In a perfect world we’d all have smartphones that came with free, ultrafast 10G internet connections boasting unlimited data plans. Actually that scenario could create some kind of nightmarish future where people never look up from their devices, so maybe life isn’t so bad after all, especially when it’s quite possible to use free Wi-Fi when you’re out and about. See also: When is 5G going to be available
Here are some easy ways to keep in touch with friends, view the latest pictures of lattes on Instagram, or stream your Spotify playlist - all for free.
How to get free Wi-Fi anywhere: Coffee shops
It’s an obvious place to start as these days you can’t move in branches of Costa or Starbucks for people working on their laptops or browsing the internet on their phones. This is because coffee shops are one of the easiest places to get free WiFi. For the larger chains this usually comes via setting up a free account with services such as The Cloud, 02 WiFi, or whatever flavour of provider is on offer. You’ll have a limited number of devices that can connect at any one time (usually between three and five) but these can be swapped out as and when you need them.
Independent coffee shops also offer free connections, but this is more normally on their own private WiFi, so you’ll need to ask at the counter for the ID and password. Some might point out that this isn’t free, as you have to buy a coffee. But of course the drink costs the same whether you have an internet connection or not, and now you have coffee!
How to get free WiFi anywhere: Libraries
Although libraries are facing tough times at the moment, the government recently announced a plan aiming to have free Wi-Fi available in all UK libraries by March 2016. As we’ve now passed this date, there’s a good chance that popping into your local home of books will result in a gratis connection. While you’re there be sure to check out a few books, smile at the librarians, and write to your MP to ensure that we don’t lose these precious resources.
How to get free WiFi anywhere: Museums and galleries
Over the last few years many of the major museums and art galleries around the UK have been installing free WiFi for visitors. The V & A, Science Museum, and National Gallery all now offer the service, which they often pair with special on-line content to complement the exhibits. Look for other venues around the country, and top up your culture level while Tweeting about the experience.
How to get free WiFi anywhere: BT Wi-Fi
If you’re a BT broadband customer, like many people in the UK, then you already have access to the wide range of BT WiFi hotspots. Download the BT WiFi app for your iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or Blackberry device, enter your account details, then you’ll instantly have unlimited access to over 5 million hotspots in the UK, and a further 9 million around the world.
How to get free WiFi anywhere: 02 WiFi
Another main player in the mobile space is 02, which offers free connection to its network of WiFi hotspots. All you need to do is download the 02 WiFi app from your platform’s app store, set up the free account, and you’ll be able to take advantage of connections available in places such as McDonalds, Subway, All Bar One, Debenhams, and Costa.
How to get free WiFi anywhere: Steal it
What’s that I hear you cry? You’d never stoop to such vile behaviour! Of course not, your reputation is beyond reproach. But for those who find themselves in a tight spot and see an unlocked network appear on their smartphone’s list of options….stop. This is one of the easiest way to have your data stolen, identity cloned, and generally not have a good time.
Hackers often set up fake networks that look innocent, and even emulate ones you would expect to find in a venue, all in the hope of getting you to connect. From that point on everything your device communicates to the server is essentially going into the hacker’s pocket. For this reason it’s never a good idea to access your bank details on a public network, send sensitive information, or exchange the kind of selfie images that unwise teenagers seem to find so agreeable. If you don’t know the network, and the venue you’re in doesn’t seem to know it either, keep well away.
For more details on staying safe on public WiFi read our guide on How free WiFi could be stealing your data.