How to Save Time and Money Using Wi-Fi On an iPhone

iPhone with metaphorical blocks floating above it for wifi, music, etc.

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An Apple iPhone connects to the internet automatically from almost anywhere using a cellular network. iPhones also contain a built-in Wi-Fi antenna to connect to wireless internet networks. Using iPhone Wi-Fi connections provides a couple of benefits:

  • Time savings: Wi-Fi provides much higher network bandwidth than the cellular protocols the iPhone supports. That typically means noticeably faster app downloads and browsing.
  • Cost savings: Any network traffic while the iPhone is connected via Wi-Fi does not count toward monthly data plan quotas.

Monitoring Network Connections on the iPhone

The top left corner of an iPhone's screen displays icons indicating its network status:

Wi-Fi on iPhone
  • Connection strength: A value between one and four bars indicates the wireless signal strength the iPhone detects for the current connection (either Wi-Fi or cellular).
  • Cellular provider: The name of the cell provider (e.g., AT&T) appears next to the connection strength, even when the iPhone has a Wi-Fi connection.
  • Connection type: The type of network connection appears next to the provider's name. This will be text like "3G" or "LTE" if the iPhone is connected to a cellular network. A Wi-Fi icon will appear if that's what the iPhone is using.

An iPhone will automatically switch from the cellular connection when it successfully makes a Wi-Fi connection. Likewise, it will go back to cellular connectivity if the user turns Wi-Fi off or the connection drops.

How to Connect the iPhone to a Wi-Fi Network

The iPhone Settings app contains a Wi-Fi section for managing connections to these networks.

  1. Open the Settings app.

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  2. Tap Wi-Fi, and then switch the slider on the next screen to on/green. Your iPhone will generate a list of available wireless networks under Choose a Network.

    Wi-Fi on iPhone
  3. Tap the name of the network you'd like to join, and then enter the password if necessary.

Once you enter the password once, your iPhone will remember it. Tap the switch next to Auto-Join in the info screen to tell the iPhone to join this network whenever it's possible.

How to Make the iPhone Forget Wi-Fi Networks

To remove a previously configured Wi-Fi network so that iPhone no longer attempts auto-connecting to it or stores the password:

  1. On the Wi-Fi screen, tap the info button next to the network you want your iPhone to forget.

    Wi-Fi on iPhone
  2. Tap Forget This Network.

    Wi-Fi on iPhone
  3. If you want to join this network again in the future, it will ask you for a password.

How to Restrict iPhone Apps to Use Wi-Fi Only

Some iPhone apps, particularly those that stream video and audio, generate high amounts of network traffic. Because the iPhone automatically reverts to the cellular network when it loses a Wi-Fi connection, a person can quickly consume their monthly cellular data plan without realizing it.

To guard against unwanted cellular data consumption, many high-bandwidth apps include an option to restrict their network traffic to Wi-Fi only. Consider setting this option if it's available on frequently used apps.

Here's how to tell your iPhone not to use cellular data automatically:

  1. Open Settings, and then tap Cellular.

    Wi-Fi on iPhone
  2. Tap the switch next to Cellular Data to off/white.

    Wi-Fi on iPhone
  3. You can also leave Cellular Data on if you don't want to risk being without a connection in an emergency. The Cellular Data Options menu gives you control over what you use the connection for.

    Data Roaming lets your iPhone connect to another network when it's outside your cellular provider's range. Turn this option off to avoid extra (roaming) charges from your carrier.

    If you have an Enable LTE option, you can set your network to use cellular for data, voice & data, or neither. Turning it off restricts both data and call activity.

    Turning off cellular data may make your iPhone run slower.

    Wi-Fi on iPhone
  4. If your carrier supports Wi-Fi Calling, you can also switch that on to save data. This function lets you make calls using a wireless network instead of a cell plan.