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A few iPhone users experience WiFi problems after upgrading to iOS 6.1.3. The issue is quite serious and severe — WiFi does not work at all and is grayed out, indicating that the feature is disabled. This issue affects a tiny fraction of users. I know about it because of one comment on an article that has almost 100,000 page views. The Apple Support Forum thread on this issue only has 26 comments, and of those, only a few are from users who have experienced this issue. The defect is not widespread and should not dissuade you from upgrading to iOS 6.1.3.
After researching the issue thoroughly, it is clear that this is mostly a hardware issue. Some people are able to fix this by resetting their iPhone’s network settings. A few unlucky people have sustained damage to the soldering that connects their iPhone’s WiFi module.
Some speculate that the iOS 6.1.3 upgrade broke their iPhone. The Stuxnet worm, developed to knock out Iranian nuclear centrifuges, is a prime example of how software can destroy hardware. The malware changed the rotational speed of centrifuges, forcing them to break down.
It is unlikely that iOS 6.1.3 is breaking the iPhone’s WiFi module. For one, the issue would be more widespread. Furthermore, there are no moving parts involved. It is remotely possible that Apple engineers may have increased power to the WiFi module, which damages the solder. This is unlikely. It would take a lot of power to fry the soldering, much more than is available on a mobile device. Users would notice intense heat. This issue only affects a few people’s iPhones. The iPad and iPod Touch are unaffected.
The more likely scenario is that iOS 6.1.3 is setting a persistent flag to disable WiFi if there is a fault in the module. The upgrade is uncovering the flaw, not introducing it. This would make the user inclined to get their hardware issue fixed, instead of experiencing (and complaining about) intermittent WiFi issues. It is likely that people who have grayed out WiFi also had issues with WiFi cutting out on occasion. iOS 6.1.3 is probably disabling WiFi when this happens. Some people experience this issue immediately after upgrading. Others experience it days, weeks, or months after the upgrade.
One can only speculate if this is a fault in manufacturing or if users have damaged their iPhone. No manufacturing process is perfect. Every assembly line will have a few duds. My research finds very few people affected by this issue. It could very well be that their device has sustained some damage, either through impact or temperature extremes.
Try This First
If you are one of the few that experience this issue, try resetting your network configuration. First, make sure airplane mode is off (settings > airplane mode). Next, reset all network settings (settings > general > reset > reset network settings). After this is done, you will need to re-pair Bluetooth devices and re-enter WiFi passwords, if your WiFi does work. If your WiFi setting is still grayed out, the software fix didn’t work. (continue…)
- Some iPhone 4S users are experiencing grayed-out WiFi settings after upgrading to iOS 7. It appears there is a process for handling this. Read the following Apple Support Community thread about the iOS 7 exception…
- An iOS user has started a petition on change.org, demanding that Apple replace devices that were ruined by iOS 7.