Having the ability to connect to the internet anywhere we go is undoubtedly awesome, but it isn’t the only gift Wi-Fi technology has given us. Here are our 10 favorite uses for Wi-Fi that go beyond accessing the web.
10. Turn Your Smartphone into a Remote Control
If all the computers in your house are connected to a Wi-Fi network, you can easily connect your smartphone to the same network and control them. With apps like our favorite iTunes-controlling Remote app for iPhone, the all-encompassingGmote for Android, and more XBMC remotes than you can shake a stick at, you don’t have to get up from your couch for anything anymore.
9. Send Documents to Your Printer from Any Computer or Smartphone
There’s no reason to have five different printers in your house just so you can print in any room. Instead of constantly plugging and unplugging the printer from your laptop, you can print wirelessly from any computer. Just share the printer from the computer it’s connected to, turn it into its own standalone print server if it doesn’t have a computer next to it, or even print files from your smartphone using Dropbox (on both Windows and Mac).
8. Forward Notifications from Your Smartphone to Your PC
If you’re rocking an Android phone (and most of you are), you can send call, SMS, and battery notifications straight to your Windows, Mac with Growl, or Linux PC over Wi-Fi with Android notifier. No more do you have to deal with the ringing and buzzing phone from across the room when you’re already sitting at your PC. If you prefer to be able to take action on these items, you can always forego the Wi-Fi and send them over GTalk with TalkMyPhone instead.
7. Tether Your Smartphone to Your Computer for Internet Anywhere
Okay, so we kind of cheated on this one—it does involve connecting to the internet, but it’s definitely not in the traditional way people use Wi-Fi (especially because you often need a hacked or rooted device to do it). Instead of searching around for regular Wi-Fi networks wherever you go, you can just use your phone as a wireless router and connect to your phone’s internet service with your PC. Whether you have a rooted Android phone and the Wireless Tether app, a Jailbroken iPhone with PDAnet, or a manually hacked-to-tether Palm Pre, you’ll never be without internet again—as long as you have cell phone signal, of course.
6. Stream Movies to Any TV in the House
Instead of having a giant collection of DVDs or ripping your movies to every XBMC box you have in your house, you can build yourself an affordable home media server and stream video over Wi-Fi to any other HTPC (or Xbox or Playstation)-enabled TV in the house. Whether you use Windows Media Center, XBMC, or something as simple as a Google Media Server Widget for Windows, the possibilities are nearly endless—you can use any number of operating systems, applications, and protocols to get your movies wirelessly from one computer to another.
5. Share Files with Nearby Computers
If you’re sharing something other than video between PCs, you have a bunch of options for transferring them. While it isn’t the absolute fastest method, sharing files over the same Wi-Fi network (or an ad-hoc network if you’re out and about) is certainly one of the easiest ways to get files from one computer to another. Of course, if the friend with which you’re sharing files is a Dropbox enthusiast, you can transfer files over Wi-Fi with Dropbox as well.
4. Stream Audio to Any Speakers in the House
While you need extra PCs or game systems lying around to stream video, streaming audio is a cinch with something like Apple’s AirPort Express router. Even if you’re not streaming from iTunes, Apple’s AirPort Express will get any music to any speakers you want in the house. You can even create your own portable, wireless boombox. Of course, if you’re not an Apple fan, you can always use a regular old router to make a wireless music player, too. And, of course, it works the other way, too—you can always stream music from your iPod or iPhone to a computer with iTunes.
3. Wirelessly Transfer Photos from Your Digital Camera
If you’re sick of plugging your SD card into your PC’s card reader to transfer photos (or if your computer doesn’t have a card reader), the previously mentioned Eye-Fi wireless SD card is the perfect companion for your digital camera. You never even need to take it out of your camera—whenever it’s connected to the same network as your computer (or iOS device), it will transfer photos right over for you. And, if you want, you can even have it automatically upload photos to sites like Flickr, Facebook, and Picasa.
2. Tell Your Phone When Its Home (or Not)
We’ve shown you how to turn your Android phone into an automated superphone with Tasker, and one of the best triggers for a Tasker action is to start a service or launch an application whenever you return home. While GPS is a great way to notify your phone of its location, it’s only accurate to a certain radius, and depending on where you live it might even be hard to get a fix on the satellites (plus it drains battery like nobody’s business). Another way to tell your phone when you’re home—as in, inside your house—is to create a Tasker profile that detects when you’re connected to your home network. On the other side of the coin, you can always roll your own Find my iPhone clone for Android, using Wi-Fi to detect when it’s somewhere other than where it should be.
1. Sync Your Music Library, Photo Library, or Other Files with Your Smartphone USB-Free
Since the days of the original iPod, syncing your music (or other files) from your PC to your portable device required you to dock your device via USB. Wi-Fi syncing is all the rage these days, though: you can sync your Android phone with iTunes, Winamp, or sync your iPhone with Linux and its photos with PhotoSync. Furthermore, Android users can access their phone’s SD card with a myriad of apps, like WiFi File Explorer, Dazzboard, Android Manager WiFi, or the accurately named Awesome Drop.