Wi-Fi Assist can help you with weak Wi-Fi coverage for your iPhone or cellular iPad by switching to cellular data when the current Wi-Fi network is not performing consistently. But what about the reverse? If you live in an area with poor cellular coverage, can you boost your internet connection by requiring your iPhone to use Wi-Fi? Not exactly – and it depends on your iPhone or iPad model.
With an iPhone with iOS 14 or earlier or an iPad with iPadOS 14 or earlier, the operating system prefers Wi-Fi for your internet connection over cellular. Your iPhone or iPad continuously scans for Wi-Fi networks while using cellular data. If your device finds a suitable Wi-Fi network, iOS and iPadOS rely on your Settings > Wi-Fi choices to determine what to do next.
Make sure Ask to join networks is set to: To ask, and you are always prompted when a nearby network is discovered. If you’ve previously connected to it, your device will automatically join; otherwise the Ask option means you will be prompted.
Auto-Join Hotspot allows Apple to detect nearby Personal Hotspots that you qualify for: your own hotspot on an iPhone that’s not your current device, one that’s available on an iPhone owned by someone in your Family Sharing group if you’re in one of those, or one that’s set up to allow others in, but you need to know the password.
The exception comes with iOS 15/iPadOS 15, which introduces a new option from iPhone 12 models and various iPads models: the 5th generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch, 3rd generation iPad Pro 11-inch, 5th generation iPad Air, and the 6th generation iPad mini. With iOS 15/iPadOS 15 or later and any of those device models or newer, if you have a 5G plan and a 5G network is available, in many cases your device will prefer 5G mobile data over a Wi-Fi connection .
The option is called Allow more data on 5G and you’ll find it in Settings > Cellular/Mobile Data > Mobile data options > Data mode:. If the data mode is set to Allow more data on 5G, your iPhone or iPad can tap the 5G network when it can provide faster or more consistent performance than the connected Wi-Fi for specific tasks, such as streaming video and running iCloud backups. However, you can change this to Standard, which only uses the 5G network for updates and certain background tasks, or Low Data Mode, which avoids using the cellular network for background tasks and automatic updates, although other network behavior is still controlled by the Wi -Fi Assist setting.
You can keep your iPhone or iPad from falling on a cellular network if the Wi-Fi connection is lost. For most people, some internet service is better than none, but if mobile data in your current location is so erratic that it’s frustrating to use, you may prefer to be shut down. In that case, go to Settings > mobile and switch Mobile data from. (You can also open Control Center and tap the Cellular icon.) This also prevents incoming phone calls over the cellular network.
Tip: To make sure you make voice calls to your wireless carrier over Wi-Fi instead of cellular, make sure Wi-Fi calling is turned on, or your carrier offers it.
Also Read: Wi-Fi or 4G Not Working: How to Fix Internet Problems on iPhone.
This Mac 911 article answers a question from Macworld reader Terry.
Ask Mac 911
We’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions, along with answers and links to columns: read our super frequently asked questions to see if your question is there. If not, we are always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to [email protected], including screenshots where appropriate and if you’d like to use your full name. Not every question is answered, we don’t answer email and we can’t provide direct advice to solve problems.