iPads plagued by slow Wi-Fi after iOS 4.2.1 update?

Xavier Verhoeven
7 December, 2010
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When we were all sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for iOS 4 on our iPads for most of November, rumours were flying that the release was delayed because of Wi-Fi issues in the software. When that release finally occurred on 23 November, and the iPad skipped iOS 4.2 for 4.2.1, it was assumed that the Wi-Fi problems were resolved.

But that may not be the case, with a number of readers reporting degraded Wi-Fi performance since upgrading. There’s also a pretty substantial thread on Apple’s support discussion forum where people are airing their grievances about the upgrade. According to one reader, Apple is removing posts from the forum that refer to downgrading to iOS 3.2.2 – which is apparently the only fix for those having issues – or suggest emailing Steve Jobs directly. While the latter is probably pointless and reasonable for Apple to remove, it is disappointing to see a possible fix being taken down because Apple doesn’t officially support downgrading the iPad’s operating system.

That support thread alone (there are a few others with similar issues) has chalked up over 55,000 views and more than 500 replies, suggesting the issue could be widespread – though let’s not go calling it Wi-Fi-gate just yet.

To save you reading through the entire thread for the typical symptoms, here is a description from a concerned reader:

Basically, Wi-Fi performance after upgrading to 4.2.1 is awful. Web speeds are at best half of what they were on 3.2.2, YouTube streaming is hit and miss, and sometimes even 10 second videos will stall 30 percent in.  No problems maintaining a network connection – it just seems the internet doesn’t work.  Most of the time web browsing in Safari won’t even load pages.  The only remedy is to turn off the Wi-Fi and restart it, or switch to airplane mode and then off again, though this might only get you a half hour before needing it again.  The problem arises after waking the iPad from standby, but even when resetting the device completely the network web performance is pretty terrible.

We’ve been testing iPads around the office, and have experienced a slowdown, but it seems to only occur intermittently. We asked on Twitter earlier today, and had a few more confirmations of problems, but few solutions.

Now it’s your turn. Have you had issues with your iPad’s internet speed (or indeed iPhone or Apple TV) since updating to the latest iOS? What are the symptoms, and have you managed to fix or alleviate the issue? Let us know in the comments!

We’ve also asked Apple Australia whether the company is looking into the issue, but have not yet received a response.

UPDATE: Reader Mike Halladay filmed a side-by-side speed test on his two iPads running iOS 4.2 and iOS 3.2. The difference is pretty clear:


50 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Paul says:

    I have a iPhone 4 and since upgrading to iOS 4.2.1 I’ve noticed my battery life has dropped off. I once could last all day and while into the next day on one charge but now I’m finding I have to recharge my iPhone within 24 hours. This is the only thing I’ve noticed that’s changed since updating.

  2. Paul says:

    Sorry should have put, I have to recharge my iPhone after 10 hours of use. I have great 3G signal (the tower about 100m from my place) and I don’t play a lot of games. If I do the battery only lasts for about 8 hours. This problem has only started since updating to iOS 4.2.1.

  3. Jonathan Clack says:

    Have experienced similar wifi issues wand also the virtual keyboard acts erratically in Safari. When typing a search string into Google the keyboard will randomly disappear in the middle of a word. I thought this might be something to do with Google Instant, but it still happens when that is turned off. Apps invoking web pages like Twitter also seem less stable under iOS 4.2.1 and the app will crash in the middle of loading a page – could be a memory issue maybe?

  4. David says:

    Since the ipad upgrade my web surfing experience on ipad sucks which is a shame as i love using it. Every web page or movie stream is at least 60% slower, and it keeps dropping out constantly.

    They need to fix this ASAP.

  5. Nick Leonard says:

    Have recently got iPad on 29 November and updated to the latest iOS.

    I have been looking to find why the Internet speed and especially you tube has been so slow.

    Friends of mine who have not updated are still enjoying the normal speed.

    A typical Apple muck up it seems. How do I reboot to the old iOS?

  6. sammywinfield says:

    I bought my iPad just a few days ago and upgraded to the new OS as part of the startup process and have definitely been experiencing slow internet use. The connection is fine (full bars) but compared to my ipod touch (older iOS) the internet is crawling and sometimes fails to load. I’m glad to hear though that this is a solvable issue, I was dreading being stuck with such crap speed.

  7. Ampped aeon says:

    I had to downgrade my iPad, it was the only solution. Apple is asking us to trade multitasking for wifi. Not a fair trade in my opinion.

  8. Allan says:

    My IPad’s WIFI worked perfectly well until I upgraded it to 4.2 – now the WIFI working range is substantially reduced. I’m disappointed. I phoned Apple Support about this problem only to be told that my unit was outside the ‘complimentary service period’ – even complaining that the reduced WIFI performance seemed to flow from the upgrade fell on deaf ears – When I asked if others has complained of the issue, the answer was “no sir”.

  9. David says:

    I find that Mail’s wifi connection intermittently dies. Sometimes I can go to Safari and still get a connection. Today, I couldn’t get anything. Shutting down (not just sleep) and restarting usually solves the problem.

  10. Paul says:

    Since downloading the upgrade 10 days ago my iPad is pretty useless, I am a silver surfer and not that techie so I took it back to the apple store where I mentioned the comments (55000) on the apple forums where I was told that I was the first person to bring this to their attention.
    In store they did a restore for me and told me to back up to iTunes when I got home, I did this but there is still no difference and to rub it in I have lost most of the apps I had including ones I had bought.
    In a nutshell lots of people have had the same problem that the iPad was ok before the upgrade and now it is poor but for some reason apple want to blame other sources.
    Like I said I’m not that techie but I know where the problem lies, so come on apple get your act together please!

  11. Adrian says:

    I have noticed a very significant slowdown in WiFi speeds since “upgrading” that is disappointing but I know that Apple wont let their baby suffer for to much longer and hopefully we will have soon.

  12. Sailen says:

    On the iPad, there has been a noticeable degradation in the wifi performance. The youtube app is now pants, however youtube works OK through the browser. Umm OK.

    Apple TV2, Works great, I’ve had no issues after the upgrade. Airplay works fine via my Mac, but from the iPad and iPod touch, performance is pants

  13. Mike Halladay says:

    I have two iPads (wife’s and mine). Luckily I decided to upgrade mine first and see how it went. Great move on my part as side by side I can prove how horrible my wifi is compared to hers. Just like others have said it connects but speeds are 10k to 47k (remember 56k modems) on mine now and it used to be 2-5mb ( her’s still is) on my Qwest wifi. Tried three different locations and wifi AP’s with similar results.

    Hello Apple!!! ask for my proof. I will skype with you and let you see it for your selves.

    Maybe I can Youtube it side by side???

  14. AMW staff says:

    Mike, you should definitely do a side-by-side and put it on YouTube (if you’ve got a camera handy). Send me the link and I’ll add it to the story.


  15. Uri says:

    At home I have two wifi access points. One is 802.11g and the other is 802.11n. On the ‘g’ I have a very slow connection, with about 1/10 of the speed I had before upgrading my iPad to 4.2.1. On the ‘n’ I do not see any speed degradation, even after very long sessions. This is true even that the signal strength at some locations at home is much stronger on the ‘g’ compared to the ‘n’.

  16. Kirk says:

    I am having WiFi problems with 4.2.1. I noticed poor wifi performance immediately after the update from 3.2.2, then downgraded to 3.2.2 and got my performance back.

    I have since updated to 4.2.1 again, and have found a temporary workaround. I am using an Apple Airport Extreme router in a fairly vanilla configuration – Automatic channel selection, dual 2.4 GHz/5Ghz mode, N-enabled with WPA2 encryption. However, I have also enabled the guest network. If I connect the iPad to the primary network, WiFi performance is abysmal; however, if I connect the iPad to the guest network, WiFi seems to work great.

    Kind of ironic to have these problems with an APPLE router…

  17. Jay says:

    I have had the 4.2.1 on my iphone for a week now. Apple support finally escalated me to level 2 support who were equally useless. My wifi is very slow and i lost all my apps. I did discover why i lost them. They are there but you have to right click on them in itunes and select ‘Get info’. You’ll get a pop-up telling you it cant find the associated file and a browser window opens. I had to re-map ALL my apps but they’re working now. The wifi/internet speed and connection is still woeful

  18. Jay says:

    BTW – Each of the Apple support staff I spoke to had never heard of any issues with the 4.2.1 update. I LOL’d and told them to look on their own apple threads. The ‘head in the sand’ approach from Apple is so frustrating. They deserve to lose a chunk of consumer confidence. they’ve lost mine.

  19. Kizzy says:

    I was an earlyish contributor on the thread. I subscribe to it as well. I did all the recommended steps. Had to restore. Nothing worked until I set my router to g only. I now get pretty fast and stable speeds, but not with my router on n. This annoys me as I pay extra for my broadband from o2 for an n router. I need it to get decent signal in my daughter’s room. I am not prepared to keep my router set to g indefinitely. Apple need to sort the issue out, acknowledge the problem, apologise to all of us and fix our iPads. Quite frankly I expect this from Microsoft, but not Apple with their premium prices. Thank gosh I got a 3G enabled iPad.

  20. Leonid says:

    I tried every solution from Apple’s support discussion forum thread. The problem with the slow iPad has nothing to do with router settings, it’s the iPad WiFi driver problem. I had to downgrade to 3.2.2. No WiFi problems, no router changes!

  21. Steve Marks says:

    I have exactly the same wifi problem immediately after upgrading to iOS 4.2

    It’s so frustrating, after upgrading my iPod touch to the first 4.0 a few months ago, that killed the battery life.

    What is wrong with Apple, why can’t they just get it right.

  22. Danny says:

    This issue is very widespread. What’s confusing is that it works for 10-15 minutes, then goes down the pan (I get 100kb/s, instead of the usual 10mb/s on my home internet).

    Because it works for a while, many people are changing router settings (or rebooting) and finding it’s “fixed”, only for it to return later.

    My suggestion is to get a speedtest app, and try it periodically, including when you’ve been connected to WiFi for at least 15 mins.

  23. Danny says:

    I’m the person that encouraged emailing Steve Jobs in the thread (and subsequently had it removed). I did email Steve Jobs, and I was contacted by someone in Executive Relations (as well as two other people at Apple).

    I believe the issue is being looked into, but they refuse to acknowledge it publicly. I’ve made it quite clear that I’ll be returning my iPad for a refund if they don’t provide a fix soon. I’m keeping the thread linked in this article updated with any progress (and I encourage others to do the same).

  24. Chris J says:

    I have had my iPad since May. iOS 3.2.1 had buggy wifi connectivity. iOS 3.2.2 fix this and I was very satisfied with the performance. After upgrading to iOS 4.2.1 my iPad has the exact same problems with wireless connectivity as it did with iOS 3.2.1.

    I have talked to Apple support and gone to my local “genius” and both times I got the same response: “this is the first I’ve heard about this problem.”. Come to think of it, my “Apple genius” wouldn’t even look me in the eye when she said that.

    Apple needs to fix this.

  25. Francisco Regozo says:

    My upgrade to 4.2.1 has rendered the iPad a useless 10″ placemat. Web speed has dropped from 3-5 Mbps to 50-100 Kbps. Attempted fixes include, switching off wep encryption, resetting iPad/router, reducing my N router to G speeds, and switching band from 40MHz to 20MHz ….

    This is the worst upgrade bungle since my System 8.0 upgrade wiped my Performa 6400′s HD and even then at least I could downgrade to 7.5 !!!!

    Give us a downgrade path/update fix immediately or my 10″ placemat will shortly gain noteriety for becoming the first thousand buck clay pigeon!

  26. Paul says:

    Sorry my partner has pointed out that I have greatly exaggerated in my post earlier, she says to call myself a silver surfer when most of my hair is in retreat was misleading! Still awaiting Apple to acknowledge their failings like me and put things right.

    Come on Apple step up to the plate so this old fart can play again!

  27. Geoffrey B. Siddorn says:

    Since upgrade my wifi is also very slow, I really like my Ipad but I must confess that things are so bad that I have brought out my laptop until a solution comes along

  28. Rj says:

    My whole web experience has slowed, not just wifi and also several apps ( including ABC ) will occasionally, just drop out. Hopefully a fix will come, as the big thing I liked about the iPad was the instant access.

  29. jimmyboi says:

    Since upgrading my iPad, (and iPod for that matter) I haven’t been able to connect to our network at all.

  30. Jamie Pratt says:

    After the upgrade my iPad’s performance has degraded. What’s particularly frustrating is that it now take 28 seconds for mr to “boot up” my iPad consistently. I can create a YouTube if interested

    I’m curious as to whether others have this slooooooow start up time

  31. Gazza (Gary McArthur) says:

    This issue is déjà vu for me. When the iP* OS was upgraded from 2.x to 3.x a year or so ago my first generation iPod touch experienced the same symptoms now seen on the iPad. Wi-Fi reception was considerably degraded with numerous fixes bandied about BUT only temporary. Since the second generation iPod touch had been released Apple did not bother to do anything about this issue. The Doncaster Apple store, however, did replace my iPtouch as a good-will gesture with a first generation one running OS 1.x. The reception on this version was unbelievably good. As soon as I upgraded the OS to 3.x the crap Wi-Fi returned.

    Why am I mentioning this? Well with the second gen iPad not far off I am most concerned that all us first gen iPad owners will be forgotten – our crappy Wi-Fi will remain unfixed. We need to keep the pressure on Apple to come up with a fix very soon (some sites are predicting a January release for iPad 2 – others as far away as April.)

    My issue with my iPad is not only speed of download/upload but also “reception” of the Wi-Fi signal. In places where I always had the full 3-bars previously I regularly only have 2 now. My iMac has remained steadfastly on its 4-bar reception and continued its same download/upload speeds, indicating that this is not a router or broadband provider problem.

  32. Tomp007 says:

    They are in full damage control on that apple support thread, deleting posts, disabling accounts (mine included) and using sock puppet accounts to try to diffuse the issue. Hopefully Apple is also feverishly trying to fix the real problem, a broken wifi driver. Likely they are and are just doing everything they can to prevent the media getting hold of it first.

    The problem with damage control is the damage it can cause..

  33. bob says:

    i have noticed that if i remove all apps that were running in the multitask window bar and have only one app open the wifi appears to operate good.
    but on occasions the internet locks up.
    The only way i found to fix the lockup problem is to remove the app from the multitask window bar and restart the safari app.
    hop this help others

  34. bob says:

    I think their is a link between wifi and multitask feature causing degraded wifi speeds

  35. Peter Z says:

    After upgrading my iPad to 4.2.1, I have to say I have not noticed any change in internet speed. Seems the same to me (subjective !)

  36. Rob Weaver says:

    Can’t say I have noticed any decrease in speed. Or any other problems, really.

  37. Scott says:

    I have experienced a serious slowdown on my iPad with the Sydney Morning Herald app in particular…used to download the full paper in a matter of minutes, now it can take over an hour…this has only happened since going to ios4.

  38. Matt says:

    Yep, WiFi certainly has slowed. Pressreader now takes over twice as long to download the Australian compared to IOS3.
    I turned WiFi off, and downloaded the same paper via 3G, and it took less than half the time.
    Turning off ‘open’ Apps did improve performance via WiFi too.
    (Perhaps Apple can fix this at the same time as sorting out iPhoto11 poor emailing system!!)

  39. anakowi says:

    I so wish I’d seen this discussion before upgrading last night. All the internet based apps are horribly slow. Hope there’s a fix VERY soon and if the problem is related to multitasking maybe they will add that very much needed option for users to choose which apps stay running or not. I’m so disappointed. How can I downgrade – been looking for a link online but haven’t found the solution?

  40. Keryn says:

    I am horrified at the downgrade of quality since I supposedly upgraded my OS.. How on earth can an UPGRADE mean slower or quiet regularly no webpage drawing. Safari regularly just shuts down taking me back to main screen. Emails take forever to load and display.

    As a relatively new apple user I was very very impressed with the wifi speed of my new IPad but not now that I have loaded the supposed UPGRADE. I’d be faster with the old os and a 1st generation dialup modem.

    Not impressed At all.

  41. workingdog says:

    Yup, much slower wifi on ipad and apple TV2.
    Apple TV so slow I thought it was broken and abandoned it after numerous resets and restores…
    I left the room and came back to find the movie starting after 10 minutes of the spinning wheel.
    It was almost instant response before the upgrade.
    Ipad similar. Frequent hang-ups in safari and emails take forever to download.
    Do they do any realworld testing of these upgrades?

  42. DJK says:

    The incredibly slow wifi on my updated ipad has become a huge issue for me, rendering about half the stuff I used to use the ipad for useless. Video and even audio stream is nearly pointless, and I even have to wait crazy amounts of time for simple images to load. A great device has turned sour over night!

  43. Tom Glatt says:

    Same problem here. Pandora is useless sine the upgrade (though – kind of funny – it streams perfectly on 3G). Airplay doesn’t work properly.

    I have restored my routers, restored my iPad, with an apple tech on the phone “helping” me out. Nothing worked.

    This has to be a 4.2.1 issue – and it has impacted BOTH my iPad and iPhone 4.

  44. Peter M says:

    I haven’t noticed the slowdown, but what I have noticed is that I lose my wifi connection quite frequently. It happens when I first fire up for the day, but also just out of the blue occasionally. On the plus side, I love multi-tasking.

  45. George C says:

    This might be more than just a wifi problem – I use a 3G connection and my Internet speed is dramatically slower since upgrading my iPhone to 4.2.1.

  46. Stuartbcharles says:

    My iPad is now a piece crap over which my windows vista laptop is preferred. What was to my mind a greater invention than the jet engine is now reduced abacus status, I have in effect been mugged with out any legal recourse – Stuart charles

  47. martin says:

    Me 2.
    Have been investigating for hours (maybee 14-16 hours total)

    There seems to be no fix :-( im really p… off, its pretty much useless after the update.

    Slow YouTube, slow browsing on a internet connected tablet!?!

    I have also noticed a really high ping reply 200 ms or MORE. My computer, below 20 ms.

    Speed test still shows 30 Mbit (out of 50), but browser speed is comparable to 56k.

    Btw im on a airport ekstreme n (g/n makes no difference)

    If you get the chance, try to compare it with an Android device… this is realy sad

  48. martin says:

    Me 2.
    Have been investigating for hours (maybee 14-16 hours total)

    There seems to be no fix :-( im really p… off, its pretty much useless after the update.

    Slow YouTube, slow browsing on a internet connected tablet!?!

    I have also noticed a really high ping reply 200 ms or MORE. My computer, below 20 ms.

    Speed test still shows 30 Mbit (out of 50), but browser speed is comparable to 56k.

    Btw im on a airport ekstreme n (g/n makes no difference)

    If you get the chance, try to compare it with an Android device… its realy sad to see how bad it performs.

    Owner of 2 macbook pro’s, 1 iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone silverback and an airport ekstreme.

  49. Minerva says:

    Does anyone know of a fix for this yet? My ipad doesn’t play YouTube properly any more and is super slow on safari (ie I have all the symptoms above and have tried everything except downgrading back to iOS 3). All the forums seem to have gone quiet since Christmas

  50. AMW staff says:

    Hi Minerva,

    iOS 4.3 is out now, and apart from fixing your bug, it’ll make browsing the internet noticeably faster. There’s also some other neat features like AirPlay. You can grab it from iTunes for free.


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