Apple and Wifi Assist

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re logged into a Wi-Fi network where the network bandwidth of that Wi-Fi network is deplorable? Maybe like a hotel or a technology conference? Perhaps you need to be able to get to a website to check the weather or run an app to determine what the traffic is but your device just sits there and spins the “working on it” icon?

Enter Apple’s Wi-Fi Assist. A new function in iOS 9 that basically allows the device to failover to a Mobile data network if the device can determine that it’s of better quality than the Wi-Fi network that you’re connected to. Sounds like a neat feature and guess what – it’s enabled by default.

There seemed to be quite a bit of uproar about Wi-Fi Assist eating through bandwidth unbeknownst to users that were sitting on deplorable Wi-Fi networks but in range of some nice 4G LTE signal on their newly upgraded to iOS 9 devices. In some regards there’s probably some truth to that, users not realizing that their Wi-Fi network was deplorable and their phone using the local Mobile network. Caveat of course being that individuals that didn’t realize that the Wi-Fi network was deplorable probably haven’t noticed that they’re using a Mobile network or that their kids are buying in-app purchase upgrades for whatever the app of the week is.

Nevertheless, Apple seems to have released an updated article on this topic to help give users of iOS 9 devices a better idea of how this works entitled “About Wi-Fi Assist.”

The core three points that are in this article are as follows:

  • Wi-Fi Assist will not automatically switch to cellular if you’re data roaming.
  • Wi-Fi Assist only works when you have apps running in the foreground and doesn’t activate with background downloading of content.
  • Wi-Fi Assist doesn’t activate with some third-party apps that stream audio or video, or download attachments, like an email app, as they might use large amounts of data.

So what’s that mean? Well, perhaps that Wi-Fi Assist isn’t as bad as it was made out to be. That’s not to say that I won’t be keeping an eye on my data services bill, but at the same time, I’m not quite as worried that it’s going to overrun my data cap either.

Thanks Apple for at least clarifying how it works a little bit.