I just saw this story from iPhone Matters listing a petition with over a thousand names looking for 802.1X support in the iPhone. Somewhat comically, the article refers to 802.1X as 802.11X, 802.1, and 802.1x. Though I’m sure Apple will get it right, I don’t care what they call it, so long as they add it. The iPhone WiFi capability has been far less useful than I was expecting; I generally only use it at home. The time the iPhone takes to check for available networks and let you choose is often longer than the time EDGE would take to complete your request. Also, the Google WiFi network in Mountain View periodically asks for re-authentication via an HTTP captive portal but the iPhone can’t tell when this is requested without me opening Safari. Consider the following scenario:
- I am presented with “GoogleWiFi” as an available SSID and select it.
- I now have to open Safari and enter my Google ID and password before I get a connection.
- From this point on, my iPhone will remember that I use GoogleWiFi but it won’t track when my password is requested.
- So if I’m walking downtown and decide to check my email I’ll never know that Google wants my ID again without always loading Safari first. Want to check weather? Same problem. Essentially, the whims of Google prompting me for my password determine when my phone’s data connection works. If I’m sitting at a stoplight and want to check traffic on Google maps, that is a horrible time to be asked to enter an eight digit user ID and a 13-digit password (what can I say, I’m a security guy).
- Also, the iPhone makes no attempts to determine the signal strength before joining one of your “preferred” networks. So if you happen to get a whiff of GoogleWiFi while at that stoplight and then drive away while your request is being processed, you may wind up in network limbo for far longer than it would take for EDGE to do the job.
As a result, I turned off the “Ask to Join Networks” feature since it mostly wastes my time. Apple needs to do a couple things to really improve the iPhone WiFi capability:
- Add 802.1X Support (Google has an 802.1X option that would largely address my inconsistent authentication concerns). This would also make office connectivity much easier.
- Add a selection when joining a WiFi network to “Join once, then forget.” If you join a pay-to-play open wireless network, you don’t want to rejoin this every time as you won’t have connectivity the next time without reentering your credit card info. This makes the Tmobile Starbucks iTunes connectivity almost more nuisance than novelty. If you connect to Tmobile for free to use the iTunes WiFi store, the rest of your data services stop working until you disconnect from that WiFi network, or pay them some money.
- Be able to set a minimum signal strength prior to joining any previously known wireless network.
- Instead of showing which wireless networks are locked in the “ask to join” screen, instead show which allow network connectivity (i.e. giving out DHCP addresses and not asking for HTTP authentication). I realize this is probably unsolvable as the battery life involved in joining and probing all those wireless networks is probably far too high. Additionally, probing networks is probably a bit unsportsmanlike. I suppose you could implement an “active scan” option on the “ask to join” screen and have a confirmation before you allow it to happen. This would address the battery issue and also perhaps keep Apple out of any direct culpability.
Until then, I’ll deal with EDGE. I actually have been pleasantly surprised by EDGE’s performance. After turning off “ask to join” on WiFi, the phone can get right to making the request, speeding things up considerably.