Learn How to Turn Cellular Data On and Off

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

In the news business it is called a “scoop” and it is what many reporters live for. I myself am a feature writer, not an investigative reporter and, writing for a weekly publication, I do not often get to cover breaking news. It is nevertheless a thrill to see the mainstream news media belatedly getting around to reporting on a subject that I first covered here in Atención several months ago.

What I refer to is that there was a recent flurry of media coverage centered around class-action lawsuits brought against Apple over the new “Wi-Fi Assist” feature in their iOS 9.1 operating system used on mobile devices. CBS News reported that San Francisco teenager Ashton Finegold was blindsided by a massive US$2,021.07 cell phone bill as a result of using Apple’s Wi-Fi Assist for one month. That is US dollars and not Mexican pesos! Ashton frequently used his smart phone while in his bedroom where there was a weak Wi-Fi signal. His iPhone automatically switched to cellular data; then Ashton unsuspectingly used more than 144 gigabytes.

Apple’s new Wi-Fi Assist feature aims to make connecting to the Internet simpler. This new feature will automatically switch your phone off from free Wi-Fi and onto paid-by-the-minute cellular data usage any time the free Wi-Fi signal is weak. This is intended to improve the user experience by keeping the phone connected to the web at all times, even when Wi-Fi is unavailable.

Wi-Fi Assist is turned on by default in iOS 9 and, though it can be switched off manually, nobody seems to be aware of this. Why? you ask. I understand this is supposed to be explained in Apple’s terms of service that users agree to when forced to click on that button that says [I Agree]. When I looked for this on their website, I found the agreement: 47 pages, 385 paragraphs, and 20,981 words. I did not take time to read it, either.

The problem is that a lot of iPhone and iPad owners did not realize what they were agreeing to, and certainly did not believe they were tacitly giving their consent to, hundreds or thousands of dollars extra added to their cell phone bills. While most iPhone users probably saw only small increases in their monthly cell phone bill, some Internet-addicted users were shocked to be hit with enormous bills, and they are the ones who are now suing Apple for negligent misrepresentation and false advertising. Come back next week and I will offer my comments on the merits of that.

What is more important this week is that if you own a smart phone, regardless if it is Apple or another brand, it behooves you to learn how to turn cellular data on and off. Turn it on when you need to use the Internet and are willing to pay, turn it off to avoid accruing extra charges. Check the status of this setting every time you update anything because the process of installing updates could turn cellular data back on without informing you.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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