Jan. 23, 2013 at 8:27 PM ET
Does your phone get a "no signal" warning or slow speeds while you're out and about? The latest version of the OpenSignalMaps app will check your position against a huge database and tell you which direction to walk — or whether a nearby cafe or shop has Wi-Fi you can use.
OpenSignalMaps has been amassing data for a long time on everything from where carriers have the best signal to what phones people are using, and has a few fun projects on the side as well — like this map of Wi-Fi names supporting one or the main other political parties.
In the latest version, OpenSignalMaps, a free download for Android devices, is making that data extra-accessible. Pull up its little dashboard and you instantly get a compass telling you which way you need to go to get a better signal. If you're on the road, check the map for the next town with solid coverage.
The map also shows the locations of the more than 100 million Wi-Fi hotspots OpenSignalMaps has mapped all over the world. No more scanning for and trying out a handful of networks — probably not a good practice anyway.
Here's the app in practice:
Be aware, though, when you download the app, you start contributing to its database. Nothing personal, of course, just things like the signal at your location and open Wi-Fi you come across. If you're not okay with that, you can continue finding a signal the old-fashioned way: Waving your phone in the air.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBCNews Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.