iOS 9 WiFi Assist Explained

In this beginner’s guide, we are about to explore a new feature called WiFi Assist that is available exclusively on iPhones and iPads running iOS 9.0 firmware or higher.

WiFi Assist: What is it?

WiFi Assist (also written as Wi-Fi Assist) is a new feature available on all the iOS 9 compatible iPhones and iPads (no iPod Touch). Goal of this feature is to detect any weak or slow WiFi connection and then switch to cellular data.

For example: If you are using an iPhone connected to a poor WiFi network that disconnects randomly or offers slow speed, then WiFi assist will automatically switch from your poor WiFi connection to cellular data – so you can experience a reliable Internet connectivity on your iOS devices.

Cellular data (also called as “mobile data” worldwide) is your 2G, 3G, 4G LTE connection.

WiFi Assist: What are its advantages?

WiFi Assist is useful when:

Say that you are listening to songs or watching videos online and the WiFi signal drops or weakens. Ex: You are using Spotify or Apple Music to listen to songs, or YouTube to watch video while you are on the move.

Say that you are browsing through a website while leaving your house, coming back from work, or stuck in an elevator or toilet and the WiFi signal strength is weak. For ex: You are using Safari browser to visit websites and the website never loads. Or you are using apps like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp.

Say that you using GPS navigation apps that are not detecting your location or is inaccurate due to unreliable WiFi connection. For ex: You are using Apple Maps or Google Maps to find directions. Or Uber, Lyft to book a ride.

Whatever the case is, WiFi Assist – when enabled – will automatically detect any drop in WiFi connection and immediately switch to cellular connection.

WiFi Assist: How to enable / disable it

To enable WiFi Assist:

Note that WiFi assist is enabled by default when you upgrade your iPhone and iPad from iOS 8 to iOS 9. You can go to the following settings:

In the US: Settings -> Cellular -> Wi-Fi Assist
Other parts of the world (UK, Australia, India, etc): Settings -> Mobile Data -> Wi-Fi Assist

If the switch is to the right (green in color), then WiFi Assist is turned ON.


To disable WiFi Assist:

Note that toggling the switch disables the WiFi Assist feature – which means it will never consume your cellular data even when you are receiving poor WiFi signal on your iPhone or iPad. You can go to the same settings as mentioned above to turn OFF the WiFi Assist switch:

In the US: Settings -> Cellular -> Wi-Fi Assist
Other parts of the world: Settings -> Mobile Data -> Wi-Fi Assist

If the switch is to the left, then WiFi Assist is turned OFF.


WiFi Assist: What else you should know

  • WiFi Assist for iOS 9 isn’t new. It has been around in other forms on other operating systems. Android has similar feature under the WiFi settings that says: “Avoid bad Wi-Fi connections” – when enabled, it switches from WiFi to cellular data. Even Windows Phone 8.1 switches from WiFi to mobile data when the WiFi strength is not strong or reliable.
  • WiFi Assist works with all the iPhones and iPads compatible with iOS 9, except for one device: iPhone 4s. Read more: No WiFi Assist for iPhone 4s.
  • Adding WiFi Assist to iOS 9 helps in staying connected to the web 24/7.
  • There are cases where you may not find WiFi Assist useful, for example: You have a cellular data cap (data limit) every month – say that you can’t use more than 1 GB of 3G/4G LTE on your iPhone or iPad in a single month. In such cases, if you leave the WiFi Assist turned ON, then you may get excessive bills. Read: How to Stop Unexpected Cellular Data Charges in iOS 9
  • We have so many carrier networks all over the world – like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Vodafone, O2, EE, Tesco, Three, iD, etc. – offering limited and unlimited 3G/4G LTE data plans. Choose the one that works the best for your iOS device.
  • Whenever WiFi Assist is enabled, the WiFi icon on the status bar automatically changes to cellular icon (3G or 4G LTE depending on your carrier network).