How to get “Turn on WiFi Automatically” for the Nexus 5X/6P on Android Oreo

Android Oreo introduces a new feature that lets you turn on WiFi automatically when you’re near a “high-quality saved network,” like one from work or home. This feature can be found on the official builds of Android 8.0 for the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL, but it is not available on the Google Nexus 5X or Google Nexus 6P. However, that wasn’t always the case. The two Nexus phones actually had the WiFi automatic wakeup feature when Android O Developer Preview 2 was out, but for some unknown reason Google removed this feature in the final Android 8.0 Oreo release for the Nexus 5X/6P.

WiFi modules in smartphones these days are quite efficient when it comes to battery life so this isn’t something that will save a lot of battery life for most people. However, if you’re in an area with a ton of WiFi access points with varying network connection quality, then you may experience some battery drain associated with your smartphone constantly connecting and disconnecting from low quality, open WiFi networks.

That’s where the feature to turn on WiFi automatically comes in. What happens is that while the ability to connect to WiFi networks is turned off, the feature to scan for WiFi networks remains enabled. In the background, Google scans for networks then uses its own recommendation service to determine if it should turn WiFi back on to connect to the network. Google’s recommendation service bases this decision on whether or not the WiFi network is a saved network that you connect to frequently, and if that network offers a stable, high speed connection.

You’ll find this feature by launching the Settings application, tapping the Network & Internet option at the top, tapping on WiFi, and then tapping the WiFi Preferences option toward the bottom of the list. The toggle itself can be seen in the feature image above.

A pretty nifty feature, if you’ll ask me. But it was removed for the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P for reasons we don’t know, perhaps it just didn’t work that well for those two phones. As with many other Android features that don’t have a user-facing toggle, we can actually bring this feature back with a couple of ADB commands. So let’s dive into the steps required to get bring back the “turn on WiFi automatically” feature for the Google Nexus 5X and Google Nexus 6P.


Enable the “Turn on WiFi Automatically” Feature on the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

  1. First you’ll need to have ADB installed on your desktop or laptop computer.
  2. Connect the Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P to the computer, enable USB debugging, and then open up a command prompt.
  3. Execute the following command into the command prompt: adb shell
  4. Then execute the following command in the command prompt to bring back the toggle: settings put global wifi_wakeup_available 1
  5. Lastly, go ahead and execute the following command in the command prompt to actually enable the feature: settings put global wifi_wakeup_enabled 1
    automatic wifi

Explanation

We’ve been doing a number of these tutorials lately that give you access to features that are included in Android software you’re running. These are features that are baked into the Android operating system but aren’t easily accessed by the user.

Since Google kept this Automatic WiFi feature in place on the Pixel and the Pixel XL, we can only imagine that it works exactly as they had hoped. However, they have removed the toggle on the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P as it’s possible this feature didn’t play well with the WiFi module used in these two devices, or maybe Google just wanted to limit it to their new Pixel phones. Either way, we can bring it back and it has been tested to work.

After we bring up the ADB shell prompt on our computer, we’re going to be issuing two commands here. The first command actually brings the Automatic WiFi toggle back into the Settings application. If done correctly, this first option will make that “Turn On WiFi Automatically” toggle appear again.

But while we’re in the ADB shell, we can go ahead and issue the command shown in step 5 to actually enable it. Changing these options will not prevent you from accepting an official OTA update from Google in the future (we aren’t making unauthorized modifications to the system files here) and this is why it doesn’t require root access either.

If you ever want to revert these changes back to how they were, you can launch a command prompt or terminal and bring up an ADB shell again. Just change the 1 at the end of the commands in the last two steps of the guide to a 0. These flags were initially set to 0 and that is why we didn’t have access to the Automatic WiFi feature on these two Nexus devices. So changing these back to 0 from 1 will disable the feature and remove the toggle from the Settings menu.