iPhone 6 Wi-Fi settings

Wi-Fi Assist, a new feature in iOS 9, was initially met with some skepticism as Apple did a lousy job detailing how it works beyond stating that Wi-Fi Assist automatically uses cellular data when Wi-Fi connectivity is poor.

“With Wi-Fi Assist, you can stay connected to the Internet even if you have a poor Wi-Fi connection,” the iPhone maker said somewhat critically.

However, inexperienced users might encounter some unwanted effects when using their devices in areas with low Wi-Fi signal because Wi-Fi Assist will activate their carrier’s mobile data network and therefore possibly lead to increased data consumption and unwanted overage fees on the wireless bill.

Here’s what Apple is saying how Wi-Fi exactly works.

“Because you’ll stay connected to the Internet over cellular when you have a poor Wi-Fi connection, you might use more cellular data,” cautions the firm.

“For most users, this should only be a small percentage higher than previous usage,” reads Apple’s support document.

What apps are compatible with Wi-Fi Assist?

Most first and third-party apps (but not all, see further below for more info) work with Wi-Fi Assist enabled. Stock apps like Safari, Apple Music, Maps, Mail and more will try to use Wi-Fi Assist if iOS detects very slow or unreliable Wi-Fi connection.

“For example, if you’re using Safari with a poor Wi-Fi connection and a webpage doesn’t load, Wi-Fi Assist will activate and automatically switch to cellular so that the webpage continues to load,” states the company.

Is Wi-Fi Assist enabled by default?

Yes, Wi-Fi Assist is on by default. As mentioned, those on a metered data plan might want to disable Wi-Fi Assist unless they are OK with their iPhone staying connected to the Internet via mobile data when Wi-Fi is in an extremely weak state.

Full tutorial: How to enable and disable Wi-Fi Assist

You can disable Wi-Fi Assist by going to Settings → Cellular (or Settings → Mobile Data and flipping the Wi-Fi Assist button at the bottom to the OFF position.

iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist disabled

What about roaming?

Thankfully, Apple’s wisely designed Wi-Fi Assist to ensure that it doesn’t automatically switch to your carrier’s cellular network when you’re data roaming.

Does Wi-Fi Assist use cellular data for background processes?

No, and that’s by design. Apple states that the feature only works when you have apps running in the foreground and doesn’t activate with background downloading of content.

What about apps that gobble up large amounts of data?

To further optimize cellular data consumption, Wi-Fi Assist won’t kick into action when certain audio and video-streaming apps attempt to use large amounts of data. It will also prevent downloading of attachments in email apps.

What devices does Wi-Fi Assist support?

Wi-Fi Assist is supported on any iPhone from the iPhone 5 and onward. On cellular-enabled iPads, Wi-Fi Assist will work on any model with iOS 9 or later except for the cellular-capable iPad 2, third-generation iPad and the original iPad mini.

As for iPod touches, Apple’s media player lacks cellular connectivity and as such won’t expose the Wi-Fi Assist switch in mobile data settings.

How can I tell if Wi-Fi is active?

When Wi-Fi Assist is enabled and iOS detects a poor Wi-Fi signal, the feature is automatically activated. You will know that Wi-Fi Assist has activated when the status bar turns gray before one of the symbols for cellular data appear.

You can read more about Wi-Fi Assist in our article here.

Source: Apple

  • Hydro Mac

    Just turn it off

  • @dongiuj

    So why am I having less connectivity with the wifi connections I’ve been using for the past couple of years since I updated to iOS 9. Am I classed as an “inexperienced user” as stated in this article? I like my iPhone but sorry, I personally think iOS 9 is a letdown. Why can’t apple get things right, stop adding things and just sort all the annoying stuff….$700 billion computer company….

    • I’m having some connectivity issues as well on connections I’ve never really had problems with.

    • It’s just what happens with any big software development project. A time will come when tons of new features are added and although they will be thoroughly tested (both internally and externally) inevitably one or two things will be overlooked and some bugs will make it into the final build.

    • Fanboy 

      You seem to be an expert at managing a multi-billion dollar international technology company that distributes hardware & software to hundreds of millions of people! Maybe you should run their software department since you seem to understand the processes of researching, testing & developing I’m sure you’d do a perfect job with all of their resources.

      • WonkieInc

        Jesus your comments are painful to read.

        It’s not possible to find all bugs during a testing period. Some things will not show until thousands of people are using the software.

      • Fanboy 

        It was in response to the original comment & I was clearly being sarcastic trying to prove that exact point. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.

      • @dongiuj

        Well ok then, Fanboy, that is your name right? So this “multi-billion dollar international technology company that distributes hardware & software to hundreds of millions of people” can’t even get wifi connectivity working right?
        If it is working just fine then why am I not the only person with wifi connectivity issues since iOS 9?
        If it is not a problem then why bother making so many articles about the wifi/cellular issues and labelling users as “inexperienced”?
        You know what actually, do bother replying to me again. I have no time for conversations with blind and deaf people such as yourself.

  • thunderqus

    I am waiting for someone to file a law suit against them, how can they do this to millions of people.

    • You’re right!

      How can they improve peoples user experience by loading data over celluar when their wifi is poor?

      This is an outrage!

      People should be made to suffer with poor wifi instead of slightly less poor celluar.

      • Jaba Haba

        not all people have unlimited data. they are on wifi for a reason

      • not all people have unlimited data

        Which is why there’s an off switch.

      • Which should be off by default

      • thunderqus

        exactly, no one is complaining about the feature and having an option, its just how they turned it ON by default..

      • Another words people are too lazy to manually disable a feature they do not find useful…

      • blu

        No, it is a matter of 95% of phone users not knowing what it happening till they get an overage charge.
        Including an option and turning it on automatically that can increase a bill is not a good thing to do.

      • I think 95% is a bit of an overstatement. Although there are no real figures I’m willing to bet that Wifi Assist negatively affects less than 10% of all iOS 9 users.

  • Lucus Bendzsa

    This is great for T-Mobile users with unlimited data. For me with AT&T this is not so great.

  • blu

    Neat feature, but should be defaulted to “off”.
    My wife has a 200 mb plan and normally uses maybe 15-50 mb/month. After her iOS 9 update, she doubled that, and I even had quite a bit of stuff set to not use cellular regardless. Not really sure what used more data though, but once I turned it off, it went back to normal.

    On my phone, I could care less since I have unlimited data (for now) on AT&T.

    • Tim

      Your wife only uses 50mb of data on an iPhone?? That’s impressive, what does she do on her phone.

      • blu

        95% of the time she has wifi. Her work has poor wifi in a few areas that was kicking her to wifi assist. Only real wireless she uses when driving and getting iMessages.

      • Tim

        Oh I see, apple needs to be more leniet with the way wifi assist takes over.

      • blu

        If they would just set the default to off that would take care of it. If you want it you can activate it.