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Google Nexus Smartphones To Get Project Fi's Wi-Fi Assistant Feature

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Google has always had a special place in its heart for Nexus devices, as observed during new Android version releases. The Mountain View company once again manifested its special affection for the Nexus line earlier this week.

In a Google+ post, Nexus has announced that Google's prized Wi-Fi assistant, which was originally an exclusive feature for Project Fi, will be extended to Nexus device users within Canada, Mexico, Nordic countries, the UK and the United States. A subscription to Project Fi is not needed for Nexus device users who want to take advantage of the Wi-Fi assistant.

"Keep your connection speed high and your data bill low with Wi-Fi Assistant," says Nexus. "[Wi-Fi Assistant] allows you to automatically and securely connect to [free open Wi-Fi hotspots]."

Note that users are not charged for data usage when connected to Wi-Fi hotspots.

Google claims that it has verified more than a million fast and reliable public wireless hotspots, which were first leveraged for Project Fi. The Wi-Fi assistant automatically searches for these hotspots, such as those in coffee shops. It then seamlessly switches the phone connection away from cellular networks to a Wi-Fi hotspot that Google verified.

The Wi-Fi assistant saves users from manually searching, connecting to the better hotspots. As an icing on the cake, Google also provides data security through encryption when the user is connected to an open hotspot.

"We built Project Fi as a testbed for innovative ideas," says Project Fi project manager Simon Arscott. "And we saw this as an opportunity through our Nexus product line to bring it to even more users."

The Nexus product line lists the Nexus 4, 5, 6, 5x and 6P, as well as the Nexus 7, 9 and 10 tablets. While the Wi-Fi Assistant covers all of the listed devices as long they are running on Android 5.1 or newer Android versions, Project Fi is limited to the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P and Nexus 6.

The Wi-Fi Assistant's on/off switch can be found by accessing the device's "Settings" app, which will bring up a list of tabs. Tapping the "Google" tab will reveal the "Networking" panel in which the switch is located. When successfully connected, the device's notification bar will show a VPN (virtual private network) key icon. The Wi-Fi connection will also display the phrase "Connected via Wi-Fi Assistant."

Wonderful as it may be, the Wi-Fi assistant still has its limitations. An obvious one is that it won't connect to networks that Google hasn't certified as fast and reliable. Another is its inability to connect to networks that require additional steps such as logging in. In both instances, Google recommends for the user to connect manually.

The Wi-Fi assistant also refuses to automatically connect to networks that users have connected to manually. The device first needs to "Forget" the network before the Wi-Fi assistant can proceed.

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