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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Critical Flaw in Apple's iOS?


When I switched to an iPhone a year ago and ditched my BlackBerry, I thought I had also left crippling issues like RIM's famous widespread network issues far behind as well. As it turns out, even Apple has a glaring flaw that can disable a very important feature on the phone; WiFi.

I excitedly upgraded my iPhone 4S to iOS 6 today (more on my impressions in another post) and was fine for most of the day, only to come home and find out that I couldn't connect to my home WiFi connection without getting this annoying prompt: 



So what was the problem?


Well thankfully I didn't restore my router to factory defaults, or attempt to downgrade or wipe my iPhone like some others I saw in heated discussion forums. It turns out that all along the problem was with Apple. Highlighting a critical flaw I never knew existed, I've learned that whenever you attempt to make any WiFi connection, iOS transparently attempts to navigate to the following website:


The purpose of this is to allow the OS to check if you are behind a hotspot paywall that requires you to sign an agreement or pay for WiFi access. If they didn't do this, and you tried to use an app over WiFi rather than browsing to a website via Safari, you could encounter issues trying to get a data connection. If iOS navigates successfully to this page, it knows you aren't behind a paywall and off you go. If it hits a page requiring user input, it directs you to that instead of simply showing a successful WiFi connection. 

The problem with all this is that if that Apple website is down, like it was for at least an hour today, everything comes to a screeching halt. No Wifi access, many irritated users, and a glaring flaw exposed that I hope Apple will find a way to fix in the long term. Some would even argue that this is a security flaw and not just a major annoyance.

I suspect millions of people were affected by this issue until Apple finally fixed it on their end. How about you, were you affected?