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Whether you go to malls, airports, or even across the street, your phone can pick up over five Wi-Fi networks. But can you be so sure that you’re connecting to the right Wi-Fi network? How would you know if it’s suspicious, or if the network is congested before you browse the web? Wi-Fi activity can be read in full detail, and this is something that I learned simply by navigating around my phone.
Wi-Fi Verbose Logging is an advanced feature found in smartphones that enable its users to keep a log of their phone’s Wi-Fi activity. Enabling Wi-Fi verbose logging depends upon your need and understanding of such detailed information.
I will explain everything I have learned when I explored this very useful option in the developer mode present in every Android device.
This article shall contain all the features that Wi-Fi verbose logging can offer, such as the terms shown in the verbose logs. I will also explain the key benefits of utilizing it at its full potential for your Wi-Fi connectivity preferences.
Table of Contents
In software terms, a verbose log is a record of almost every detail of a system or network activity. This is why networking specialists and developers review verbose logs to understand how an error occurs to find the best means to fix it.
The word verbose is an adjective that means to use or express in more words than needed, hence the abundant amount of details present in each verbose log.
Turning this feature on depends on the situation. If you feel like something wrong is going on, such as slow connection or security issues, it is best to turn it on. But if you feel that your connection at home is fine, there is no need to turn it on.
The only time where it is most needed is when reviewing the activity conducted by a public Wi-Fi network to your phone.
If you want to feel much safer browsing online with your phone when on a network you’re not entirely familiar with, this option is perfect to use.
If you’re still learning what this feature is, it’s best to learn how to enable it by doing:
First, developer mode must be enabled by tapping the Build Number option seven times in the About phone menu under Settings. The steps vary depending on the device’s version.
For Android 9 and above, go to Settings > About phone > Build Number.
For Android 8 and 8.1, go to Settings > System > About phone > Build Number.
For lower versions, go to Settings > System > Build Number.
Go back to the Settings main menu > Developer Mode. Though some phone models may require you to go to Settings > Additional settings > Developer mode/options.
Scroll down to find Wi-Fi Verbose Logging, enable by flipping the switch at the right.
Is Important Information Stored in The Logs?
Verbose logs contain detailed information about the Wi-Fi activity of your phone. You will see the access (APs). The AP shown in the log can let you view the following information:
The RSSI being shown on every AP will show the signal strength of your Wi-Fi connection. RSSI means Received Signal Strength Indicator.
It is a type of measurement based on how well your phone or tablet can gather the current Wi-Fi network’s radio frequency (RF).
You can view the type of band you are using. The two bands available in a Wi-Fi network are 2.4GHz and 5Ghz band connection. This is good for understanding how your streaming and download speed will work. It also reads your latency, which is often observed when playing online games through your phone.
All APs that are available in your current location that is connected under the same SSID can be viewed through the verbose logs.
I find this useful in identifying how secure the network infrastructure of a public Wi-Fi network can be. Check this information in your logs when visiting a cafe, mall, or airport to learn more about this.
I can also identify any occurring network congestion in your current connection by viewing the handover algorithm. This algorithm is based upon the performance of your phone and is also seen along with the verbose logs.
You can view detailed information about your current Wi-Fi network such as viewing the MAC address of the router in question.
As a computer user, I can view the packets sent (tx) and received (rx) by my computer in the system’s terminal to monitor the internet connection.
Viewing the verbose logs also lets you find out the packets received and sent through your phone to track data usage.
To view the logs stored by the developer option, you need to use Logcat. The Logcat is a feature in Android Studio that can read logs about the app and network activities of your Android device.
It is already built-in, making it very easy to find. I utilize this immediately to view the details of the verbose logs generated by my phone’s system.
In your Android Studio, go to View > Tool Windows > Logcat. This lets you view all the log messages present in a phone’s app once you connect it to your computer.
You can easily view the logs in Logcat by looking at the top portion of the window, which shows the phones plugged into your computer or laptop.
There is another drop-down list containing all the app activities that contain log messages and not just the Wi-Fi verbose logs.
This window will let you see all the information I have enumerated in the first question. Note that the window cannot save the logs that were recorded before the device was plugged into the computer.
The window cannot save all the logs, and might only show the most recent activity conducted by your Wi-Fi connection.
Though there is a setting in Logcat that can let you save history for reference. You may also save a screenshot of the logs (or use a screen recorder all) for the quickest way to save them.
Some several apps claim to read network logs, but it is best to stick with Logcat due to its security and the fact that it is part of Android Studio. However, it is best to learn more about how the app works in all aspects for you to understand its overall features.
So after reading everything about Wi-Fi verbose logging, as using Logcat is a complex topic as well, see how to view logs with Logcat.
NOTE: Do not forget to allow USB debugging in developer options to access the logs when using Logcat and other log viewer apps.
Based on experience, Wi-Fi verbose logging had given me the following benefits:
Your security will greatly boost once you familiarize yourself with the information stored in each log. Keeping a record of your logs is also important if you feel like your information within the network is getting compromised.
Enabling Wi-Fi verbose logging when connecting to a public network gave me an understanding of how a public Wi-Fi infrastructure works in transmitting data.
Viewing vital information such as router MAC address, APs, and SSIDs, along with basic knowledge in networking, allowed me to identify vulnerabilities within the network that might compromise my information.
Keeping a log of my Wi-Fi activity at home helps me identify if the network is congested, or if there is an issue with the internet service provider.
Viewing the RSSI, packets sent and received within the logs help identify network issues. It can also help you identify hardware problems when comparing the difference between the two devices in terms of packet loss.
Just as how all logs work, there is a date and time written in each. It helps you identify which time the network connection went bad, or if there is an anomalous activity present right at this very moment.
It is a live recording that I often keep simply by copying and pasting the text to your note, or by simply taking a screenshot. However, you need to spend some serious time learning how to navigate it.
Not all systems and their features are perfect, which is why it also has drawbacks that some may not prefer.
Since logs are messages, keeping them over time may cause your data to bloat. This does not just add up unnecessary memory to your storage; it also confuses you from reviewing the more important logs than the irrelevant ones.
Bloats can become time-consuming when pruning some of them. So, be sure to review the logs if you find them useful before saving them.
I had the mistake of keeping too many logs to the point where I wasted an hour just looking for a single log critical for your investigation or troubleshooting among the pile of useless logs that I just dumped into the notes.
ILogs are unstructured and are only sorted out by date and time since it is a live recording of activities.
At first, I thought enabling the Wi-Fi verbose logging option will cause the system to create a text file or will display the logs at some part of the system.
It turns out that it will require me to use Logcat on my Android Studio for me to view everything. There are some other third-party apps that you can use, but they might not be safe for your security.
On the other hand, Logcat is known to be very secure because it is a part of Android Studio, which is meant for Android users at a developer level.
Keep in mind that the following disadvantages are not discouraging. These are drawbacks that prevent the verbose logging too inefficient to read.
But all-in-all, the logs are a vital component of analysis if you need to review your Wi-Fi network in a much detailed way. Network specialists and self-taught phone experts alike may require reviewing these logs at most times.
Wi-Fi verbose logging might be complicated at first, but getting a grasp of it helps you feel more secure when monitoring your Wi-Fi connection.
Each piece of information is relevant for the performance and security of the network you’re connected to.
It’s my go-to before I do work at a public Wi-Fi network. Just be sure to understand how each info on the log works to use its advantages to its fullest.