Top 4 Coffee Chains with the Fastest WiFi Bandwidth Speed

It wouldn’t be a coffee house worth its beans if it didn’t have free WiFi.  But what chain provides the best WiFi with the zippiest bandwidth speed?  If you guessed Starbucks you’d be right in terms of fastest average effective throughput. But in terms of fastest download speed, the prize went to Dunkin Donuts. We’ll save the contest on who brews the strongest latte for another day.

best_wifi_coffee_spots

In honor of International Coffee Day last month, a day that actually exists, the WiFi experts at wefi released a comprehensive study crunching data from more than 45 million hotspots.  The results were based on a 30 day average of Wi-Fi speeds at each location during the month of August, 2014.  In addition to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, Tullys and Panera also finished as WiFi leaders. Not surprisingly, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter drove the most data usage and Google Chrome was hands down the most popular application.   Here are a few more caffeinated factoids based on the wefi survey and further research from Time Warner Cable, the National Coffee Association and Broadcom:

  • Dunkin Donuts customers use twice as much WiFi as Starbucks customers
  • 80% of small businesses believe their customers expect free WiFi
  • 61% of Americans drink coffee every day
  • 34% drink gourmet coffee products on a daily basis
  • 39% of Americans would rather give up coffee over WiFi

wefi’s Results Compared to Some Hands On Results

In a completely unscientific study, this researcher circled a single block in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, home to three major coffee chains and a local bagel shop. Using the mobile speed test on my smartphone that allowed me to email the results for later reference, I stopped at each location just once, mid-morning on a Tuesday.  Starbucks won the prize with an impressive download speed of 10mbps.  The Coffee Bean fell far behind with 2.31mbps and Peete’s didn’t even crack 1mbps. The local bagelry did not provide free WiFi but did offer free refills on coffee so that’s where where I ended up for breakfast.

Not all coffee shop WiFi is created equal.  So if bandwidth speed is more important than your iced blended mocha be sure to compare speeds on your mobile device before visiting your local barista.

How your Internet Browser affects your broadband speed test

The Broadband Speed Test: Does Your Internet Browser Matter?

Browser Wars. In the late 1990s, the term referred to Explorer’s triumph over Navigator as the de-facto Internet browsing standard, but since 2003 it has applied to the battle between offerings like Mozilla’s Firefox, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari and yes, Internet Explorer. Each browser has its cadre of faithful users who swear by their preference and nothing else, and each one makes claims about usability and simplicity. But can any of them make your Internet connection faster?

Internet browsers affect speed test results

Browser Benefits

As reported by a recent PC Magazine article, different browsers do come with advantages. Chrome, for example, is known for its HTML5 support, effectively future-proofing it for Web app development. Firefox, meanwhile, has excellent startup time, memory use and security, while Opera can increase off-line speed with intelligent caching. Explorer, meanwhile, is what many users are familiar with but now supports WebGL and SPDY and includes excellent hardware acceleration. When it comes to a broadband speed test, however, who comes out on top?  Nobody.

Even Playing Field

Here’s the thing: While different browsers can affect the speed of webpage loading and may impact the speed of file downloads owing to firewall or security constraints, none of them can make your Internet connection faster.

If you want to improve broadband performance, start with an online speed test to make sure your connection lives up to Internet Service Provider (ISP) promises. If everything looks good but you’re not interested in upgrading, you can try using OpenDNS, compression utilities like Opera’s Turbo, or in the case of DSL connections asking your ISP to turn off interleaving, which is a type of packet error correction that can increase latency.

So go ahead, use whatever browser suits you best—they’re all on par when it comes to broadband speed.

How Does a Website Server Affect Your Bandwidth Test?

If your Internet connection isn’t living up to expectations, a bandwidth test is your first step to fixing the problem. This test calculates the maximum download and upload speed of a connection in megabytes per second  (Mbps) along with its ‘ping’, or the time it takes for your computer to transmit data and have a signal returned. This value is measured in milliseconds: The lower, the better.

Not all tests are created equal, however, and not all return the same results. Why? In part, it’s thanks to website servers—here’s how they can affect your bandwidth test.

ISP-Side Problems

The first ‘leg’ of your Internet connection relies on an ISP or Internet Service Provider. This is typically a telecommunications company that supplies cable or ADSL broadband services. Any data sent to your computer must be routed through the ISP’s server network—and could get bogged down if the network isn’t up to date or experiences a malfunction. Compare the value you’re getting from a bandwidth test against the speed promised by your ISP. If they don’t match, and if your latency is extremely high, the problem may be with your provider.

How servers impact a bandwidth test

Testing Servers

To measure your connection speed, bandwidth test sites use a network of servers. Typically, a single server is selected based on its geographical location—the closer to your home, the better the results. Some tests allow you to manually choose a server location and then run multiple tests to determine what your speed and ping look like under different conditions, while others assign a server with no option to change.

If the test you’re using consistently returns poor results, try several others and compare. Download numbers shouldn’t vary by more than 1 Mpbs—if they do, the servers of at least one speed test are either too far away or are processing too many requests at once.

How do servers affect your bandwidth test? If they’re bogged down or too far away, you may see lower numbers than expected.

What Time of Day is Your Internet Speed Fastest?

It never fails. You want to download a file, send an email or buy a single item and your Internet speed slows to a crawl. Sometimes it seems like a conspiracy—maybe your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is throttling your bandwidth? And sometimes you wonder if it’s your hardware—could you get better speed with a new computer, wireless router or improved connection? While in some cases upgrades can jump-start performance, it’s also possible you’re online at the wrong time. That’s right: Internet speeds are dependent on the time of day.

Test First

Before you go hunting for the ideal time of day to start big downloads or make quick purchases, check to make sure your connection is working as advertised. Run a bandwidth test and compare the results to what’s advertised by your ISP. If the numbers never match no matter what time you run the test, contact your provider. If they can’t provide good answers, consider a switch.

When the Sun Goes Down Internet Speed Goes Up

It’s not surprising, but it’s true: Your Internet speed is faster at night. According to an article from the Daily Mail, for example, bandwidth speeds in the UK drop by 35 percent during the evening ‘rush hour’ when people get home from work. Between 7pm and 9pm, analysts found the average download speed slowed to just over 6 megabytes per second (Mbps), but in the early morning hours—between 2am and 3am—speeds jumped to almost 10 Mbps.

It’s also worth noting that the high number of users during rush hour can prompt ISP throttling in addition to volume-related slowdown. When too many users try to log on at the same time, some ISPs throttle connections to give each customer a portion of the bandwidth rather than relying on first-come-first-served. While this means you’ll get some speed instead of virtually none, it can be frustrating if you’ve paid for a connection package that boasts specific download or upload rates.

Want the fastest Internet speed? Surf at night or in the early morning. During rush hour, expect even the best connections to slow.

Why Gamers are Experts on their Bandwidth Test Results

Ever since the Internet entered the broadband era earlier this century, gamers are one group definitely reaping the benefits of extra bandwidth. High-end games like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Destiny require an Internet account with speeds upwards of at least 10 Mbps for the best performance, but reward gamers with enthralling graphics and interactive gameplay.

Inter-game chat capabilities — now with video — only add to the strain on your cable modem and router.

There remains little doubt: gamers are the bandwidth experts. A recent research study published in Ars Technica revealed that gaming consoles, like the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, are the most popular devices for Internet video streaming at the home. Whether with the latest AAA game title or a recent Hollywood blockbuster, it is obvious that gamers and their consoles get the most out of their Internet connection.

A Regular Bandwidth Test is a Must for the Serious Video Gamer

As a serious gamer, your Internet performance is a vital aspect of your gaming enjoyment. Whether you are engaged in real-time gameplay with video chat, downloading huge Gigabit-sized titles, or streaming your games using a service like Steam, robust bandwidth is a must.

Online Gamer

Make sure you perform a regular bandwidth test to ensure you are getting the Internet speeds promised by your Internet service provider. Additionally, save your test results in case you need to contact your ISP for a refund if they haven’t been keeping up their end of the bandwidth bargain. The best Internet speed tests use HTML 5 instead of Flash or some other proprietary framework, which means you can run speed tests on your PS4, Xbox, iPad Air — the actual device does not matter!

Serious video gamers need a serious Internet connection. Don’t let the hard-earned money spent on your Internet service go to waste. Make sure you test your Internet speed at least once a week to ensure your gaming performance does not suffer from a lack of bandwidth.

There’s nothing worse than getting fragged by your friend in Call of Duty because of a poor Internet connection. Don’t let that happen to you! Test your bandwidth!

iOS 8, Apple’s New iPhone Operating System, Delivers Health and Fitness

Almost lost in the buzz surrounding the Apple Watch and new  iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus announcements, iOS 8 is Apple’s latest iteration of their mobile operating system. With a host of new features led by the health and fitness app, HealthKit, Apple is calling iOS 8 “the biggest iOS release ever.”

Let’s take a closer look at iOS 8 to see if it makes sense for you to update your iPad or iPhone.

iOS 8 is a Big Release

Apple got one thing right amongst their hyperbole — with install requirements ranging from 4 GB to 8 GB depending on your device, iOS 8 is definitely a big release. Since Apple attempts to automatically download the update to your mobile device, this new iPhone operating system is a bandwidth hog that might slow down your devices.

Check your iOS device’s settings to see if the update is already downloaded. If you own at least an iPad 3 or iPhone 5, iOS 8 should run fine. Some users have complained that the new OS seems sluggish on the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, so you may want to forego the update for those devices. And periodically test your speed and compare results to see where you stand.

apple_iOS8iOS 8 Features Abound

Collections of photos and videos on your iOS device are now easier to manage. New editing tools also allow interesting effects and editing functionality for your rich media content. These obviously take advantage of the enhanced displays on the new iPhone 6 smartphones.

HealthKit also garnered a lot of buzz as a new app to help you keep track of your diet and exercise activity. This is one area where an Apple Watch, and its robust collection of sensors, makes sense as a device. Of course, you already have most of those sensors on the more recent iPhone models, and the Apple Watch must tether to an iPhone 5 or newer to function.

iOS 8’s messaging feature now makes it a breeze to add voice or video to your texts — another reason to make sure your bandwidth remains robust! The same Internet speed issue applies with Family Sharing, which lets you share iTunes media content with other members of your family on their own iOS device or Mac which might have everyone uttering test my speed. Enhanced iCloud Drive functionality also can put stress on your home Internet service.

So while iOS 8 comes with some exciting new functionality, you better have the bandwidth to take full advantage of features like iCloud Drive and Family Sharing. If your household already uses a ton of Apple devices, by all means upgrade your newer iPhones and iPads to iOS 8 after checking your bandwidth.

How your WiFi Router affects your Internet Speed

When struggling with poor Internet performance at your house, maybe your ISP isn’t always the issue? Your WiFi router is another critical component that plays an important role in ensuring your Internet connection remains fast and reliable.

Routers are now required to work Harder

With smartphones, tablet computers, Internet-enabled appliances, and more all competing for the same home Internet connection, the poor old router must work harder than ever before. This is especially true considering all the video streaming or online gaming that takes place in the typical 21st Century household.

If your Internet speed tests low, hook up a computer directly to your Internet modem, bypassing the router. Run a quick HTML5 speed test to verify your Internet connection tests as fast as it should. If so it may be the router causing your slowness in your Internet speed especially if you are noticing any extra buffering or choppy performance when streaming video or audio. Fortunately a quick reset of your router may clear the issue.

Make Sure your Router is up to Date

Additionally, you need to make sure your router supports the 802.11n wireless standard. If you purchased the router in the past 2-3 years, you should be fine, but make sure the router has the latest firmware installed. If it doesn’t support the “N” wireless standard, get a newer model. Insist that your ISP replace an older router if they provide the hardware as part of your Internet service.

WiFi Router

Newer dual-band routers support the 5 GHz carrier frequency in addition to the standard 2.4 GHz. If your household does a lot of video streaming, the 5 GHz signal might be the way to go for the best possible streaming performance. The 5 GHz handles interference better which might be important if you are in an apartment complex or a condo.

Many higher-end routers even allow you to run both bands simultaneously, so you can use the 5 GHz band for rich media streaming and the 2.4 GHz band for basic email and Internet browsing.

Ultimately, knowing how to test your Internet speed both with and without the router is a great way to help diagnose any bandwidth issues before they adversely impact your streaming experience.

Comcast offers a Comcast Speed Test to their Subscribers

In the dog-eat-dog world of Internet service providers, many companies in the space offer extra features to lure customers away from the competition. Comcast — one of the largest media companies in the world — is no exception. The company provides their own Comcast speed test to both subscribers and the public, branded as the Speed Test from XFINITY.

A Closer Look at Speed Test from XFINITY

This Flash-based speed test uses the same technology as a popular speed test company. After choosing the closest Comcast server to your current location, you simply click on a button to start the test. The test pings the server and performs a quick download and upload of a small data file to verify the speed of your Internet connection.

After the test completes, you have the option to save an image of the test results or you can save the URL to the image itself on Comcast’s servers. Maintaining a history of your test results is vital should your Internet bandwidth be less than what your ISP promised. Having this data makes it easier to get a refund if necessary.

Comcast installing TV, Internet, and Digital Voice

HTML 5 Internet Speed Tests give more Flexibility

One problem with Flash-based Internet speed tests is Flash itself. It is an older, proprietary technology that has become quite buggy in recent years. If you find that you can’t perform a Comcast speed test due to the Flash plug-in crashing, restarting your web browser usually clears the problem.

If you want to perform a speed test on your iPad or PlayStation 4, a Flash-based test is not an option since Flash isn’t compatible with those devices. Leveraging a state of the art HTML 5 speed test is the way to go when using a mobile device or video game console. The tests work the same way; testing a quick download and upload of a file to verify your Internet speed.

As always, when performing any kind of Internet speed test, be sure to save your test results should you need them in the future for reference, or to get a refund.

iPhone 6 Ups the Ante with Faster Mobile Speed & Screen Resolution

Apple’s recent announcement of the iPhone 6 comes at a time where Android is trying to cement its place as the dominant mobile operating system. Both iPhone 6 models feature larger screens to combat popular Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note and LG G3. Add in new features and functionality from iOS 8 — the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system — and rumors about the iPhone’s demise now seem greatly exaggerated.

Let’s take a closer look at the iPhone 6’s specifications and feature set.

Larger Screens Highlight the iPhone 6Apple iPhone 6

Both iPhone 6 models sport noticeably larger touchscreens. The iPhone 6 features a 4.7-inch screen, while its bigger brother — the iPhone 6 Plus — comes in at the 5.5-inch mark. The iPhone 6 Plus is capable of a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is more than enough screen real estate to run a mobile speed test.

The new touchscreens are also thinner which allows both iPhone 6 models to be Apple’s most slender smartphones to date. The Retina HD display and iPhone camera are utilized nicely by the improved video and photo capabilities within iOS 8. Other enhancements include a wider viewing angle, and landscape orientation on the iPhone 6 Plus. The screen on the larger iPhone 6 simply rivals anything out there in the smartphone world.

More RAM Equals More Efficient Processing

Like the iPhone 5, the iPhone 6 models also contain 1 GB of RAM; previous iPhone models used anywhere from 128 to 512 MB. This added RAM makes the internal processing chip run more efficiently, giving the user a quicker and smoother smartphone experience. And faster mobile speed test results as well.

Speaking of which, the smartphone’s main dual core A8 microprocessor is clocked at 1.3 GHz, with the specialized M8 motion co-processor handling the iPhone 6’s array of sensors, including the accelerometer, compass, and more. Of course, there is a GPU paired with the enhanced Retina HD display on both iPhone 6 models.

A Look at iPhone 6 Prices

Retail prices for the iPhone and iPhone 6 Plus start at $199 and $299 respectively. Of course, deals from a variety of mobile carriers are available, so the wise consumer does their research before making a final decision.

With the iPhone 6 firing the latest salvo in this smartphone war between Apple, Samsung, LG, and Google, expect the heated competition to drive innovation from all companies in the mobile technology sector. Ultimately, the mobile phone user stands to benefit as new features and enhanced specifications continue to enthrall.

Apple Watch: Bandwidth Speed on your Wrist

The unveiling of the Apple Watch was one of the highlights of Apple’s recent event centered on the introduction of the iPhone 6 and iOS 8. Rumors of the smartwatch — usually tagged with the iWatch moniker — appeared in various technology media sources for the previous year.

Now with an actual device slated to hit the market early in 2015, let’s take a closer look at the Apple Watch to see if it makes sense to add one to your own arsenal of mobile devices with bandwidth speed. Someday soon, you may be able to check your Internet bandwidth using your watch!

Rumors about Apple Watch Specifications

Apple Watch: Bandwidth on your Wrist

Apple’s smartwatch announcement revealed that a processor known as the S1 would power the Apple Watch. Cupertino remained tight-lipped regarding any other Apple Watch specifications. The truth on specs may not be known until shortly before the device is released next year.

Various tech media pundits predict the first Apple Watch will come armed with 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of flash memory. There may be other models with extra storage up to 8GB, but since the device must be tethered to an iPhone 5 or newer, additional storage on the watch itself doesn’t make much sense.

Battery life is also a worry with the smartwatch, and no one at the recent Apple announcement had anything to say about how long the Apple Watch lasts between charges. You might have to charge it every night while you sleep.

Smartwatch Applications focus on Health and Fitness

The Apple Watch’s built-in sensor array includes a heart rate monitor and other ways of checking your daily activity. Because of this hardware, expect the smartwatch to pair nicely with Apple’s new HealthKit app in iOS 8. Other apps are slated to include smartwatch versions of popular mobile apps to check your stocks, sports scores, travel information, and maps.

One of the difficulties for Apple in convincing consumers to purchase an Apple Watch is that the smartwatch still needs to use an iPhone 5 or 6 as a tether. Is the added convenience of having information delivered in a wrist-accessible format worth the price of a both a smartwatch AND a smartphone? Expect the smartwatch market to truly take off once these devices can function without a smartphone partner.

In short, if you are interested in smartwatch, be it the Apple Watch or models from Motorola or Samsung, let the market mature for at least one year to get the most bang for your dollar. This is an area of mobile technology where it might not be the best call to be an early adopter.