By Dennis Jones
Given our news-packed summer, you’d be forgiven for missing some of the major Wi-Fi headlines that crossed the tech pub wires earlier this summer. And that’s not all. With the recent launch of its high-end iPhone line, Apple, the company who generated those earlier tech headlines, is smack dab in the middle of a veritable media frenzy. But let me turn your attention back to July. Back then, Apple was in the wireless news when it was revealed that a feature in its new iOS 11 software update would markedly improve the Wi-Fi user experience for billions of iOS users. The iOS 11 update came out earlier this week, but by then, reviewers and users were preoccupied with design enhancements, and the major Wi-Fi user experience news barely made a blip.
So what’s happening? And what are Apple developers actually doing to improve the Wi-Fi user experience? You might already know if you were one of the iOS 11 beta users. In a nutshell, a new feature of the iOS 11 upgrade will eliminate automatic connections to poor-quality Wi-Fi hotspots. If you have an iOS device, you’ve probably noticed that it has the tendency to constantly keep connecting you to that one, terrible hotspot, whenever you pass by it. Another irritation: your device doesn’t switch you away from a weak signal (to a stronger one) fast enough. Currently, there’s not much you can do here to improve the Wi-Fi user experience, save taking the offending network out of rotation (in settings,) just disabling Wi-Fi altogether, or (you know) using the iPass SmartConnect app, backed by a intelligent network selection and connection management platform.
The new iOS 11 upgrade has ushered in Auto-Join functionality, which you can access either by clicking on the “I” icon next to a given Wi-Fi network (in your phone’s scan list). The thought is that by enabling Auto-Join, you can also sort out the networks to which you don’t want to connect.
According to Apple, iOS distinguishes between two categories of networks: private networks and hotpots. And iOS ranks networks in the following order:
- Private networks, most recently joined
- Private networks, in general
- Hotspot networks
And when iOS encounters multiple networks at once, it makes the connection decision based on relative levels of security.
Finally, another way that the new upgrade will improve the Wi-Fi user experience is that the Auto-Join feature will suppress notifications when you pass by a Wi-Fi network to which you’ve connected before.