeah, that's the problem, it sucks battery.  I want it to turn off WiFi when the phone is in sleep mode.  There's no need to have it draining battery when I'm not using it.

Same for me. Battery is much better when WiFi is left on all the time. Been leaving it on from last January but a few times I tested it with WiFi off and the phones (925&1520) have always used more battery with WiFi off.

The only way you could possibly save battery by having WiFi on is if your cell radio uses far more power to maintain a data connection than what the WiFi would use, and that's assuming that your cell radio disables the data connection when WiFi is enabled.  If WiFi is enabled and you're not connected to WiFi, there's no way that it could use less power than when it's enabled.

Connect Automatically is not working for me, tried it with two different networks and both times i had to manually accept the terms, not sure whats going on.

 

Also, I don't know what happened to the option of stay connected even when screen blacks out. not seeing it anywhere

I've been testing that particular function quite a bit, and even though I have all those setting done correctly when I tested it today my Wi-Fi turned itself back on when I got close to a favorite place, but still did not automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network.   And yes, I do have Wi-Fi setup to automatically connect to known networks.   So I will continue to test that tomorrow....

Hard reset. Probably an obvious solution. This has not been a great update for me on the 1520. However my 920 came out unscathed. I was finally forced to hard reset when wallet stopped working.

I keep seeing this. I really want to try this hard reset, and you guys are saying that all my text messages, and even start screen and apps are going to be backed up?

Hard reset doesn't fix the battery drain issue on my 920. My battery drains twice as fast since I've updated to WP8.1 and it sucks. I have to charge 2 to 3 times a day now on moderate use when before, I'd charge once maybe twice if I was heavy on usage that day. I've done multiple hard resets since having WP8.1 and have had zero luck with saving my battery. It doesn't matter how many things I "allow" to run on battery saver either. I can turn them all off and still have the exact same amount of battery drain as before.

Same here, i think we must get used to the fact that we need an extra external battery or always plug it in when driving ... It's making me crazy ... Lumia 920 also with a brand new battery replaced days before the 8.1 update

I'm not having that problem on either of my devices. I had heavy use today for atleast 4 hours and drain seemed pretty normal. Like I said earlier this has been a shitty update. I'm loving 8.1 but had two different outcome. My 920 updated much better than the 1520. Plus reloading all app data was a pain. But the start screen restore made it worthwhile

I've heard from alot of people that the 1520 is handling the update pretty bad before a hard reset. My 920 was great the first couple days but then something happened and it just started draining battery like no other so I hard reset and had the same issue. It's weird. Otherwise, I love 8.1 as well. Oh well, I guess I'll just wait for the firmware and go from there. If it doesn't fix it, I'll grab up a new Lumia ;)

Nah I'm good. Like I said, I like 8.1 and there is no way I could go back to 8.0. I'll buy a new phone if I continue to have problems. No big deal :)

I'm pretty sure that the connect to Wi-Fi hotspots option was what was killing my L920 battery.  I could literally watch the percentage fall.  Hard reset did not fix it.  Turned this setting off, and now my battery life is great again, just like on WP 8.0.

I'm on my second Windows phone that's developed the same WiFi problem, and I just don't understand it. Overtime, both phones just stopped working/ work very inconsistently when connected to WiFi...even connections like at home or at school. I really don't get it and it drives me crazy, plus I'd like having to avoid doing hard resets.

Could it be the router. I used to have that problem till we upgraded our router. Just a suggestion.

Most likely the router. My more than one year old 920 works beautifully, except for that one time we stopped at a hotel with horrendous Wi-Fi.

I don't have the Wi-Fi sense setting on my phone, but it does automatically reconnect (and turn the Wi-Fi on!) to local Wi-Fi network of I'm at home.

Since I have unlimited data, does turning on WiFi sense have an effect on battery life? Or does having WiFi off drain more battery when using carrier data?

Wifi will drain your battery. That's why it is recommended to turn it off when you're not using it because it will save you some battery life. Or at least it's supposed to.

I've always kept mine on as well and It's not wifi I'm having an issue with...it's the 920s battery life in general after the 8.1 update.

Like sharing network credentials was so difficult before. This is not the feature I hoped for. A kick ass feature would be to auto switch to a stronger signal network, or even dual steam data from multiple sources including cell for faster download.

Imo the thing that would've made wp8.1 perfect was integration with apple's facetime and imessage. But that's way too much to ask for haha

Well since Apple won't license out those proprietary protocols, that will not happen.  Also I'm sure MS is moving Skype down that road, and it will be available on all platforms so it in theory will be a more powerful solution.

It would be nice of Microsoft to give us the option to use a cellulair toggle inside the action center, it's ridiculous to 'forget' it, why? Because Apple also forgot it? Bull****

I just use Skype. It is not proprietary to a platform. It is available on all devices and computers.

SInce 8.1 I haven't been able to connect to the hotspot at starbucks - three different ones - at all. Not automatically, not manually, not at all. So the feature is a bit of a bust for me.

I encountered a similar problem with the hotspot at my gym. It appears some networks are incompatible with Wi-Fi Sense. I found that I have to turn off Wi-Fi Sense in order to connect. I then turn it back on & it stays connected. I had to do this for about 3 days before it would let me connect while Wi-Fi Sense is on. I still have to accept terms manually, but I no longer have to turn off Sense to connect.

I saw an article about an ethical hacker demostrating how he could trick your phone into connecting to his network and collect lots of personal information. All he had to do was to attach a wireless router to a drone broadcasting an SSID like "Starbucks" or "AT&T" flying nearby. Now your WP8.1 phone with Wifi Sense automcatically connects to his malicious network it thinks is friendly and suddenly your apps -- PayPal, Outlook, Chase Bank -- start passing their data over someone else's network. Not exactly the result I'm looking for!

And you really believe this is enough to steal your data? You think such informations are sent in plain text? Do you know what encrypted protocols are?

Wow. You completely left out the half baked geolocation feature. (I.e. Turn wifi back on "near my favorite places") wish I could select WHICH favorite place as work and gym don't have wifi. Also wish there was the option to turn Wi-Fi off when not near home.

Friends with Windows Phone 8.1 devices... Hmm... Am I the only one who feels looked down upon by friends & family for being such a Microsoft enthusiast? No one's ever point blank said anything to be, but attitudes speak volumes. I often feel patronized, like people think I'm crazy for not liking Apple & Android. Does anyone else feel the same, like being a Microsoft fan is somehow stigmatized? Makes me really mad!

With friends, it's the same way.  They look at me as if I'm an oddball for having a WP until I do something like start a report on WP to finish it off on my laptop.  Then, they say something awesome about their device.

However, my family sees it different.  Knowing I'm a tech enthusiast, they actually flock to me and ask all kinds of questions about it.  I've even swayed a few of my family members to WP.  To me, each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and I chose WP for its strengths above iPhone and Android. 
 

I wish they didn't need to have a Windows Phone because it's an awesome feature! Hopefully WPs market share increases so we can take advantage of this convenient feature.

I'm sure I'm too late to this thread, but Wi-Fi Sense so far has proved to be pretty useless to me. My school uses a few different networks: UNC-RESLIFE, UNC-ADMIN, UNC-STUDENT and UNC-GUEST. The networks themselves have a password on them and then you are directed to a UNC webpage to enter your login credentials. The web-wrapper in the Wi-Fi login page isn't quite the same IE11 because my information is -never- saved, which means I have to re-enter my information manually every time I go outside to go to another building (with my current schedule, that means my dorm, the science hall, the university center, a different building for larger lectures, the dining hall, my friend's dorm and then back to my dorm). That shit gets old, fast. I'm really disappointed that IE11's password and username-saving abilities seemingly didn't carry over to the web-wrapper.

 

Is this something that Microsoft will fix in an update or is this how it's going to be?

I have the same issue . I would like For that to save so I don't have to type my password every time I go to a different building

"Some Wi-Fi hotspots open up Internet Explorer so that you can agree to their Terms of Service; Wi-Fi Sense will do that for you automatically"

This doesn't seem to work. When I try to connect to a hotspot it still opens IE for me to press OK. The only thing new are Skip and Cancel button beneath the browser.

Exactly, also I am not sure what those buttons do, when you press any of them, it basically doesn't connect to that particular network

Unlike most people, I have 3 relatives who are also WP users (3 928s and an icon) and we could not share our Wi-Fi network with each other to save our lives! We did everything right and shared the network, yada yada, and absolutely nothing happened. We spent hours trying to figure it out, thinking it might just take a while or something but no luck. After finding nothing online about anyone even successfully doing it I'm forced to believe that this feature does not work :(

How does one actually connect to a network shared to you via WiFi sense. I tried to do this with a friend there other day, and though it was all set up on my end, we could not figure out how to actually get his WiFi sense to connect. I ended up giving him the pass word anyways

I too was curious to know how this works in the background without sharing the password on a secure network. Do we need to enable internet sharing too. In the article it is mentioned both the user should have WiFi sense installed and that means updated to 8.1. If there is a loophole to bypass the secure password then any third person can access the connection. Will be testing this on my cousin's phone.

Glad I'm not the only one having issues. Sense wouldn't connect me to my local Starbucks' Wi-Fi. Maybe it's because it's "Google Starbucks"?

I got a question on WIFI shortcut from the Action Center.

Why turning off WIFI needs to bring us to the Wifi Setting screen? Why can't it just turn off the wifi (like when we turn Wifi on)? It doesn't make much sense to me when I have to turn off wifi from the Wifi setting screen. The shortcut supposes to do that.

I'd like to actually see the password sharing in action. I don't know of anybody nor have I seen this actually work - would be cool to do so. Maybe the WPCentral gurus can get some proof on video and show us exactly what happens when you want to share a network w/ a contact?

I wish Wi-Fi sense had a minimum threshold option - one of the suites at my office building has an open Wi-Fi access point but the throughput is terrible. I seem to connect to it but it's either just out of range or there's interference, and none of my packets go through (and the phone continues to try and use it instead of dropping back to my cell connection). So I just ended up turning the whole thing off.

To bad the nokia's don't have 'Keep Wifi on when screen is locked". My dads HTC 8x has it, so it's something on a lumia device.

Hope they will bring it back

Can we set static ip on wifi after update window 8.1???,
if it don't hv this feature than waste update about wifi becuse android smallest wifi phone hv this feature.

You shouldn't really connect to open networks until completely necessary, someone here nows the word 'security'? And connecting to any automaticaly, moreover even with auto-TOS acceptance, is like going to any shady page, clicking the download button and then saying "Ah, who knew this'd be a virus in that file?!" after you've accepted the terms with sentence "The file you are about to download is harmfull to your computer and you are OK with it" at the bottom. Even 6yo can do a session hijacking on an open network with certain Firefox addon (or app on rooted android device, i guess jailbroken iOS users also have someting similar).

Also, ever heard about creating guest wifi network on your own router instead of sharing the wifi credentials (or letting anyone from your contacts into your home network as it is allowed by Wifi Sense)?

This is wrong on so many levels.

I definitely agree with your hesitations about both connecting to open networks and about sharing password info via whatever process MS has set up.  Yes, a guest Wi-Fi network would be wiser....

No mention of the location sensitive auto-toggling? Or the timer function when you switch it off? Best changes to wifi in 8.1 imo

I don't see any Wi-Fi sense. I only see manage button on it. Why? Although it still working since I once encounter an automated connection marked as Wi-Fi sense. Anyone know why?

What I'd like better as far as WiFi sharing goes would be the ability to associate selected networks with people I add to a particular "room" on my phone.

Oh well, I only got one friend with windows phone (not even 8.1) so one of the two features is already useless

We've all been there... Friend is over and wants to get on Wi-Fi but you're apprehensive about giving out your info... Would be great if this sharing wasn't limited to other WP 8.1 devices. =/Unfortunately, most of my friends have yet to see the light and are on Android/iOS.

Any words on how the exchange works and possible privacy issues? I'm not sure I like storing our WiFi passwords on Microsoft's servers yet. I know it is optional though.

There's no way there wont be a malicious app taking advantage of this using an android tethering bridge and phony DNS by the time WP 8.1 comes out

ALERT!!!!!!
My Lumia 920 GPS picks the wrong location after WP 8.1 upgrade and battery power is very bad when cellular connection is on. HAS ANYBODY REALIZED THIS?

WP8.1 has cool new features but half of them drain battery really fast and now with the option to turn off WiFi when screen turns off missing in Lumias, you really have to worry will your battery make it through the day.

YOU have to worry about that, my battery lasts as long as before the update. Sort out your problems before, hard reset your device

Since this is an 'in depth' review, you missed stating the point that you can automatically turn on your Wifi when you are near your favorite places.. I have my home in favorite places, so whenever i get back to home it automatically switches on Wifi and connects to the network.

Yesterday I turned off all Wifi Sense options on my Lumia 920, because my battery was dead after 8 hours!

Now it has only lost 25% after 6 hours.

 

It seems that Wifi Sense is a real battery killer!

 

I do like that it more easily sees public networks and connects to them.  I really didn't have issues before and I really don't care if that capability exists or not, but it's there and doesn't get in my way, so that's fine.  But why would I share my wifi credentials with anyone, much less across a social network?  That feature is DOESN'T make any sense to me.  I definitely won't be using that.

Perfect idea! Everyday at college I have to accept terms, which is tedious and annoying. This is one of many great new features for my 1020.

I tried this feature out, and it connected automatically to a local Tim Hortons WiFi spot without any input from me. I'll try it in some other locations in the coming days.

I am using a 1020. The only issues I've encountered with the update so far are a few freezes, where I would have to hold the volume down and power button to reboot. I'm thinking this might be a chipset issue that needs to be addressed by Nokia?

Also, several times I have noticed that I had to enter my SIM pin upon waking the phone. I'm not sure what would cause this issue. Any ideas? Carrier issue?

 

RS

I must say this is first time I've learned about WiFi sense. I'm not using Windows phone but planning to use one along with my Android devices. It's good to see Microsoft have come up with a really cool WiFi app. Thanks.