Understanding How the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Toggles in Control Center Work in iOS 11


In iOS 11 and later, when you toggle the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth buttons in Control Center, your device will immediately disconnect from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth accessories. Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will continue to be available, so you can use these important features:

  • AirDrop
  • AirPlay
  • Apple Pencil
  • Apple Watch
  • Continuity features, like Handoff and Instant Hotspot
  • Instant Hotspot
  • Location Services

This is an interesting feature, but I think it’s going to confuse and anger a lot of people. Until iOS 11, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles in Control Center worked the way it looked like they worked: they were on/off switches. Now, in iOS 11, they still look like on/off switches, but they act as disconnect switches.

Off the top of my head, I would suggest making them three-way switches: on and connected, on but disconnected, and off. I don’t have an idea for how to present that visually though. Or make on/off buttons available in the expanded menu you get when you 3D touch on these controls. Update: DF reader Matthew Smith emailed to point out that these buttons already have three states: “In Control Center, when you tap the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon, it goes from blue to grey. If you tap the Airplane mode icon, both icons go grey, but also gain another indicator: A diagonal line through their icons. This is a good way to tell the difference between disconnected and off. So with the currently available indicators, these could easily become a 3-way switch.”

Motherboard has a story that posits that this change is a security risk, but I think that’s overblown. I think the problem is simply that these buttons no longer do (a) what they used to do, even though they look the same, and (b) what people naturally expect them to do, just by looking at them.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017