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Huge Data Bills from Apple IOS9 Wi-Fi Assist – I’m Skeptical

Posted by Todd Mersch on 5 October 2015

The pendulum of love and hate for Apple devices swings ever more quickly. In the spirit of full disclosure, I tend to be an Apple fan over Android, but I’m far from an Apple junkie (i.e. I don’t wait in line for the latest device, usual am rocking at least one or two models back iPhone / iPad, and do not have the Apple Watch – I do have an AppleTV, but also a Roku & ChromeCast – don’t ask…).

Now that my conscience is clear I can continue. This pendulum I reference swung hard towards the dislike side the last few days due to a new, useful and much needed feature in IOS9, Wi-Fi Assist. Have you ever noticed a huge decrease in performance on your smartphone and then realized it’s hanging onto a Wi-Fi connection by a thread despite the fact you have perfect cellular coverage? Wi-Fi Assist fixes that automatically. For me it’s when I leave the office and flip on Waze to find the speediest path home. I literally would have to flip-off the Wi-Fi before the phone would release the single arc of Wi-Fi connection in deference to LTE (and the annoyingly flip the Wi-Fi back on so the navigation can leverage it – at least it doesn’t run back to that Wi-Fi connection).

Sounds useful right? Well, people are claiming huge increases in cellular data usage (and subsequently their phone bills) because of this feature. I’m with Karissa Bell from Mashable on this one. I highly doubt it’s Wi-Fi assist causing these jumps. We’re all too quick to blame the phone provider or network operator versus looking at what new apps we may have downloaded and how things are configured. Further exoneration for Wi-Fi Assist ironically comes from the fact it does not really work that well… leave it on for a bit and keep track of how long you hang on crappy Wi-Fi. Still too long. Maybe if there was less crappy Wi-Fi the value of this feature would reduce, but I digress.

In the end, I love the move towards increased intelligence to choose the best available wireless data network – so for me Wi-Fi Assist is a baby step in the right direction. Let’s celebrate the idea and admonish the execution not the other way around.

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