Wi-Fi Assist is one of the new features baked into iOS 9, allowing the iPhone to automatically switch from a weak Wi-Fi network connection to a cellular connection.
That led many with a limited amount of data on their carrier’s plan to legitimately wonder how this feature would impact their monthly data allowance, seeing as even if a Wi-Fi network is accessible, but limited, the iPhone would start using their carrier’s data connection automatically. This is reiterated in a brand new support document that Apple launched recently, and originally reported on by Six Colors:
“With Wi-Fi Assist, you can stay connected to the Internet even if you have a poor 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. You can use Wi-Fi Assist with most apps like Safari, Apple Music, Mail, Maps, and more.”
As some have pointed out, Apple seems a bit cavalier about iPhone owners’ cellular data, but as the original report notes, there are some distinctions that Apple has made in its implementation of Wi-Fi Assist. That includes the ability for Wi-Fi Assist to know if you’re roaming, and therefore not automatically switch to a cellular connection even if the Wi-Fi signal is low. On top of that, background downloading of content doesn’t initiate the feature, either:
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.
There’s no denying that it’s certainly possible for Wi-Fi Assist to burn through data unexpectedly, especially considering the feature is turned on by default, but there are ways around that — including disabling it.
Did you turn Wi-Fi Assist off?[via Six Colors]