Online forums have lit up with complaints from owners of the iPhone 3G who say that the handset’s Wi-Fi function was disabled after they upgraded to the new OS 3.0.
Numerous users are claiming that after upgrading, their iPhone either can’t maintain a Wi-Fi connection, or that it doesn’t download data once it does connect, and they’re asking Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) to fix the problem.
On June 18, a thread appeared on the Apple Support discussion forum titled “Strange Wi-Fi problem on iPhone 3G after 3.0 Update,” which brought the issue to light.
“Essentially, Wi-Fi works fine after the phone has been freshly booted (i.e. right after a restart) — however, once it has put itself into standby mode it will no longer download data over a Wi-Fi connection after the phone is turned on again,” the thread began. “It remains able to find the Wi-Fi network, but simply refuses to download data over it. Have tried restarting my phone and changing the Wi-Fi security from WPA to WEP, but to no avail…”
Forty-two pages later, the posts are still coming, with the latest echoing the same problems, while others claim their handsets can’t make a Wi-Fi connection at all.
Apple did update some troubleshooting tips pertaining to iPhone Wi-Fi connections on July 9, though it doesn’t specifically address the 3G 3.0 upgrade scenario.
However, posts since then claim the tips don’t work and are calling on Apple to take action, with the general concern being that iPhone 3G users will have to wait until September when another OS upgrade is released.
For instance, one post says, “I’ve had similar problems since 3.0 on my 3G. I can’t keep a Wi-Fi connection. I’ve tried: 1) resetting network setting on phone; 2) resetting all settings on phone; 3) two different Wi-Fi networks at home; 4) restoring the iPhone. I’ll get a signal and if I try to download something from the App Store it conks out. I’m actually quite disgusted that Apple is silent on this.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Several iPhone owners also claimed that the company had not responded to their queries seeking a solution to the Wi-Fi issue.
“I think we are all just so frustrated at the lack of Apple’s intervention here,” one handset owner wrote. “There seems to be no response to this huge topic participated by so many. I am compiling a complaint letter to Apple for this problem amongst other things with which I will definitely reference this gigantic thread.”
The user added, “Hopefully September’s update will fix it, I am happy to wait if it is guaranteed to fix it, my worry is that it won’t as there is no mention of any changes to Wi-Fi. I want to keep this thread alive so Apple can see that this problem won’t go away.”
The new iPhone 3GS went on sale June 16, and at the launch, Apple also cut the price on the 3G to $99.
The next day, Apple released the OS 3.0, but already it’s moving onto the 3.1 release, with a beta SDK and firmware now available for developers.
While the glitch is irksome to iPhone owners, it could also be impeding AT&T’s strategy of directing heavy iPhone network traffic to its free Wi-Fi hotspots. The telecom giant, which holds the exclusive contract for the iPhone in the United States, acquired Wayport in 2008 to increase its Wi-Fi footprint. AT&T said in just the first quarter of 2009, more than four million connections were made at its U.S. hotspots with smartphones, including the iPhone 3G.
In June, AT&T began supporting auto-authentication for iPhone OS 3.0 users connecting to its Wi-Fi hotspots. Auto-authentication support means that iPhone users can potentially switch seamlessly from AT&T’s 3G network to one of its Wi-Fi hotspots without taking any action. Previously, iPhone users had to go through a two-step authentication process in order to connect to AT&T’s Wi-Fi network. With the new method, the auto-connect feature is established the first time users connect their iPhones to an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot.
Currently, AT&T operates roughly 20,000 U.S. hotspots at airports, coffee shops (including Starbucks) and other retail outlets, such as Barnes & Noble booksellers. In order to access them, subscribers must have a qualifying iPhone data plan, or they can pay $3.99 for temporary access.
AT&T did not respond to calls seeking comment by press time.
Meanwhile, slated for official release in 3.1 is support for hooks into the iPhone’s capabilities for Multimedia Message Service, or MMS (define). The technology enables people to send video and other media clips to other users — a feature long requested by owners — but requires carrier support to work. To the ire of many users, AT&T does not yet support MMS for the iPhone 3GS. Other multimedia enhancements include APIs to allow third-party applications to access and edit videos.
The iPhone 3.1 OS also adds support for voice control over Bluetooth, as well as improved OpenGL and Quartz graphics support. Additionally, it offers some interface tweaks, enabling the iPhone to vibrate when a user moves icons. The new version also updates the AT&T profile (the carrier settings file) to 4.2.
Version 3.0 of the iPhone operating system includes a slew of features that users had been clamoring for, such as cut-and-paste and “push” updates, which create a persistent connection to Apple’s servers, so news, traffic, stock and sports alerts can be delivered in real time.