Now that the original HTC EVO 4G, the EVO 3D, the EVO Design 4G, and the EVO 4G LTE have all been updated to include Sprint’s Connections Optimizer app, it’s time we take a close look at what this app does, and how useful it really is.
If Connections Optimizer is installed on your phone, it’s generally available as “Automatic Connections” in your mobile network settings. It purports to help you “manage and enhance your data experience by finding and connecting to ‘remembered’ Wi-Fi networks on your device and, if applicable, the Sprint 4G Network.” In other words, this app – which Sprint is actually in the process of rolling out to its entire Android line up – will automatically connect you to available WiFi networks as you travel around throughout the day and go about your business. Sprint claims (with partial correctness) that this will help preserve your battery, as connecting to available WiFi is usually much more battery efficient than connecting to 3G or 4G, although this won’t necessarily always provide you with a “better” data experience.
For example, if someone is constantly walking around a college campus that has spotty WiFi, your phone may constantly bounce between weak WiFi signals and the mobile network, resulting in data that’s borderline unusable for the end user. Additionally, some WiFi networks require you to sign in or accept some terms and conditions before use; Sprint Connections Optimizer won’t take care of that automatically for you, resulting in a connection to WiFi with no data transfer.
Another potential issue with Connections Optimizer is the fact that it doesn’t actually toggle your WiFi radios on and off; you still have to manually shut off your radios if you don’t want your device to connect to WiFi. Failing to do this might result in your phone constantly searching for an available WiFi network, or connecting to weak WiFi networks, which might ultimately kill your battery faster than if you were simply to keep WiFi off and remain connected to 3G or 4G instead.
At the same time, some people have reported connecting to certain WiFi networks when they did not intend to do so; in other words, Connections Optimizer forced WiFi on due to the location of the phone. This might be all right for some people, but others prefer that WiFi remain off when they manually turn it off. This “feature” might be a big headache for some users.
Therefore, I think that for general WiFi management and automatic toggling, there are much better apps out there you can choose. My personal favorite is Smart WiFi Toggler, which I reviewed last month, but others are just as good. Smart WiFi Toggler will keep WiFi off when you manually turn it off, regardless of your location, for example. It will also automatically turn off your WiFi radios when you travel away from a WiFi network, unlike Connections Optimizer.
There are also privacy concerns with Connections Optimizer, too: Sprint warns, “To facilitate quality assurance and enable feature enhancements, your wireless service provider collects information about your battery levels, Wi-Fi, and network connections and usage.” In other words, you are sharing quite a bit of information with Sprint – something not everyone will feel comfortable doing.
However, there is one use case in which I find Connections Optimizer to really shine: If you own a WiMAX phone, like the EVO 4G or the EVO 3D, this app will help you automatically connect to 4G when you travel to an area where it’s available. Unlike Sprint’s newer LTE-compatible phones, WiMAX acts more like WiFi in that you have to remember to turn it on and off; leaving your WiMAX radio on all the time is a huge battery drain – much more so than leaving your WiFi on all the time. Sprint Connections Optimizer can definitely help with this – but only if you occasionally travel to a WiMAX service area.
So what’s my ultimate verdict in regards to Connections Optimizer? It might be OK for the more inexperienced people, and it will certainly help Sprint clear up some space on its overly congested 3G network, But honestly, most Sprint customers can find better apps that will manage what this app is supposed to do.