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.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fman April 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Easy, I had a similar problem. If you are using Motorola, or a network that has a password that happens to be longer than 15 characters(including underscores, provided a network has underscores in the password), the system will most likely burn out the second you connect(meaning it will show three lines, then disconnect) or it won’t connect at all. That is why the household I live in has 2 wifi – networks; one for computers(long pass code) and the mobile devices (barely 10 Characters). If this helped, feel free to post more questions about this kind of stuff. And one more thing, really? 200MB? If you are short on money sorry, if not, then look into a greater data plan. No offence, but you are welcome.

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Michael April 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Fman: Hmmm. Not sure about that. We have a huge, long password for our wifi network at home and have no problems whatsoever. Also, the public network we were trying to join wasn’t password protected.

As for the small data plan… Yeah, that’s on my wife’s phone. She’s a new iPhone user (as of Christmas) and, honestly, I thought I had set her up with the bigger data plan when I bought it. I just haven’t had time to switch her over since I discovered that she’s on the small plan. I still have the $30 unlimited plan from a few years ago.

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