Not all changes that new software versions bring are always welcome with open arms. It isn’t uncommon for one or two or even more new features, or the removal of such, while strike a nerve. In the case of Apple‘s iOS 9, that is probably the contentious Wi-Fi Assist. Supposedly designed to make surfing the Web a more fluid and painless experience, it has actually caused more pain for users unaware of the feature and the data charges that it brings. Apple isn’t disable the feature in iOS 9.3 beta 1, but it will let you keep an eye on it at least.
On paper, Wi-Fi Assist sounds good, maybe even great. It will automatically use cellular data when Wi-Fi signal is too poor. It does it all in the background so that the user doesn’t even have to switch it on. This, however, brings two problems. The first is that it is enabled by default upon upgrading to iSO 9, which doesn’t give users the chance to turn it off before it kicks in.
But perhaps worse is the fact that it could let you incur data charges without your knowledge. Not a problem for those with “unlimited” plans, but even then it could mess up your finances if left unchecked. Wi-Fi Assist has, in fact, been recently blamed for a teen’s $2,000 phone bill as one of the more extreme cases. In fact, last October it was actually sued for the feature.
Apple has reacted to these complaints, but perhaps not in a way that will satisfy many. For one, it silently updated its online support page to indicate the dangers of its feature as well as the fact that it’s completely optional. In iOS 9.3 beta 1, it is making another small step forward. The switch for Wi-Fi Assist in the Settings app will now show how much data is actually being consumed by the feature. It’s not going to stop the feature entirely, but now it will have evidence to show whether or not it is really to blame for those excessive charges.
Of course, that information would only be useful to the user if he or she even knows it exists, which will happen only if he or she knows about the Wi-Fi Assist feature in the first place. Discoverability, especially on first use, is still a problem that Apple has so far been unable to address.