Exposing Apple, iOS 6 WiFi Problems, & The IPv6 Protocol

** Update 10.29.12 **  I’ve been covering the iOS 6 WiFi problem from day 1 (actually from the first hour iOS 6 was released) – I don’t profess to know everything, but I’ve found (and a lot of the readers that have communicated with me have also found) that more than likely one of the fixes I’ve written about below will resolve your WiFi connectivity issue.  If not, then it’s possible your WiFi problem is outside the scope of iOS 6.

I’ve been anxiously waiting all day today to finally get the time to write this article.  As you know, we’ve been talking a lot about the iOS 6 WiFi problems, I posted earlier the reason as to why iPhone 4s, iPad 2, and iPad 3 devices (after upgrading to iOS 6) and the iPhone 5 straight out the box (because it comes preloaded with iOS 6) are all experiencing WiFi connectivity problems on certain wireless networks.  And as I’ve pointed out the fix was to simply upgrade your wireless router to a firmware update that’s been released no later than the last 10 months – and if you have a wireless router that doesn’t have a firmware update available within the last 10 months then your only real option is to go out and buy a new one.

What I want to explain to everyone is exactly what’s going on with all of this WiFi connectivity drama, why iOS 6 seems to be causing all of these issues (which you’ll seen see it’s not iOS 6′s fault at all), and what’s really at play behind the scene.

What I’m referencing are things like Apple’s insatiable drive for profits, how the United States is behind the curve when it comes to Internet and wireless protocol, and how ultimately iOS 6 is the trigger that had to be pulled to force our country, and all of us in the U.S. that use iPhone and iPad devices, to catch up with the rest of the world’s technology.

First, why all of the WiFi problems with iOS 6?

Let me first try to explain, as best I can without completely losing everyone, why all of these WiFi problems are popping up in the first place.  And it all has to do with thing called IPv6 which stands for Internet Protocol version 6.  As you may have noticed if you own an iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 AND you upgraded to iOS 6, you more than likely had absolutely no problems connecting to the WiFi networks.  I know here in my house we have three iPhone 3GS’s and after upgrading to iOS 6, all three have been connecting perfectly to any and all available WiFi networks.  And you may have noticed the same thing if you have an iPhone 4.  You upgrade to iOS 6 and bam… you connect perfectly to any and all WiFi networks available.

But wait a minute… those of you who have an iPhone 4s, iPad 2, and iPad 3 (sorry 1st gen iPad owners, you were never part of the equation to begin with) and you upgraded to iOS 6 you noticed immediately that you were having WiFi problems.  And of course, those of you who purchased the iPhone 5 noticed the same thing, but you didn’t have to upgrade to iOS 6 because the iPhone 5 was preloaded with iOS 6 right out of the box.

The reason why you were able to upgrade to iOS 6 on your iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 and not have any problems is because the wireless cards in the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 are built to run, and connect to wireless routers, that operate on the old Internet Protocol called IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4).  And if you’ve purchased a wireless router within the last 5 years (which most of you have) then your WiFi network has been connecting devices on IPv4.  So when you upgraded your iPhone 3GS and your iPhone 4 to iOS 6, and because these two specific devices are capable of IPv4 protocol connectivity, you’ve been connecting just fine without any problems.

But when you upgraded your iPhone 4s, iPad 2, iPad 3, and started using your iPhone 5 on these old wireless routers that are only capable of IPv4, your devices haven’t been able to connect.  And the reason why is because the wireless cards (or whatever they are called in iDevices) for the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 2, and iPad 3 require IPv6 protocol if they are running on iOS 6.

Make sense so far???   Basically, if you are running iOS 6 on an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, you’ll probably never have a problem with WiFi connectivity because iOS 6 is not forcing these two specific devices to connect via IPv6.  But once the iPhone 4s, iPad 2, and iPad 3 are running iOS 6 – and of course the iPhone 5 that’s already running iOS 6 – these WILL NOT CONNECT to a wireless network unless the wireless network is capable of IPv6 protocol.

This is exactly why you are having problems with your iOS 6 devices connecting to WiFi networks.  And if you are someplace like your office building, Starbucks, etc… and you are having the WiFi connectivity problems with your iOS 6 enabled iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 2, or iPad 3, then it’s because the wireless routers in that location are outdated – which means they are not operating off the IPv6 protocol.  And since your iOS 6 enabled device is requiring IPv6, you are never going to successfully connect.

Why IPv6?  And how does it relate to the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 2, & iPad 3?

First let me simplify my life a bit here.  I’ve already explained that the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4s will connect fine on iOS 6 to virtually all WiFi networks.  The problems are isolated with the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 2, and iPad 3 AND the fact that iOS 6 is running on these four devices.  So from this point forward, just assuming I’m referencing these four specific devices – that way I don’t have to keep typing them all out.

So why is IPv6 such a critical component, and literally the heart of all the WiFi problems?

Great questions — let me address them in a way that will hopefully leave you not only understanding the relationship, but also more educated as to what happens every time you connect to a network with your iPhone or iPad.

Perhaps the easiest way to explain why IPv6 is playing an important role in all of this is to compare IPv6 with IPv4.  And then I’ll tie all of this in with Apple.

Ready?

Ok, so without writing out a 30,000 word dissertation, let me first say that IPv4 and IPv6 are both IP address protocol platforms that are used here in the United States.  Whenever a device (a laptop, iPhone, Android tablet, a computer, your watch, GPS, printers, etc….) connect to either a network or a data source, an IP address is what allows that device to both send and receive data.

You may recognize this number (or maybe not), but a very common IP address here in the United States is 192.168.1.1.

This is typically the starting IP address for most of the wireless routers that are in use today in the United States and you may be familiar with this IP address because for the wireless routers that use this IP address as the standard point of connection, it’s what you’ll type into your address bar to access the admin dashboard of your wireless router.

Well the IP address of 192.168.1.1 is a typical IPv4 address.  The problem with IPv4 is that it’s limited.  And when you have an internet protocol that’s limited, this means you can only have a limited number of devices connecting to the internet via wireless networks, or really any networks for that matter.

Let’s say, for this example anyway, that the IPv4 protocol that’s our current standard here in the United States is only capable of issuing 422 million IP addresses.  The other way to say this is, the IPv4 protocol is capable of connecting only 422 million devices (computers, mobile phones, etc…).  Obviously, you can see the problem with IPv4, right?  With the explosive growth of smartphones like the iPhone, Android phones, etc… and tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire HD, and Nexus 7, you can easily imagine 422 million IP addresses getting used up pretty quickly.

Well that’s where IPv6 comes in to save the day.  Because IPv6 protocol actually adds two more digits to the original IP address of 192.168.1.1 and creates a new starting IP address of 192.168.1.1.1.1 (notice there are two more digits added to the end of the old IPv4 protocol address).  So this means, under the IPv6 protocol we could literally connect not just hundreds of millions of devices but billions of devices.

** This is important **  With IPv6 protocol, we are now able to connect BILLIONS of devices (or distribute BILLIONS of IP addresses) versus only hundreds of millions on IPv4.

Now, the reason you are having problems getting your iOS 6 enabled device to connect to WiFi networks is because, as I mentioned earlier, the iOS 6 enabled iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 2, and iPad 3 all require IPv6 protocol.  But yet, the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 do not – again, this is why you probably aren’t having any problems getting on WiFi with the 3GS and iPhone 4 – both of these devices only need the old IPv4 protocol.

But what does “they need IPv4″ and “they require IPv6″ mean?  And how is this directly related to Apple and their devices?

To explain this best, I have to first explain to you what happens when your iPhone or iPad connects to a wireless network.  This is something that you have no idea is even happening, and it happens near instantaneously.

IPv4, IPv6, & Apple’s Authentication Token

Here’s what happens each and every time your Apple device, whether its an iPhone, iPad, or even an iPod Touch, connects to a WiFi network.

As soon as your Apple device detects a wireless network, the very first thing it (your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch) does before connecting to that wireless network is send a data packet to Apple’s website in order to receive what’s called an authentication token.  This transmission happens because Apple wants to always know that the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch you are using is actually a legitimate Apple product.

And in order for your Apple device to connect to the wireless network that it detects, it must first receive an authentication token from Apple servers verifying that your device is legitimate – and once that authentication token is received, you will then be able to jump on whatever wireless network is available.

I know, it’s kind of amazing to think that all of this happens before your iPhone or iPad connects to a wireless network, but it’s true.  And it only take s a split second for the authentication token to be received from Apple’s servers.

Now that you know Apple requires all devices to be “authenticated” before connecting to a wireless network, let’s talk about the “why” behind Apple doing this.

Anyone who’s looked at the “location services” of their iOS 6 device should immediately see the reasoning behind the authentication policy that Apple has on all of their devices.  I would say there are two main reasons for Apple’s authentication token:

1)  because Apple is very protective of their brand and they want to make sure that the devices that are calling themselves “Apple” are actually Apple products.

2)  Ads & profits.  How else can Apple provide a valuable advertising platform if they aren’t able to control and verify the exact location of your device.  Have you seen the location services section of your new iOS 6?

again… more on this article coming, so stay tuned…

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