Saturday, September 25, 2010

Know when you are using WiFI vs 3G on your iPhone

I first got a data plan with my Nokia N95 8GB - just $5 for 50MB a month because frankly it isn't a good "Internet" machine. YouTube never worked over 3G and browsing the web on the N95's tiny screen and navigating with "physical" buttons was slow, clunky and painful. When I was given an iPhone 4 last week (thank you Süheyla and Talya!) I wanted to test just how much of a 3G Internet hog I could become, so I upped the plan to $15 for 1GB a month, to kick in during the next billing period (a couple of weeks or so from now).

In the mean-time, I found a couple of cool Internet radio applications and began using them at work and home - where I have access to Wi-FI. Today I checked my 3G Internet usage and found I have a bill for $256.97 for 125.48MB excess beyond my 50MB per month (excess Usage 0.20¢ per KB). I rang my supplier to explain the situation and asked to be forgiven for the debt. Politely enough I was refused and given a $20 discount instead.

It was explained to me that the iPhone has a feature: if the Wi-FI gets disconnected, it automatically switches over to 3G. I was horrified; under normal situations I would think this a cool feature, but not while I have only 50MB a month!

So here is my lesson; maybe you can learn it too.

How do i know if my iPhone is using Wi-FI or my Data Plan? On the top left of the screen, to the right of your supplier's name is an icon. This symbol means you are currently using your 3G data plan:

This symbol means you are currently using a Wi-FI network:

See page 21-22 of the iPhone User Guide to see what all of the possible icons mean - including EDGE and GPRS, which are other forms of Internet connectivity offered by certain suppliers.

Great - but it didn't save me, since obviously my Wi-FI disconnected at some point and automatically switched over to my 3G data plan. I have since found that you can stop that from happening too (iOS 4, iPhone 4): go to Settings > General Network > turn off Mobile Data. This will ensure that from now on, I will only be able to use Wi-FI for Internet - at least until my 1GB plan kicks in.