Coffee shops, airports, libraries, heck, even grocery stores and Home Depot – free public Wi-Fi (for the convenience of low data cap users) is growing by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, many of these locations do not have robust wireless infrastructures which, combined with more customers taking advantage of the service, can lead to insanely slow connections.
Apple thinks it has a solution.
Called Wi-Fi Assist, the tool comes enabled by default on newer iPhones and some other devices running iOS 9. Normally, when dealing with a slow Wi-Fi hotspot, you sigh, swipe up to open the iOS Control Center. Disable the Wi-Fi and continue with whatever you’re trying to do (and if you’re like me, swear you’ll inevitably forget to turn it back on later at home).
Wi-Fi Assist works when your iPhone automatically detects that you’re on a slow or limited connection. You don’t need to activate on a per-connection basis; The phone will do everything by itself. It combines your cellular data connection (usually LTE, but there’s no reason 3G wouldn’t work as well) and Wi-Fi hotspot to create a usable connection.
Conversely: Assuming you have a good cell signal, dealing with slow Wi-Fi connections will be less of a hassle.
The downside to this: You can accidentally burn your data cap and not really notice.
At its core, Wi-Fi Assist is a great idea. The concern comes with it being enabled by default without actually letting users know what it means. It’s a useful feature when you’re out and about, but if you’re in an area of the house with poor Wi-Fi signal, you may be using a lot of data at home without realizing it.
Our recommendation? If you’re lucky enough to get an unlimited data plan – which is rare these days – always leave it on. It is unlikely that he will do anything but help you. However, if you have limited connectivity like most of us, you may want to drop it unless you know you’ll be working in a spotty area throughout the day. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1. Tap on your iPhone’s Settings icon.
Step 2. Select ‘Cellular’ in Settings.
Step 3. Scroll down and tap the ‘Wi-Fi Assist’ switch on the right.
That’s it, your Wi-Fi Assist feature is disabled; To re-enable it, simply follow these steps again.
Over the next few months, we’ll be able to see more clearly how much data Wi-Fi Assist is using for the average iPhone customer; it may turn out to be using very little and enabling it provides a much better user experience. It can also indicate that it is starving the iPhone – already given to data collection – more data and should be disabled most of the time. Hopefully, Apple will update the Control Center at some point to make it an easy toggle, perhaps adding 3D Touch options to the panel.
If you want to leave the option enabled, you can check how much data you use from the same screen.