RealTime IT News

Apple Partly Addresses iPad Wi-Fi Issue

Despite many positive reports of a successful iPad launch this week, some users had persistent complaints about problems with the device's Wi-Fi connectivity.

The complaints -- on user forums, tech blogs and other sites -- range from users reporting weak signals to losing the Wi-Fi connection altogether. Many users also said they were experiencing no Wi-Fi issues with other Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) products, such as iPhones and MacBooks, in the same location.

Apple's own Discussion forum topic "weak wifi" was flooded with complaints by users who said they've had mixed results maintaining Wi-Fi connection.

"My ipad is having issues with maintaining a wifi connection. It usually drops every 10-20 minutes. To resolve this, I go and turn off the wifi and turn it back on. It's frustrating and time consuming," one user, identified as "skoota73," wrote on the forum. "Another issue is that when it is connected, I have issues with playing video. It's either very slow or doesn't load at all."

Another user, "dmacintyre," likewise complained: "Let me add my voice to the throng. I'm getting one or two bars on my iPad in rooms where my iPhone, iPod Touch, both MacBook Pros, Apple TV and Playstation all get full service. I'm also encountering dropped connections from sleep on my iPad when all other devices do not drop connections. Plus when I do try to reconnect, the connection is refused for about a minute, maybe two -- the Wi-Fi connection in the settings menu shows a signal but no signal is shown at the top of the screen."

"This is definitely a fault with the iPad, either with the physical design or the software. No other devices exhibit this behavior," the user added.

While Apple has not released an official statement on the issue, the company did finger "third party Wi-Fi routers" in a support document titled: "iPad: Does not automatically rejoin known Wi-Fi networks."

The document said that at least some of the problems could be caused by multi-mode routers using the same network name for different networks -- such as an 802.11g and 802.11n network -- or if they use different security settings for each network.

"Under certain conditions, iPad may not automatically rejoin a known Wi-Fi network after restart or waking from sleep," the document stated.

Apple suggested users might be able to fix the problem by creating separate Wi-Fi network names to identify each network mode offered by a Wi-Fi access point. "This can be done easily by appending one or more characters to the current network name. Example: Add a G to the 802.11b/g network name and an N to the 802.11n network name," the document said. "Ensure that both networks use the same security type (WEP, WPA, WPA2, and so on)."

"If the issue persists, reset your network settings using Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings."

But Apple Discussion forum user "oneshot onekill" may have spoken for many of those complaining about the issues when he suggested that Apple needs to do more to address the problem.

"OK... all of the posts about temporary fixes and firmware updates are well and good at home. But part of the attraction of this thing is the ability to use it wherever you can get a Wi-Fi signal. I seriously doubt that Starbucks, or Panera Bread, or the local library, or the airport, or anywhere else you SHOULD be able to use it will be messing with or replacing their router just so we can use our iPad there. APPLE needs to fix this..."

Apple did not respond to a request for official comment by press time.

Some iPads, other Apple mobile devices work fine

A number of users posted comments that they weren't having any Wi-Fi issues while some mentioned problems in specific locations. There were also many suggestions to apply different settings to improve connectivity.

Likewise, industry analyst Tim Bajarin said he and his staff have been using five different iPads in different locations without any connectivity problems. "I'm not going to say there isn't anything to the complaints, but the units we have have been working great," Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com.

Still, Bajarin noted that older routers could be the source of many of the reported problems, particularly in public locations.

"You have some routers in place that go back ten years," he said. "And there is no question that when you make a device in these quantities, you could have a modem chip that has problems, but these seem to be isolated incidents -- it's not an epidemic."

"I'm certain Apple will do everything it can at the device level to address this," he added. "Any first-generation product is going to have some glitches."

User "mbell75 " on the Apple discussion page agreed with Bajarin's assessment, but that didn't mean he was happy.

"Well, I hope it is fixable as well, but let's be honest, just about any brand-new device is going to have some issues. The cool thing about being some of the first to own it are the bragging rights. The not-so-cool thing is being the proverbial guinea pigs," he said.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.