What went wrong with iOS 6 Wi-Fi

What went wrong with iOS 6 Wi-Fi

Summary: If you have an Apple device that you just upgraded to iOS 6, you may have lost your Wi-Fi connection for a while. Here's what happened.

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Yesterday's iOS 6 Wi-Fi problems had more to do with an Apple Web site blunder than iOS 6.

Yesterday was a big day for Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad fans. The latest and greatest version of iOS 6, the operating system for late model Apple devices, was out. Millions of eager users upgraded... and then their Wi-Fi failed. What went wrong?

It was ironic. The update itself went amazingly well for many users. IOS 6 also fixed many security problems. And, most users were very happy with this update. Well, except for the ones that couldn't connect with the Internet. They were none too happy.

Fortunately for them, Apple was able to quick fix the problem.

So what happened? A network configuration blunder? Some glitch in the code itself? Something odd in the IOS 6 default Wi-Fi setting? No, no, and no.

The problem turned out to be that when you turned your device on and you tried to connect with a Wi-Fi network, the first thing iOS 6 did was to try to connect to an Apple Web page. All that page does is return the word, “Success.” If the device couldn't reach that page, it returned a 404 error. The Wi-Fi connection routine then presumed you must be behind a login page for a public or corporate Wi-Fi network, say your local coffee-shop or your office, and it then allowed the local login page to load.

But, what happened if you were trying to login into your own or an open Wi-Fi network and iOS 6 couldn't find the Web page? All kinds of bad things, most of which boiled down to this: You couldn't connect to your Wi-Fi network. 

How could this happen? Well, someone who used to be an Apple employee seems to have deleted that Web page. Whoops! And, just like that, many newly updated iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads users were locked off the Internet.

Apple quickly brought the page back and reports of iOS 6 Wi-Fi problems have vanished like morning dew under the early day sun. I still think there's a problem hiding here waiting to come out and bite users again.

While I'm sure Apple will never take that page down again, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack could knock out Apple's Web site and thus many of its iOS 6 users again. I think Apple should rewrite that bit of code to check on more than just a single in-house Web page to prevent another such single point of failure problem reappearing again.

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Topics: Apple, iPhone, iPad, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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22 comments
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  • Anyone else think that's a rather hacky method of operation?

    I could see why someone would delete a page like that. A page that just says success would look like useless clutter to someone that didn't intimately know the system. Granted, I would HOPE that something like this would have some commented text in there explaining why it's there, but well, they're developers. It still feels kludgey to me though. If Apple's web server goes down for any reason, does this mean everybody's Wifi also stops working?
    Aerowind
    • Kludge yes!

      Yes, that's quite a kludge! This sort of practice makes me worry that Apple devices will not stay fully functional until the hardware wears out, but rather are quite likely to become disabled earlier. I suppose it comes with the territory of accepting a reduced number of user settings in a device. The Apple device's visit to the Apple web page is specifically to help determine settings rather than getting them directly from the user, unless there's some secret way to enter more settings that I don't know about. When Apple tires of keeping your hardware configuration operating, you'll have your last update, and at that point your device's days of succesfully interacting with newer hardware, software and protocols are probably numbered.
      EngineerCitizen
  • Wait a minute...

    No Linux/Android/Google cheerleading...
    No ant-Microsoft stomping and arm-waving...
    Not even a huge "Apple sucks Android sour grape juice" statement...

    Nothing but a more or less informative article on what happened and why, and possibly even a suggestion on how to fix said problem..

    Steven.. dude.. you need to go to the hospital.. there is seriously something wrong with your health today!
    daftkey
  • New in iOS 6?

    Previous iOS versions used to load the entire Apple home page (www.apple.com). It is better now, as that page while minimalistic still contained graphics etc.
    danbi
    • Something HAS changed though

      Connecting to the guest network at work, which used to require 1 or 2 logins a day, now requires a log in every single time the iPhone wakes up. Before, I used to be able to get 1Password to automatically log me in. Not any more. With iOS 6, only the Settings app can see the wireless network so now I have to manually type in my user name and password approximately 20 times a day.

      This is horrible. Epic epic fail. This does not "Just Work".
      toddbottom3
    • Yes New in iOS 6

      just before in iOS 5.1 i didn't have this problem.
      And it's not solve or the way solve it is far from the right way to do it.
      Why ?
      because it's still not working on wifi without web connexion and it was with iOS 5.1
      jllf
  • What went wrong with iOS 6 Wi-Fi

    That is a rather weird way to test for wi-fi.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • The test is not for wifi

      The test is for hotspot (captive portal).

      Without this test, the hotspot page will load in all browser windows/tabs you may already have open. Instead, Apple first tests the connection (before letting anything other communicate) and if hotspot is detected, opens separate browser window to handle the login. Works the same way in iOS and OS X.
      Very clever, I must say.
      danbi
      • Yeah... REALLY clever

        hahahaha.... unreal
        12312332123
      • This never happened to me

        "Without this test, the hotspot page will load in all browser windows/tabs you may already have open."

        Weird how this never happened to me on iOS 4.8 (what iPhone 4S users call iOS 5). It worked well enough right up until I installed iOS 4.9 (what iPhone 5 users call iOS 6).
        toddbottom3
  • Not so sure..

    ...about your explanation. I had the same problem yesterday, after a while I just powered it off, powered it back on and the problem went away. Don't think this is coincident.
    Moreover, am I being tracked by Apple? The reason is, if every time I connect to a Wifi network, my phone contacts Apple server and it returns a "success" message. How can we be sure Apple not sending our IP, personal info,... to them for whatever purposes? I guess, for now, one of those purposes is used for "Find My iPhone" on iCloud.
    greenoil
  • WiFi != Internet

    What if I want to connect to a WiFi network that isn't connected to the Internet, or has heavily filtering in place? What if my ISP, GoDaddy, or whoever is having some problem? Might not happen often but it seems strange to just turn off WiFi under such circumstances.
    frylock
    • It works

      No idea what that particular problem was, I updated all my iOS devices at that time and didn't notice anything like that.

      The hotspot detection actually looks for redirect. This is what the captive portals do. Redirect to the login page and then to the original site. So if there is redirect, that loads anything but "Success" the "this is hotspot" logic fires. If there is no Internet connectivity etc, it doesn't.
      danbi
  • Just remember

    it's not the outdated hardware, it's the smooth running OS that makes the difference.
    timspublic1@...
  • I updated pretty early...

    I had huge issues with this... and it was WAAAAAAAY longer than the 40 minutes another poster claimed. Being in Australia, we kinda got the updates (ad the iPhones) before many others. That morning, I fell asleep on the couch and was woken by an email arriving on my iPad (which was laying next to me... I was reading a book when I fell asleep). As I had woken, and realised it was "update day", I checked and it was there. This is around 4:00am WST (which is GMT+8 for people elsewhere). I updated my device because, as I work in IT, I was probably going to get questions about it al day anyway.

    What happened next was being greeted with an iOS config page. No worries. Went through the wizard and got to the point of connecting to my wireless. It detected, I tapped it, and I then got a "Login" page popup that connected to Apple.com, and returned a "Hmm, the page you’re looking for can’t be found" error (404). The only option was to click "Close" - which then disconnected my Wi-Fi. repeated this a dozen or so times... never once getting the "Skip" option usually see. Then, at approximately 7:30am WST (over 3 hours later), I repeated the process on my iPhone... and STILL had the 404. I eventually got the skip to apear on both devices and configured them... but each Wi-Fi connection caused the error still.

    It wasn't until 8:30am (ish) where I got the "Success" message, but even then it only displayed a "Close" option that would disconnect my Wi-Fi. This occurred using my home WPA2-PSK network and my work WPA2-Enterprise wireless. Not good enough!

    And, by the way, every connection to a webpage sends your UserAgent, IP Address, etc., to the web hot. Apple will, guaranteed, use that data for "iOS 5 activation" data. But I consider that unsolicited "tracking" - which is in breach of the privacy option I chose to turn off on the devices.
    NKX
  • Former employees can delete Apple web pages? No big deal?

    > Well, someone who used to be an Apple employee seems to have deleted
    > that Web page. Whoops!

    Fired Apple employees can delete any Apple web-page... and also turn off *ALL* wi-fi for every iPhone5 user???? And you say that's an "whoops"? (Do you know absolutely nothing about network security????)

    > While I'm sure Apple will never take that page down again

    Apple did NOT "take the page down".
    Kitten_Lady
  • Staying with 4s and iOS 5.x

    My 4s works great...so glad I skipped these "upgrades"...kinda dumb to have a hardware function predicated on whether a specific webpage can be reached or not...kludgy.
    JP2k1x
  • This is not the i5's only wifi issue

    There are hundreds of reports on the Apple forum about an i5 issue with the inability to connect/stay connected to a WPA2 protected network. Reportedly Apply stores have be offering replacement phones (if available) to those who complain. Still no word from Apple on a cause or possible fix.
    jm_cook
  • SIM Card Problem NOT Fixed in iOS6

    I, and I believe many other users, had a problem with iOS5.1.1 in which the SIM card (previously working) was no longer recoginzed. I hoped this bug would be fixed in iOS6, but it is not. I will now have to take my iPad into a service center, as the SIM works in a phone, but NOT the iPad...
    greg_turnbull
  • Wifi

    Hi,
    I have the Ipad 3rd Generation ipad and upgraded to Ios 6 when the update was available. I have been going back and forth with Apple support ever since as I have limited functionality to connect to Networks via wifi since the update. In short, I can connect to my wifi at home but it's touch and go with other networks. There is apparantly (according to apple) an issue with wifi connectivity that they have not as yet been able to resolve. It's an encryption issue apparently based on what support informed me. As I cant downgrade to ios5 I have to wait for an update from apple in order to have functionality to connect to other networks
    Lennon303