Android WiFi Repeater
Sometimes your wireless network can seem to make things harder rather than easier. If your signal is poor you might as well be on dial up and if it’s bad enough it can keep dropping out. One short term fix has been the idea of using an Android WiFi repeater app. In fact somehow the idea caught on and became “a thing” when the hardware really wasn’t designed (or capable) of performing. Unless you have a different understanding of what a wireless repeater does (which we’ll talk about in a moment) an Android phone really isn’t made for this.
So unfortunately this idea sucks in practice and I’m going to show you why (and what you can do instead).
But first let’s look at what you can do to use an Android phone as a WiFi repeater (or range extender/booster/whatever you want to call it these are all names for the same process).
How to Setup an Android WiFi Repeater
A wireless repeater has one very simple task. Take a wireless signal from one area and “repeat” or “extend” it to another area by creating a second wireless network which people can connect to. Then they have access to the internet and whatever devices the original network can access.
Now an Android phone or tablet can’t actually do this because it doesn’t have the hardware for it. I know there are some apps which claim otherwise but the truth is the devices are not physically capable of doing exactly this. There are things you can do like shared a wired connection or a cellular data signal but the device isn’t able to connect to one WiFi network and create another out of it. To actually do that you need a proper built for purpose WiFi repeater which takes an original network and creates a new one because it has the hardware to do so.
But there are some things you can do.
Note: Technically this isn’t what people generally consider WiFi repeating to be. But you are taking an internet connection and “repeating” it with your Android phone. You’re just not able to take a wireless internet connection as the source.
If you have a different source such as a cellular data connection or a laptop connected to the internet you can use your Android device to act as an access point and allow other devices to connect to it. Keep in mind that if you’re using a cellular data connection it will still use up your data allowance which can run up quite a bill. Some providers specifically look for “tethering” data and will stop your data connection. Although there are tools which tunnel your data through different ports and encrypt them to look like general phone data this might be in breach of your providers terms of service however.
There are several apps which allow you to tether an internet connection. Some variations of Android would actually do this by default without having to root the device
The fg router 2 app originates from Chinese developers and offers users a way to circumvent the great Chinese firewall. Chances are that isn’t what you want to use it for so let’s look at how to set it up to “repeat” an internet connection. The obvious first step is to get it from the app store.
The only setting you need to change is the WiFi Repeater setting to on. You can then configure the wireless network. Remember this is not talking about repeating an existing wireless connection. This creates a new wireless network connection which other devices can connect to. You really don’t want to leave this on default settings as that will allow everyone access to your internet connection.
Android phones are designed to be exactly that. I’ve tethered connections from time to time while travelling or when dealing with internet outage in the office. But they are not designed to be ran 24/7 for this. In fact the manufacturers have gone out of their way to help your phone use as little power as possible so the battery lasts as long as it can. If you use this setup long term you can damage your device (especially the battery life) through overheating.
The same design tries to maximise the battery life by limiting the strength of the wireless connection. This means that your Android phone or tablet won’t be able to provide a strong reliable signal to other devices as well as a proper networking device can.
Alternatives to This
Well to start with your phone can still be handy. There are apps which can help show you wireless usage in the area and you can plan your network around that. This is assuming you have administrator access to the original router control panel you can then move away from the other networks in the area. I don’t mean physically move the router away (although that can help). I mean the app can show you what channels and frequencies the other networks are using so you can use the furthermost away options to reduce interference from other networks.
Along the same vein you might not even need to repeat or boost a wireless signal. If you can get a stronger connection to it from your receiving device then you generally get the same end result. If changing channels doesn’t do it and you’re tantalisingly out of reach of the network you might consider a wireless antenna instead. A higher strength antenna or a directional one pointed directly at the router can get you a steady connection even without repeating the network from a new source. The original feed might be the same but you’ll have a better reach to get it.
The other alternative is to use an actual wireless repeater which has been made to purpose. These devices have the hardware and software built in so they can take the original network and create a new one closer to you. There’s a lot of options here (sadly none which involve an Android device) but you can see the best one here.