iPhone Won’t Connect (or Stay Connected to) Wifi Network

by Michael on April 1, 2012 · 2 comments

I recently ran into a problem with my iPhone. We were out for lunch and it wouldn’t stay connected to the wifi network at the local eatery. Not a huge deal since I have unlimited data, but my wife couldn’t connect either, and she has a low-end plan.


For background, my wife is new to the wonderful world of the iPhone so I was helping her get it set up. As part of this process, I wanted to download a number of apps to get her started. Given that she has just 200MB of data/month, however, I wanted to do this all over wifi instead of burning up her data allotment.

So… I jumped on the wifi network but it wouldn’t connect. It looked like it did, as it displayed a checkmark next to the network in the settings app, but the 3G indicator stayed up there in the menu bar and the phone stayed on the cellular data network.

I then tried with my iPhone and ran into the same problem. I tried resetting the network settings (go to Settings > General > Reset) but that didn’t help. I also tried a neighboring wifi network with the same result. Frustrating.

After a bit of experimentation, I discovered that it was possible to force a connection to the wifi network, but that it wouldn’t last. I did this by turning on airplane mode (which turns off the phone radio) and then re-enabling the wifi functionality.

But… As soon as I switched airplane mode off, the 3G connection overrode the wifi connection. Very strange. I still don’t have a solution, but what I can say is this…

It’s not an absolute problem. Our home wifi network and most others work just fine. It’s worth noting that the troublesome networks both had strong signal, so I don’t think that was the issue. And because it was a problem for two different networks (and two phone), it seems unlikely to be network-specific (or phone-specific).

Maybe it’s a problem on the 3G side of things. Whatever the cause, it sure was annoying — especially for my wife, who needs to be careful about data usage.


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