Funny how things happen. Over the weekend the two top wireless carriers in the USA have both released WiFi latch on applications for Android devices running OS' 2.1 and above.
AT&T released the app entitled Smart WiFi while Verizon Wireless has deployed Verizon WiFi Auto On. The VZW app doesn't presently work with my Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was also the case with the very helpful Verizon Wireless data tech I spoke to on Saturday. It did work perfectly on the HTC Thunderbolt.
Basically the applications mimic the functionality that has existed for a few years on the Apple iOS devices like the iPhone, recognizing hotspots that you previously have logged onto, but adds an extra layer of hotspots you've come into contact with, but didn't latch onto complete with a map.
The AT&T app appears to be homegrown and provides some core functionality that's not evident in the Verizon release for Android. That includes crowdsourcing of hotspots (think Trapster) that are open/public and can auto-connect to the ones the user prefers, thus creating a virtual Wi-Fi footprint in addition to the 27K AT&T hotspots.
How this all impacts Boingo (a former client) is unclear. AT&T purchased Wayport a few years ago, and Boingo and Wayport always roamed together. Ironically T-Mobile which was the leader in mobile carriers invested in the HotSpot marketplace had similar applications for years on laptops but never carried through onto mobile phones, and Sprint, which also was an early player in hotspots, sold their interest in that to Boingo some years back, as well as maintaining an investment in the company until it's IPO. So now you have the later adoptive carriers recognizing that the time is now for WiFi to be the offloading vehicle to reduce drag on their networks, especially for video and the growing video calling business (did you watch CSI Miami last night and see the calls going on as well as The Good Wife with the Polycom mention?)
These two apps are early, first generation, but are clearly bright lights for Android users, and should help reduce traffic on the 3G/4G networks of both AT&T and Verizon. Net net, sometimes it pays to wait, something Sprint and T-Mobile didn't do. Had they stayed in the game they may have been the winners.