Being able to use a Wi-Fi network is pretty much an essential function of any smartphone these days, so if you’re having problems with your iPhone maintaining a Wi-Fi connection it can very quickly become frustrating – especially if you have limited data available on your contract and don’t want to switch to cellular (5G or 4G) in order to get a better signal.
Here’s a few things to try if you want to find out why your iPhone is dropping its Wi-Fi signal and stop it from happening.
Before moving onto more complex solutions, it’s best to make sure that simple things aren’t causing the problem. Here’s a few settings and process to check at the outset.
Run Software Update
It’s usually* a good idea to ensure that you’re using the latest version of iOS, as sometimes older versions can contain bugs that were subsequently fixed by updates.
To check you’re on the latest version of iOS, open Settings > General > Software Update and if you see a newer iteration is available.
If it is tap Download and Install.
*We say ‘usually’, however, sometimes it’s the software update that’s the problem! In the past iPhone users have complained when following an iOS update they have found their iPhones drop their Wi-Fi connection. In the past software updates have left iPhone users unable to maintain a Wi-Fi connection, so if you think you might be in that category take a look at Apple’s forums to see if others are sharing the same problem).
Check your settings
It might seem silly, but it’s also worth having a quick look at your settings to ensure that you haven’t accidentally turned off Wi-Fi or enabled Airplane Mode, as both will make it impossible to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
To quickly check your connection status open control centre (swipe down from the top right or swipe up from the bottom depending on whether your iPhone has a Home button).
In the top left the icon for Airplane Mode should be faded out and below that the Wi-Fi icon should be blue.
Alternatively, open the Settings app and you should see controls for both of the aforementioned features at the top of the page.
Airplane mode should have its toggle switch moved to the left, grey not green, while the Wi-Fi option should show a network name rather than the word Off.
Check you are connected to the right Wi-Fi
Speaking of which, check that the Wi-Fi network you are connected to is the right one. If there are multiple networks in your area you may have managed to connect to a different one that perhaps you have used in the past (we know someone whose iPhone used to connect to a printer network, as in the case illustrated above.) Switch to the one you mean to use and follow the instructions below to permanently disconnect from the unwanted network.
Check your iPhone is set to automatically connect
When our iPhone wasn’t maintaining a connection to our Wi-Fi network we found that it was no longer “auto joining”.
To rectify this:
- Go to Settings.
- Tap on the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to.
- Make sure that the slider beside Auto-Join is on.
Stop your iPhone using Wi-Fi assist
If your Wi-Fi is a bit temperamental you may want to stop your iPhone from connecting to cellular whenever the Wi-Fi is weak.
Wi-Fi Assist was one of those useful (or not useful) features Apple added years ago in iOS 9 that if it detects that the Wi-Fi network has a poor signal will ‘helpfully’ drop the signal in favour of your 4G or 3G signal.
To turn off this setting follow these steps:
- Open Settings.
- Go to Mobile Data.
- Scroll down to the bottom where you will find the Wi-Fi Assist option.
- Deselect it.
We had deselected this setting years ago, but it appears that a recent iOS update has reverted it back to the original setting.
Reboot your iPhone
It’s a strange but immutable fact that many of life’s tech-related issues can be solved by simply restarting your device. There’s a reason the chaps in the TV show The IT Crowd started all tech-support queries with the mantra, “have you tried turning it off and on again?” That’s because it’s often the easiest and most effective ways of overcoming problems.
If you aren’t sure how to do that here’s how to reboot your iPhone, but, on recent iPhone handsets, it should be a simple case of pressing the up and down volume buttons and then pressing and holding the off switch (if you don’t press the volume controls first you just start Siri).
Reboot your router
If it’s your router then it might be a good idea to turn that off and on again too.
When you turn off your router you should wait 20-30 seconds before turning it on again. Or even better, unplug your router, wait a few minutes and then then plug it back in again. Now wait while your router reconnects.
Check it’s not your broadband provider’s fault
It’s possible that there are issues with your line that aren’t fixed by restarting or resetting.
You could check whether there is a local outage for your provider on a site like Downdetector.
We often find out Wi-Fi is at its worse when it’s raining – which could be a sign that there is a problem with your cables. It’s worth flagging with your provider.
If having tried all these steps you are still having problems with your iPhone dropping the Wi-Fi connection we have some slightly more complex steps to follow below.
Check signal strength
If you’ve checked all the above and are still having problems, then the issue must be elsewhere. A good place to start your investigation is signal strength. Houses and other locations can have dead spots where the Wi-Fi network becomes unstable. Big, old houses are notorious for this problem.
Start by opening the Settings app and tap on the Wi-Fi option.
To the right of the network name you want to use, check to see how many of the three lines in the Wi-Fi symbol are black. If all three are filled in then the signal should be strong enough to maintain the connection, meaning the problem lies in another area, but if only one of the lines is black then it shows that the signal strength is low, which could cause the iPhone to drop connection.
If it’s the latter, you can try moving to another part of the room, building or general area to see if the strength improves. Take a look at our guide on how to improve Wi-Fi signal for more ideas on overcoming this issue.
Check the password
Another common problem is either the wrong password being used or the existing one somehow becoming corrupted. For the first issue, check that the password you’re entering is using the correct upper and lower cases, as Wi-Fi passwords are sensitive to this.
Forget the network
Should the above not make a difference, you can try ‘forgetting’ the network details and starting over.
- To do this, go to Settings > Wi-Fi.
- Tap on the network name you want to use.
- You’ll see the option Forget This Network. Tap this.
- Next go back to the Wi-Fi section and tap on the network name once more.
- You’ll need to enter the details again.
We find that forgetting the network and then setting it up again often fixes problems with connecting to specific networks.
Reset the network settings
If you’re still having issues, then a stronger approach might be needed.
- Go to Settings > Reset.
- Select the Reset Network Settings option.
- You’ll need to enter your iPhone passcode to confirm the decision, then the device will reboot.
When it’s ready, go to the Wi-Fi section, select the network, then enter the password again. Hopefully this time it will all work.
Reset all network connections
Should all else fail, you can take a more unilateral approach and reset all of your network connections. This will require you to enter the details of all of them afterwards, but it has been know to fix lingering connection issues. This is a destructive method though, so it might be worth backing up your iPhone before attempting it.
Go to Settings > General > Reset then select the Reset All Settings option.
Again, you’ll need to enter your passcode to confirm the decision after which your iPhone will reboot.
Visit an Apple Genius
If you’ve done all of these things and still find your iPhone can’t hold a connection, then there may be a technical fault with the device itself. So, it might be worth booking an appointment at the Genius bar to have one of Apple’s technicians take a look.
Sometimes your Wi-Fi network is just poor, but there may be steps you can take to improve it. Read our guide to improving your Wi-Fi signal and speed up internet.
We also have a tutorial about Fixing Wi-Fi problems on your Mac and this tutorial about fixing problems with the cellular connection on your iPhone.