You would be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated following of smartphone users than those that buy Apple iPhones. Whether on the news or in person, we've all seen the huge lines of people that flock to Apple stores when the company releases a new product.
On the opening weekend of the iPhone 6S, Apple reportedly sold over 13 million of their new phones, a new record. Despite the strong sales numbers, consumers have been having some trouble with a new feature of iOS9, the latest iteration of Apple's operating system. Wi-Fi Assist is meant to help users boost their Wi-Fi signal if they are experiencing spotty coverage. Unfortunately, having it enabled on your phone can really eat through your data plan and rack up a huge phone bill.
Using up data
For some consumers, this feature will not be a problem at all; if you pay for an unlimited data plan, then it won't really matter if you're utilizing more data to boost your signal. However, if you're like the tens of millions of consumers with a metered data plan, then this might be cause for alarm.
The feature is enabled by default on your phone, so if you do not know about it then you may be unintentionally using much more data than you realize. Users have complained that they went from 1-3 GB of data usage per month to 4-7 GB per month when the feature was active.
In one recent case, a family was charged over $2,000 on their monthly bill for data overages, an increase of over 10 times their usual bill. CBS5's ConsumerWatch reported that the son of this family had received a text message warning him that he was reaching his monthly limit, but that it was only at 65% at the time.
Apparently, the boy habitually used his phone in his room, which has lower signal strength to the family's Wi-Fi than other areas of the house. Wi-Fi Assist kicked in to boost his signal by using his cellular data, but it came at a great cost. Fortunately for the family, AT&T later admitted that the text alert should have been sent to the mother, since she was the primary account holder. As a result, they credited their account for the full amount.
Other consumers will not be as lucky if they go over on their data plans. If you are currently using iOS9 and want to turn Wi-FI Assist off, go into Settings and tap on the “Cellular” option. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this menu and you will see the “Wi-Fi Assist” option; toggle the slider to the left to turn it off.