There’s a feature on iPhones called Wi-Fi Assist that is a common source of confusion for a lot of users. Wi-Fi Assist helps your iPhone switch to cellular data with your carrier when your local Wi-Fi is too weak to offer fast enough loading speeds.
That sounds risky especially if you have a limited monthly data cap, but most people shouldn’t have to worry about turning Wi-Fi Assist off. Here’s how to check and understand how much data Wi-Fi Assist is actually using.
There are plenty of stories on the Internet about how Wi-Fi Assist could cause your phone bill to rack up overage charges including local media reports and a viral LinkedIn article that a family member recently sent me.
These stories typically make Wi-Fi Assist sound scary and encourage you to disable the feature. In most cases, however, you can leave Wi-Fi Assist on and benefit from it when needed.
How to check how much data Wi-Fi Assist has used
This capability was missing when Wi-Fi Assist was first introduced, but Apple quickly implemented it in a later software update. Simply go to Settings → Cellular → swipe all the way down → and look for Wi-Fi Assist.
Under Wi-Fi Assist, you’ll see something like ‘55.1 MB’ depending on how much cellular data Wi-Fi Assist has used.
Below that, you’ll see a Reset Statistics button above the date of the last reset. In my example, I see ‘Aug 29, 2016 1:16 PM’ so Wi-Fi Assist has used 55.1 MB over a five month period.
In context, I have a 15 GB monthly data plan (or you could say 15,000 MB monthly data plan) so 55.1 MB over several months is a drop in the bucket. A lot of people have 2 GB data plans (or 2000 MB data plans) so using 10 MB on Wi-Fi Assist over one month probably isn’t a risk.
Check with your carrier to determine your monthly data plan (in some cases you may be able to raise your data at a better rate) and put your own Wi-Fi Assist usage stats in context.
Wi-Fi Assist is on by default, but you can find the toggle to disable Wi-Fi Assist in the same section as the usage stats if you decide the feature is still too risky.
Apple notes that you’ll always see the Wi-Fi symbol disappear from the status bar when Wi-Fi Assist kicks in, and the feature does not work when roaming charges could be applied. Wi-Fi Assist also won’t kick in when using apps that download large amounts of data or apps acting in the background.
These steps help keep Wi-Fi Assist useful without making it a problem feature that everyone should disable by default.