What is Wi-Fi Assist and how to use it

iPhone 6 Wi-Fi settings

There’s nothing more annoying than seeing your iPhone getting stuck on weak Wi-Fi signal. We’ve all been there before: the iPhone latches onto a poor Wi-Fi connection and forces you to waste time manually switching to cellular data in Setting.

At long last, iOS solves this incredible annoyance in one fell swoop with a new feature called Wi-Fi Assist, which basically tells your device to switch away from weak Wi-Fi connections and hop on cellular instead.

It’s tremendously convenient and works like magic: you don’t have to do anything on your part other than enable Wi-Fi Assist. This tutorial will teach you how to use Wi-Fi Assist and avoid disruptions when you’re browsing the web in Safari or using your favorite apps.

What is Wi-Fi Assist?

If you have dead Wi-Fi spots in your home or you have joined public networks just once—such as Wi-Fi networks at Starbucks locations or your cable company’s public Wi-Fi—prior iOS versions had the tendency to latch onto these connections even if the reception has degraded to the point where it’s unusable.

Without Wi-Fi Assist, you would typically have to disable Wi-Fi in frustration in order to prevent the device from continuing to use a bad signal. Another option would be to move far away from the poor Wi-Fi signal.

With Wi-Fi Assist, this becomes a thing of the past as it was designed to automatically use cellular data when Wi-Fi connectivity isn’t quite up to snuff.

How to enable Wi-Fi Assist for iPhone

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad.

Step 2: Navigate to Cellular settings.

Step 3: Scroll down to the bottom and flip the Wi-Fi Assist switch to the ON position.

Wi-Fi Assist Toggled On iPhone

“Automatically use cellular data when Wi-Fi connectivity is poor,” reads the description.

Tip: With Wi-Fi Assist enabled, the Wi-Fi signal icon in the iOS status bar will turn gray before one of the symbols for cellular data appears.

From now on, your device will hop on your carrier’s cellular data network if the connection is too weak to effectively transmit data. The process is seamless and automatic so you’ll be able to surf the web and use apps that request network data regardless of the Wi-Fi signal.

What’s a poor connection, anyway?

So what exactly does Apple mean by “poor” connection?

According to Apple’s iOS 9 presentation at WWDC 2015, your device will switch over to cellular if the Wi-Fi connection is in an extremely weak state. In most cases, iOS prioritizes cellular over Wi-Fi with one bar of signal strength (you’re barely within range) or if Wi-Fi is not responding, or is very slow to respond.

Apple has a history of withholding information pertaining to iOS’s inner workings so you won’t find information on the threshold value that prompts Wi-Fi Assist to take over.

Do your apps work over cellular?

If you’re going to be using Wi-Fi Assist, it might be a good idea to selectively enable cellular data access for your favorite apps in Settings > General > Cellular.

And while you’re at it, make sure to also disable cellular access for apps like Netflix in order to prevent gobbling up all of your cellular data with Wi-Fi Assist.

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