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iOS 6 Triggers Wonky WiFi Woes

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 28, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Maps aren't the only thing causing grumbling among the Apple faithful these days. Complaints are piling up about WiFi performance, too.

iOS 6 Triggers Wonky WiFi Woes

Customer grousing about WiFi problems has filled 93 pages at one Apple forum with beefs about disabled options, failure to link to corporate networks and logy connections.

After upgrading his iPhone 4S to iOS 6, Adam Nations, communications director for uBreakiFix, a national smartphone repair chain, said he began experiencing WiFi connectivity problems.

"I had a problem connecting to a WiFi network that I had connected to at one of our stores without a problem before," he told MacNewsWorld. However, when he tried to log on as a guest, the connection went through.

Since that time, he has replaced his 4S with an iPhone 5 and hasn't experienced any WiFi problems, although he has encountered snafus with data downloads over LTE.

Download Woes

Some members of Apple's online user communities would have been glad to have Nations' connection problems. That's because they couldn't even get WiFi to work on their phones. Several reported WiFi on their 4Ss being disabled and not being able to re-enable it.

Apple did not respond to our request for comment for this story. However, for a number of the forum members, Apple's solution to the problem was to replace their phones.

Other forum members complained of being unable to connect to corporate networks. In one case, Apple's "genius" support was less than helpful. "Just got off the phone with Apple Support and they recommended the IT department make security WPA changes as well as upgrade their firmware," one user wrote.

Performance tests on the iPhone 5 by ABI Research revealed that WiFi was a sore point in the device, according to the firm's vice president of engineering Jim Mielke. "I saw the problem in the lab," he told MacNewsWorld. "It gets stuck in a very low download rate."

Software Fix Needed?

Ordinarily, an iPhone user should get download speeds of 10 to 15 megabits per second. The iPhone 5, he said, "gets stuck at 300 kilobits per second and basically does almost nothing."

The problem only occurs with downloads; upload performance is normal, he said. "But it's the downlink that you're using most of the time," he added.

ABI's tests suggest software is the source of the problem, Mielke asserted. "It's something with the iOS not communicating properly with the connectivity chips," he said.

"That'd sort of good for Apple because they should be able to fix that with an Over The Air update," he added.

No Hard Data

If the problem is occurring on multiple models and devices, it's reasonable to deduce it's a software problem, according to Rob Williamson, marketing manager for Chipworks. That's because the iPhone 5 is "dramatically different" from previous iPhones inside, he explained.

"If these WiFi problems are occurring across devices, you can conclude it's a software issue because the silicon is quite different between the iPhone 5 and the other devices," he told MacNewsWorld.

Although scores of users are apparently having WiFi problems after updating to iOS 6, many more aren't having any problems at all. "No one appears to have any real numbers on how widespread the problem is," Carl Howe, research director for the Yankee Group told MacNewsWorld.

Howe owns several iPhone and an iPad 3 and hasn't experienced any WiFi problems since upgrading them to iOS 6.

Perils of Rapid Adoption

One reason problems with an Apple iOS can become magnified is because of the swiftness at which they're adopted, he argued. "When most companies release an upgrade, the pace of upgrade is pretty slow," he said.

"What happened here is that 20 percent of all iOS devices were running iOS 6 within a week," he continued. "So the sheer user base that ran the software was huge."

When the number of online complaints are expressed as a percentage of that user base, he reasoned, "it's a really small number."

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