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Changing the Android Wi-Fi Sleep Policy

Bre asks:

I just got an Android 4.0 phone with a limited data plan. I heard that the Android sleep policy settings can help conserve data usage, but all I can find are instructions from earlier versions that don’t work with my phone. Can you help?

Thanks for the question Bre. Yes, changing the Android Wi-Fi sleep policy makes it possible for users to achieve a balance between data and battery usage, with several settings options. For example, those who like to stay connected, but have a limited data plan, can set up their Android device to receive Wi-Fi transmission when the device is on standby or asleep, thus conserving data usage. On the other hand, if transmissions are set up to sync in the background (news, weather, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), this same setting can be a drain on the battery. In that case, an option is provided to receive a Wi-Fi signal only when the phone is plugged in.

In earlier versions, the settings were buried pretty deep in the system–and they still are–but with Android 4.0 (ICS), a couple of steps were eliminated.

The quickest route to settings in 4.0 is to swipe down from the top of the home screen, and tap the Settings icon (boxed in red below).


Or, tap the All Apps icon in the Favorites Tray [1] and slide to Settings.



In Settings, tap Wi-Fi.


From the Menu button, tap Advanced.


In Advanced Wi-Fi, select Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep.


Selecting Always will reduce data usage, but increase the drain on the battery. If battery usage is a primary concern, choose Only when plugged in.


In some earlier Android versions, tap the Menu key and select Settings.


In Settings, tap Wireless & networks.


From there, select Wi-Fi settings.


Tap the menu key again and select Advanced.


In Advanced, tap Wi-Fi sleep policy.


This demonstrates yet another example of inexplicably confounding Android changes. In 4.0, if you want Wi-Fi to continue to run while the phone is asleep, tap Always (described earlier), but in this earlier version, due to a difference in phrasing, the same outcome is achieved by tapping Never.


But–in most versions–whether data usage or battery life is a problem, Android’s Wi-Fi sleep policy may help with the solution.