Nov. 6, 2012 at 7:33 PM ET
Our cities are blanketed with free Wi-Fi access points, but sometimes it can be a pain to track down and join a free one nearby. Windows Phone 8 is getting a feature that not only tracks such Wi-Fi points, but bypasses the log-in process often necessary to get connected.
The service is offered by Devicescape, and is already available on some laptops, and a few smaller carriers have added it to their phones, but this deal with Microsoft could be the company's biggest.
Devicescape keeps a huge database of the millions of Wi-Fi access points out there, and when your phone detects one, it retrieves info about it from that database and then logs in. Even access points that require a log-in or require you to agree to terms of service can be used. And all this is without any intervention by the user.
Relying on Wi-Fi whenever it's available isn't always good for battery life, but it does help keep your carrier bandwidth usage down. If you like to watch videos on the go, or often check services like Instagram, those megabytes start adding up to gigabytes pretty quickly. If your phone jumped onto the nearest Wi-Fi without you having to pull up a list of access points and log in, you might save both time and bandwidth.
And if you wonder if you might get shunted onto someone's personal network, or perhaps a slow, outdated one, don't worry. Devicescape keeps records of all that and if a network isn't fast enough or isn't meant for public use, the database is updated and you won't connect to it again.
Windows Phone 8 devices will be making their debut over the next few weeks on the major U.S. carriers.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.