It might be a bit much to say that one of the new features packed into Android’s 4.3 upgrade iscontroversial, but it’s definitely one worth knowing a little bit more about. As those who have taken a spin around the Android 4.3 ROM have noticed, Google has made a change to devices’ Wi-Fi settings in Android 4.3.
“To improve location accuracy and for other purposes, Google and other apps may scan for nearby networks, even when Wi-Fi is off,” describes Google.
Android Police’s Ron Amadeo notes that the move is actually probably designed to save one’s battery life instead of wasting it, given that the only other way for one’s smartphone to discern one’s location is to kick on the battery-draining GPS. However, he also calls out Google’s interesting use of language in its disclaimer – specifically, the “other purposes” bit.
“Those ‘other purposes’ probably (that means this is the speculation part) involves shipping that Wi-Fi location data back to Google, which is how the Wi-Fi location service currently functions. The only way to use Wi-Fi hotspots for location data is to build a map of SSID (hotspot name) locations. You do that by running around with a GPS and Wi-Fi chip and virtually stick Wi-Fi pins on a map,” Amadeo writes.
To check and see whether your phone has this feature enabled by default (a number do not), you’ll have to navigate through to the very bowels of your Android operating system’s settings — Google doesn’t exactly make this feature all that easy to flick on and off. Here’s how:
Fire up the Settings app and tap your finger on the Wireless and Networks option. Tap on the Wi-Fi option, and then tap on the Overflow button on your phone’s screen (the triple-dots icon). When this submenu pops up, tap your finger on the Advanced option. From there, you’ll want to make sure to check the “Scanning always available” option if you want to participate in the new Android 4.3 feature. Otherwise, if it’s checked, you need merely to uncheck it to ensure that “Wi-Fi off” really means “Wi-Fi off.”
It’s important to reiterate that numerous reports have come in from Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Galaxy Nexus owners – to name a few – who all indicate that this feature remains off by default when they’ve updated their devices to Android 4.3. Which is to say, it’s more important that you know about this potentially useful setting than to freak out about it, but it’s also worth checking this, and many of Android’s other “Advanced” wireless configuration options, when you’ve upgraded your mobile OS!