Wednesday, October 07, 2015

What to do When Data on a Smartphone Doesn't Update over WiFi

Connecting to a wireless network using Wi-Fi on a smartphone is a way to access and transfer data without the data counting towards a carrier plan.  Since most people no longer have unlimited plans as they are being phased out, connecting to wireless networks is more important than ever.  Email, applications, games, videos, on-demand movies and web browsing all use data which can add up fast.  However, there are times when applications fail to update which can be frustrating.  

What can I do to fix this issue?
When this happens, first try toggling wifi off and on to reconnect.  Second, try connecting to another wireless network if one is available.  Lastly, try rebooting the phone.  If none of these works, then the problem is likely the wireless network the phone is connecting to.  In this situation, the only way to get applications to behave normally is by disabling the Wi-Fi which will allow the phone to access data through the cellular provider.  NOTE:  It is important to remember Wi-Fi is disabled and to enable it as soon as possible so the data plan is not overused.

Why does this happen?

When internet access is unavailable, like when an ISP fails, the equipment broadcasting the wireless network continues to broadcast wireless SSID's allowing clients to stay connected.  However, even though devices can communicate with the router, data is not passed to the phone because the router is not getting any internet service to pass.  NOTE:  This also applies to smart televisions, tablets, laptops and other devices.

Let's back up a minute...below are definitions of some of these terms:
  • SSID - service set identifier, this is the name chosen to be broadcasted by a wireless network so people know what to connect to.  At home this might be ATT4657, or your last name, or whatever other name made sense at the time the network was setup.  At work is is probably something like businessname-public and businessname-private.  SSID's are what smartphones search for and connect to and they pop up on our phones as they are available when not already connected to a wireless network.
  • ISP - Internet Service Provider, a company providing internet access usually at a static monthly fee which includes a set speed for both uploading and downloading data.  Examples of ISP's are Time Warner, AT&T, Roadrunner, Comcast, etc.
  • Router - a physical device that ISP's use to connect their cabling to a location to provide access.  Home routers usually include the ability to broadcast wireless, while business routers normally connect to additional equipment broadcasting wireless over much larger areas.  
Connecting to wireless networks allows devices to pass data back and forth without using the data provided by cellular carriers.  Utilizing wireless at home, where Internet usage is already paid for through an ISP is the smart way to keep data usage on a phone from going over a data plan.  However, when Internet access fails, wireless also fails.  A smartphone will stay connected to the wireless network, but data will not pass and applications will not be able to update.  In this situation, disabling the Wi-Fi until Internet usage is back to normal is the only way to get applications to work correctly.  Just remember to re-enable wireless as soon as possible to prevent extra data usage charges on a cellular plan.

As always, knowing how to work around these issues saves time and frustration!

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