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3 min read 9 comments

What is Wi-Fi Direct and how do I use it on Android?

The list of settings and features on our Android smartphones is quite extensive and most of them either just fly by unnoticed when we see them, or we willfully ignore them. Wi-Fi Direct has been one of those, but we'll explain to you what it is, why (and for what) you should use it and how to set it up.  

What is Wi-Fi Direct?

When someone mentions Wi-Fi most people will immediately think of surfing the internet, but there's more to it than just that. Wi-Fi Direct is a certificate of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which includes over 600 members such as Apple, LG, Intel, Microsoft and Dell. A host of devices these days are Wi-Fi Direct compatible - most notably Tablets, Laptops, Digital Cameras. The Samsung Galaxy S (launched in 2010) was one of the first smartphones to include this feature, and as of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, all Android smartphones have this feature included natively.  

Wi-Fi Direct can be seen as a sort of second generation Wi-Fi, as it allows compatible devices which do not have their own internet connection, to establish a mutual connection with ones that do (Hotspots, modems or routers). Thanks to Wi-Fi Direct, you can build up a wireless network between multiple devices.  In addition, you can use Wi-Fi Direct in combination with Miracast to screencast onto another device with a display. The newest generation of Wi-Fi Direct is also NFC compatible.

Why would you use Wi-Fi Direct?

As mentioned above, Wi-Fi direct allows devices without their own internet connection to connect to one which does. In the case of Android Smartphones and devices, you can connect them and quickly transfer files without the hassle of cables. So, is Wi-Fi Direct just a glorified version of Bluetooth? Well, yes and no. The advantage of using Wi-Fi Direct over Bluetooth, is that the Wi-Fi range and transfer speeds are significantly higher than those of Bluetooth. So in short - use Wi-Fi Direct if you want a better way to send files from one device to another.

How to set up Wi-Fi Direct

Every Android smartphone that uses Android 4.0 and above has Wi-Fi Direct functionality (bar some very rare exceptions). While the systems' user interfaces might vary, setting this functionality up is relatively simple and unified across all devices. Wi-Fi Direct does not natively support file transfers at the moment, so you will need to install a third party app. We recommend "Send Anywhere".

To turn on Wi-Fi Direct, go into Settings -> Connections -> Wi-Fi then tap on the Wi-Fi Direct tab at the top. Your smartphone will start scanning for devices that you can connect to.  


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Activating Wi-Fi Direct on a Samsung smartphone / © ANDROIDPIT


Unlike with Bluetooth, there is no button or anything that you need to tap to turn Wi-Fi Direct on. Wi-Fi Direct is enabled the moment you have a stable internet connection. This doesn't mean that Wi-Fi Direct is on all the time. Your smartphone only starts scanning for nearby devices to connect to when you tap on the Wi-Fi Direct tab.

If you have any questions, leave them below in the comments!


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  • Can we integrate another protocol into wifi-direct for further security

  • Reading these comment it becomes increasingly unclear to which wifi printer (not yet bought) my households smartphones (android, windows), laptops (iOS, android) or computers (osX) will connect! How about the next step: do all need a separate driver in order to print?

  • I have an S7 Edge phone. When I did the steps above, my phone said there are "no connectable devices found." I am in a room with my Pavilion laptop, my husband's Lenovo Flex 5 laptop, a ScanSnap scanner, and a Brother printer...all with blue tooth. Why am I not connecting to any item? Thank you!

  • Alex M Oct 22, 2017 Link to comment

    So what about PCs? How do I use Wifi Direct to interface with a PC and transfer files? Who cares about transferring files between two Android devices anyway? Maybe some do, but phone to PC (Windows-based) seems like the much more important issue. Someone on Quora claims that this might actually be impossible. I would post a link but I'm prohibited. The Quora post is titled, "How can I use Wi-Fi Direct to transfer files between an Android phone and a Windows 10 laptop?" That is precisely what I want to know, too.

    Can someone help with more info? I'm completely befuddled why there is SO LITTLE information about this.

  • Tested it between 2 different devices (different brand) connected to different wifi networks and both of them with PC. Works flawlessly

  • For some stupid reasons, wifi direct can be used as faster bluetooth only between devices of the same brand. Example: Works when both are Samsung devices or both are LG devices. If it's between 2 different brands, file transfer is impossible such as between an LG & a Samsung device. This is so inconvenient in the modern world of today. Google should have forced manufacturers to use a standard wifi direct compatible with all brands and slowly killing Bluetooth!

    •   24
      Deactivated Account May 3, 2017 Link to comment

      Ah - thats quite interesting - well test this in the office and let you (and the other readers) know what we found

    • While vendor inconsistency is occasionally a problem with all sorts of networking equipment, I spent a couple of hours today testing several apps, communicating via wifi direct on a Nexus 6P (Huawei,) Pixel XL (HTC,) Motorola RAZR HD, and a Samsung Galaxy S4. I wouldn't say that everything was rock-solid, but many things were.

      I think it'd be great if this article provided a bit more detail on how wifi direct actually functions and what it does and does not support. (eg. does turning it on disable an existing wifi connection? Is all functionality of tcp/ip supported? Is it routable?)

    • That's actually not true. I transfer stuff from my old LG to my Galaxy S8 all the time via wifi direct. I'm not sure where you got this idea from.