Free, public Wi-Fi definitely has its downsides. But, in a pinch, it may just be the best option that’s available. On the other hand, there’s a weird quirk in iOS 12 that makes connecting to public Wi-Fi a bit more annoying and difficult than in past iOS versions. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s the Problem?
Many public Wi-Fi networks make use of captive portals — webpages that pop up before you can actually connect to the internet.
Captive portals are typically used for authentication, payment or just displaying an end user agreement. At a hotel, for example, you may type in your room number and last name. At a local coffee shop, it may just be an informational menu.
If you frequently use public Wi-Fi networks, you may have noticed a weird quirk when connecting to them in iOS 12. Before, captive portals would pop up almost instantaneously. In iOS 12 and later, there appears to be somewhat of a lag.
This weird quirk was first highlighted by blog WirelessNerd. And, based on their research into the matter, we can draw a couple conclusions about this behavior.
For one, the captive portal lag does not appear to be a bug. WirelessNerd notes that it takes exactly 45 seconds for iOS 12 to display a captive portal page. That means it probably isn’t a coincidence and could be a way for iOS devices to avoid connecting to every Wi-Fi network they encounter.
On the other hand, some anecdotal user reports on Reddit suggest that iOS 13 addresses the issue. That could mean that it was, in fact, a bug — just a weirdly specific one.
So if you have iOS 12 installed on your phone, know that there isn’t anything wrong with your device itself. Captive portals just take quite a while to appear in that version of the operating system. But, there could be a way around waiting 45 seconds for it.
Try This Quick Solution
If you want to get two the captive page and get logged on quicker, a few Redditors have pointed out that there could be a way to force the portal to appear.
It’s worth noting that this is also a handy trick to solve lagging or missing captive portals in general.
Go to Safari on your device and type http://captive.apple.com into the address bar (neverssl.com works, too).
This will cause the captive portal to show up even if it hasn’t been 45 seconds yet.
Also, Speaking of Public Wi-Fi
Speaking of public Wi-Fi networks, it’s worth keeping in mind that they aren’t the most secure or private things in the world.
Unless you’re using a VPN or you take other measures, bad actors could potentially spy on your traffic. Because of that, we always recommend avoiding doing anything sensitive when connected to a public Wi-Fi network — such as accessing your bank’s website.