iOS: Understanding captive Wi-Fi networks

Captive Wi-Fi networks are public Wi-Fi networks that you must subscribe to or pay to use. Such networks are also called "subscription" or "Wi-Fi Hotspot" networks. You can find captive Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, Internet cafes, hotels, airports, and other public locations that don't offer open Wi-Fi networks. In some countries, they are sponsored and maintained by wireless carriers (for example, AT&T wireless hotspots in Starbucks).

Join a captive Wi-Fi network

Joining a captive Wi-Fi network is similar to joining any other Wi-Fi network.

  1. Tap Settings > Wi-Fi.
  2. Tap the name of the network you wish to join. A login screen will appear.
  3. Select the option to log in to the captive Wi-Fi service (see the section below for information about the blue Cancel button). Options vary depending on the captive Wi-Fi provider. For example, you may see these options:

    Log in screenshot Log in screenshot

You can also join a captive network by tapping next to the network's name. Then tap Join Network on the next screen.

Screenshot with Join Network

You may need to enter a username and password, supply an email address, or simply acknowledge terms and conditions. After you log in, you should be able to access the Internet.

Fees and other charges may apply when you use captive Wi-Fi networks. Contact the network provider for more information.

About the Cancel button

Tapping the blue Cancel button (at the top right in the images above) disassociates the device from the captive Wi-Fi network, unless:

  1. You joined the network by tapping the and then tapping Join Network.
  2. You joined the same network less than eight minutes ago.

If either of these conditions are met, you'll see these options:

Options: use with internet, use with other network

  1. Use Without Internet: Choosing this option will dismiss the welcome screen, maintain association with the Wi-Fi network, and allow for interacting with the captive network using other methods.
  2. Use Other Network: Choosing this option will dismiss the welcome screen, disassociate from the Wi-Fi network, and return to the Wi-Fi Settings screen to allow you to choose a different network.
  3. Cancel: Choosing this option will return you to the welcome screen.

Join captive Wi-Fi networks automatically

Your iOS device remembers the network and login information, so you can automatically reconnect to that captive Wi-Fi network when you're in range.

If you want to disable Auto-Join:

  1. Tap Settings > Wi-Fi.
  2. Tap next to the network name.
  3. Tap Forget this Network.
    Network detail

Note: If you exit the login screen without logging in, Auto-Join for that network is turned off. If your device doesn't automatically join a captive Wi-Fi network, make sure Auto-Join is on. If a captive Wi-Fi network doesn't support Auto-Join, you may need to log in each time.

Learn more about the subscription network

Tap , to the right of the network signal strength indicator , to display detailed information about the network.

Network detail

You may see four fields:

  1. Join Network: Tap this option to join the network.
  2. Forget this Network: Tap this option to forget the network and associated credentials.
  3. Auto-Join: If you enable this option, your device will automatically join this network when it's available.
  4. Auto-Login: This is present only for networks detected as subscription networks. When you enable this option, it allows the welcome screen to appear for this Wi-Fi network. If you disable this option, it provides a persistent way to skip the welcome screen for this network.
Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.
Last Modified: Sep 1, 2014
  • Last Modified: Sep 1, 2014
  • Article: HT3867
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