The 30 second Hotspot rule and why it’s sorely needed

I’d like to propose a new rule for hotspots. The rule is simple: If my phone identifies The Cloud or BT Openzone, I want it to check that I’m staying in that location for more than 30 seconds before attempting to login, fail to validate automatically and then leave me ‘connected’ without an internet connection. 

All too often now I’m getting routinely frustrated wondering why my phone’s internet connection has stopped working. When you’re obsessively using Whatsapp or similar, you notice an interruption immediately. Clicking into the WiFi settings, I then discover that as I’m walking past the local pub in Hook, my phone has decided to join “The Cloud”. 

Great. But not really. Because in the time it’s taken for me to walk by the pub, the signal has become strong, middling then weak. And now I need to wait another 45-60 seconds — and walk faster — for the phone to correct itself, drop that WiFi signal and revert back to cellular. 

When you’re in the middle of trying to get-shit-done, this is perhaps one of the most annoying experiences. It’s not just iPhone; I suffer routinely on Android too. 

The fundamental problem is that these hotspots want you to login. Or at least visit a webpage and click. They don’t force a pop-up though. Or perhaps, more accurately, they’re generally incapable of doing so until you visit a web browser. 

Surely it’s time we had a bit of logic added into the phone that will prevent this mind-numbing occurrence? 

Years ago, it was simply amazing when it automatically found my home WiFi signal… when I got home. In those days you actually had to manually instruct your Nokia to change the data bearer. Oh, those were the days.

Now, though, I am routinely getting right browned off*. Perhaps the worst is when I’m on the train and traveling slowly. All of a sudden my Whatsapp disconnects or my email starts generating errors when my phone latches on to “The Cloud” care of some passing pub in the distance.

I have arsed about installing certificates and whatnot so that it can get a connection right-away without me having to do anything. I think BTWifi works seamlessly. But inevitably if there’s a BTWifi around, there’s usually a BTWifi-by-Fon (or whatever it’s called). Which my phone seems to want to prefer, all the flipping time. That needs the user to do something to activate it.

Seriously annoying. 

Isn’t it possible to construct some logic, dear Mobile Industry, that says if my phone is moving a lot or if I’m clearly walking past the hotspot then joining it would be unhelpful? 

The next problem with these hotspots is that I am actually finding them far, far slower than 4G. So actually I’d much prefer to prioritise 4G on my device ahead of WiFi. This can’t be that difficult to actually fix. I’m sure those network wizards at Amdocs have probably already got a solution. 

You can obviously just switch WiFi off. That fixes everything. 

I’m annoyed that this seems to be the only universal fix. Indeed I am often now finding that in London (where there is more or less ubiquitous 4G) I just keep my WiFi off. 

Am I missing something? And are you having the same annoyances? Or is it just me?


* Edmund Blackadder, points if you can remember the name of the episode without Googling. 

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6 Responses to The 30 second Hotspot rule and why it’s sorely needed

  1. James Vincent February 18, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Oh I found it the same. My WiFi is always off. I did try some time ago to leave on & ‘notify me of new hotspots’ on too, but things got messy. So that option is off permanently. I have free BT WiFi with my EE account but still not used it yet or activated it. Not sure if I can use just BT open zone or BT fon also?! I’ve got O2 WiFi app. Their 3G network may be awful but their WiFi hotspots are fast! I need to set BT WiFi up & give it a go.
    It is something which has just been forgotten about. I’m sure you posted something similar about this some time ago Ewan…

  2. Ilicco February 19, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    Virgin Media seems to do it well on the Underground… it connects at every station… why can’t the rest do the same?

  3. Sam Machin February 19, 2014 at 8:26 am #

    Apple implemented something called MultiPath TCP in iOS7 for just this use case, instead of being on WiFi OR MobileData certain iPhone apps can now use both networks for the same TCP connection, effectively increasing speed and improving resilience. The downside is that I understand it needs some implementation server side and I think its only available to the built in system services like push notifications at the moment. Now if someone implemented a 3rd party proxy app that routed all your mobile data over this???? Might be something for Opera Max.

  4. Ewan February 19, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    Maybe I’ve been using it and experiencing it without knowing it in some locations? 😉

  5. Brett February 22, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    Same problem when driving and super annoying when using Goggle maps or the like and the data connection is lost when I am driving by a McDonald’s which seems to be the most violent offender but happens with some other already trusted wifi providers. Even worse is that they require additional login so the phone is connected but not connected to the Internet.

  6. JimFu February 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Have you tried tasker for android? I’m sure it will be possible to delay connection to certain access points, you can definitely disable/enable WiFi based on location.

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