How iOS 9’s Wi-Fi Assist frees users from slow connections

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Name-changer: Passbook is  called Wallet in iOS 9.
iOS 9's Wi-Fi Assist hopes to help you keep your connection strong.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

A new, slightly hidden feature in iOS 9 hopes to help keep your connection as strong as possible.

Apple’s latest version of its mobile firmware contains a lot of obvious changes (Passbook is now called Wallet, for example), but a lot of the biggest and best changes are buried away just waiting for you to discover them. One of these hidden gems is the Wi-Fi Assist feature, which might just solve one of the most annoying issues we saw in earlier versions of the operating system.

Here’s what it is and how it can help you.

Wi-Fi Assist changes the way that your iPhone or cellular-enabled iPad handles changes between Wi-Fi and network data. I always noticed that when I was in the parking lot of my apartment complex, my phone would still cling to my home network, even though that signal barely reached to my car.

The new feature recognizes those moments that your phone and router aren’t quite communicating and uses your wireless carrier’s network to keep you from seeing any interruption in service.

To make sure it’s active, go to Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Assist, which is way at the bottom of the Cellular page. We noticed that it’s on by default when we first updated to iOS 9, so you might already be seeing the benefits without realizing it. But if it happens to be off, that’s where you’ll find the switch.

Wi-Fi-Assist-on-iPhone
Here’s where Wi-Fi Assist lives.
Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

That’s actually an important thing to know, however, especially if your cellular plan has limited data. Wi-Fi Assist can be on even if you’ve told your phone not to use cellular data at all, which means that you could unknowingly see some overages if you leave it on.