iOS 11 features: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles

Chris Burns - Sep 20, 2017
2
iOS 11 features: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles

In iOS 11 feature nitpicking today we’re getting down to business with the newest set of toggles in the software’s Control Center. Apple’s documentation makes clear their intentions: allowing some parts of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to remain active while the user turns other parts off in their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. There is a whitelist of devices and functionality that remains active unless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are turned off deeper inside iOS 11’s settings.

This “feature” as covered by Apple in iOS 11 documentation was brought to our attention by Motherboard, who’ve done a good job finding a number of ways in which having your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on all the time is a sort-of bad idea. Leaving Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on can open the user up to some sorts of malicious attacks, the kinds of which we’re not going to delve too deep into here today. The pressure point is this: turning Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off in iOS 11’s control center is not the same as turning them off completely.

Temp turn-off, then turn back on

Turning Wi-Fi or Bluetooth off in iOS 11’s Control Center is a temporary measure. Apple’s documentation explains that disabling Bluetooth or Wi-Fi through iOS 11’s control center will work until one of a variety of things happens.

Either/Both turn back on if:
• You restart your device
• It’s 5AM local time

Bluetooth turns back on if:
• You turn Bluetooth back on in Control Center
• You connect to a Bluetooth accessory in Settings – Bluetooth

Wi-fi turns back on if:
• You turn Wi-Fi back on in Control Center
• You drive or walk to a new location (distance unknown)
• You connect to a Wi-Fi network in Settings – Wi-Fi

Until-further-notice turn-off

To turn Wi-Fi or Bluetooth off until you specifically turn either one back on, you’ll need to go to one of the following two locations, both starting in Settings.

• Settings – Wi-Fi – turn off Wi-Fi
• Settings – Bluetooth – turn off Bluetooth

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Whitelist

The following features and/or devices will continue to utilize Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth even if you turn either off in the Control Center. It’s not yet clear how Apple allows only these devices in while the rest of the world is blocked out.

Whitelist for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in iOS 11:
• AirDrop
• AirPlay
• Apple Pencil
• Apple Watch
• Continuity features, like Handoff and Instant Hotspot
• Instant Hotspot
• Location Services

Apple suggests that turning Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth off in the Control Center will result in an “immediate disconnect from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth accessories.” The device will disconnect UNLESS the connected feature and/or device is on the whitelist.

All of the devices and/or features on the whitelist will be disconnected if their connectivity means (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) is switched off in Settings.

Reasons for temp-toggles

Apple suggests the following as a sort of explanation for the temporary-off instead of total-off of these connectivities. “For the best experience on your iOS device,” said Apple, “try to keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on.” There’s a variety of magical features that work only when Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth are active. …But the most likely situation is that Apple probably gets an insane amount of questions at the Genius Bar with answers that amount to “you just have your Bluetooth turned off for some reason, it should connect now.”

The other possibility has to do with a similar situation in which the iPhone is given alerts based on its proximity to Bluetooth beacons. These beacons cant very well work if the iPhone’s Bluetooth is turned off completely – where’s the magic in that? Have a peek at our several-years-old but still-relevant exploration of bluetooth-powered Gimbal, then still under Qualcomm and just getting revved up for big-time business.

If Apple has figured out how to block every connection but the ones they’ve listed when these toggles flip these connectivities off, then that’s neat. I don’t know if it’s an entirely responsible way to implement such a change without making said change a big announcement. But here we are. This is not likely the last we’ll hear about this situation – stay tuned.


Must Read Bits & Bytes