How Does Wi-Fi Work on an iPhone?

by Sue Smith

Having access to Wi-Fi on an iPhone allows you to minimize the impact on your data plan and, ultimately, your phone bill. Being able to use Wi-Fi for Internet access when you are near an available wireless network means you can use online services without worrying about how much data you're using up. Accessing Wi-Fi on an iPhone is straightforward, as the user interface is designed to give you control and ease of use.

Finding Networks and Connecting

To find available networks in the current area for the iPhone to connect to, choose "Settings," then "Wi-Fi" and any networks detected will be displayed. Tapping on a network will make the iPhone attempt to make a connection to it. The "Wi-Fi" icon will appear in the status bar when you are connected to a network, with the number of bars indicating the strength of your connection. The connection strength depends on the network itself and on how far you are located from it.


If a wireless network is secured, you will need to enter a password to connect to it. If you know the password, you can enter it when you tap the network to connect to it. Secured wireless networks appear listed with a little padlock image next to them, so you can see at a glance which ones are secured and which are not. When entering passwords, you may need to choose a password encryption type from the bar at the top, such as WEP Hex and ASCII, although this depends on the network.

Paid Services

If the network you attempt to connect to is free and not secured, you will immediately be able to access and use Internet services such as web browsing and email, through the wireless network rather than through the mobile phone network. However, sometimes when you connect to a wireless network without entering a password, you will then be taken to a web page in Safari and prompted to enter a password there before you can access any other Internet services. This is how many paid services work, so even though a network is unsecured it may not necessarily be free to use.


It is not uncommon to encounter problems when trying to connect to Wi-Fi on an iPhone. There are a number of methods for making a connection in these circumstances. Checking the password and security type (WEP Password, WEP Hex or ASCII) are the correct ones for the network is the main course of action. If you are having trouble connecting after checking these, If the problem persists, it can be helpful to disconnect from wireless, then reconnect, restarting both the wireless router and iPhone.


If you are not connected to a wireless network, an iPhone will automatically attempt to use the mobile network whenever you or the applications on the phone try to access Internet services. If there are no wireless networks in your area that you can connect to, or you have chosen not to connect to them, your data allowance will be used for Internet access. You can set your iPhone to automatically look for wireless networks and prompt you to join them, within the ":Settings, Wi-Fi" section.

About the Author

Sue Smith started writing in 2000. She has produced tutorials for companies including Apex Computer Training Software and articles on computing topics for various websites. Smith has a Master of Arts in English language and literature, as well as a Master of Science in information technology, both from the University of Glasgow.

Photo Credits

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