Apple clarifies how Wi-Fi Assist works with cellular data usage in iOS 9

Wi-Fi assist feature

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:

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  • 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]