Microsoft changing Windows Phone WiFi behaviour in future update

If there's one area where have heard a lot of complaints on it's the WiFi function on Windows Phone.

The problem is a bit niche but it has frustrated quite a few of you ever since 2010. That "problem" is when the phone goes to the Lock screen, WiFi automatically disconnects. Obviously Microsoft had good intentions in mind here with power-saving as the chief concern. But recently, evidence and personal anecdotes seem to betray the idea that turning off WiFi (when not in use) saves battery.

Luckily, Microsoft looks to finally be changing this behavior in a future update. Windows Phone Program Manager Joe Belfiore responded to a Tweet from Stephen Simpson about Data Sense (the forthcoming service that compresses data, records data usage) and there he noted that a fix is coming to alter how WiFi behaves:

Simpson: "I wish she would ask you why WiFi shuts off when you turn off the screen on every Windows Phone! Please fix this horrible bug!"Belfiore: "Someone is gonna yell at me for saying this, but... fix is coming. :) Sshh. Just promise me a little patience though."

That's some pretty big news and we imagine this will rollout with whatever planned-package update Microsoft has in mind for Windows Phone 8. Seeing as that OS can receive over-the-air updates, presumably Microsoft could either push out just that update or a larger one, encompassing global bug fixes and new features. Of course Belfiore stresses "patience" meaning we should not expect this next week or even next month. There's also no word if this is coming to Windows Phone 7.x devices as well via the 7.8 update.

Recently there have been some homebrew and even on the Store "fixes" for this issue that have mixed results. But clearly Microsoft got the message from the popularity of such apps.

Personally speaking, this has never bothered us but we think we're in the minority here. How about you?

Source: Twitter; via Unleash the Phones

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Nice I really like Joe belfiore
  • Yup, I like his Lucky Charms
  • yeah hes awesome!
  • Glad this is going to be fixed. I don't have my first WP yet, getting it on Wednesday and I REALLY don't want to have to deal with Wi-Fi shutting off on me all the time. I rely on Wi-Fi 98% of the time on my iPhone and really don't want to change that when I get my 810.
  • On WP7, WiFi is on when you are using the phone as well as when it's charging, but when the phone goes on standby WiFi shuts off. Apparently it's the same with WP8 but the "fix" should give us the option to leave WiFi on continuously. I really hope you enjoy your 810 and Windows Phone!
  • Also really important for anyone who uses a Windows Phone without a data plan. Kinda annoying.
  • Which carrier allows the use of a smartphone without a data plan? Must be nice!!
  • All of them? I don't need to have a data plan but I'll pay $1 per MB! So it's obviously better to choose plans with it included, or add on extra options i.e. For $5/month I get 150MB which is far more than I need (WiFi at work, home, friend & family places etc)
  • AT&T forces everyone with a smartphone to subscribe to a data plan :(
    Who is your carrier?
  • That's only on post-paid plans. I've used an AT&T branded HTC Aria and a Samsung Focus on AT&T GoPhone for years. I've also used these phones on AT&T MVNOs like H2OWireless.
  • Depends on the phone. If it is sufficiently old, carriers tend to offer it on a 3 year plan without data. That's how my sister got an HTC Surround from Telus a while back. Unsure about the U.S. though.
  • If ur not on contract u don't have to have a data plan.
  • Meaning toast notifications use my data plan when the phones locked?
  • Technically, but there we're talking 1 or 2 kb. That's not really a concern.
  • I like the British spelling.
  • ???
  • Well normally carriers don't charge per kb but per 10, 100kb or even worse per MB. So a 500 byte toast could count as a whole MB.
  • They need to fix this on 7.8!!!
  • ^^^^
  • I'm no longer on WP7, but I agree this needs to be fixed for both sides.
  • Ditto
  • Drives me nuts...for some reason
  • You have a good reason
  • This is a HUGE problem for me. Let me set the scenario and one of the chief reasons I got rid of my HTC Trophy. I happen to work in a large metal building. Even though Verizon's 3G is stupendous where I live, it's no match for this building. Weak signal on CDMA is all but the end for battery life. So what I typically did/do toggle airplane mode on and then turn WiFi back on. We have decent WiFi at work. This would allow me to do all I needed to all day and just leave 3G data off. iOS, Android, Blackberry and even webOS all did this with zero issue. Windows Phone is the only one I've had issue with. This makes things like Kik messenger or any messenger completely useless. You get zero incoming data if you're on WiFi only and the screen is off. There at least needs to be a setting for such behavior. And besides, I don't believe that WiFi hibernation is a legitimate battery saver anyway. It just needs to go away.
  • I have an almost identical use case at my work. I'm currently on Android and have people use Google Voice to contact me if they need me while there (like you said, airplane mode + WiFi on); WP's behavior would make that impossible. :(
  • There are a couple of test which prove that switching off and back on the wifi uses more battery then it will use if it always on. Sounds reasonable...
  • Makes sense. On most Android phones, I've had better battery life setting WiFi to never sleep than anything else (the exception being my AT&T Galaxy S II when it was on 2.3.6, an update that caused battery drain with WiFi on).
    Edit: I think editing comments is broken in IE10. I had to edit to correct a misspelling and clicking edit did nothing. I had to switch to Chrome.
  • There's a weird two second delay. After you realize it, you get used to it.
  • Get "WP Shortcut Tiles". It has a "WiFi to cellular" shortcut (or vice versa) which opens WiFi settings, then when you press Back it opens mobile network (cellular) settings to toggle mobile data off. Or you can have Tiles directly to both.
  • It's super annoying for me at school and work where I need to log into the network every time to reconnect.
  • I can't say it really bothers me. But then I have a large data package so its not an issue
  • This bug just kills me, glad a fix will be coming....and it better be on all Windows Phone and not just 8.
  • It's not a bug... it was by design so that the battery would last longer when not in use.  But, there are moments I'd like to keep WiFi on all the time, so I wouldn't mind having a choice in Settings.
    I'm a light sleeper, so I keep my phone unplugged and cellular data off during the night.  This is so I don't wake up to email messages.   When my phone alarm goes off in the morning, the WiFi switches on and all my emails from that night download automatically.
    There are pluses and minuses for both, so I hope they give us the option to choose.
  • They need to fix the 3g signal bug. We have no network symbol yet can still make calls. Maybe allowing screen saver to be turned off
  • Another box checked off.
  • Or to check in :-P
  • waiting for the next version lumia 930
  • It will be the Lumia 940. 4 cores.
  • No Lumia 940 I guess, they've never released a phone with a '4' in the model number 
  • Audible stops downloading those large files when the lock screen is on, so this really is an annoying issue
  • Why did they release this with 8 in the first place? Why wait to fix it after the fact?
  • Exactly.
  • Probably because it is small in the grand scheme of releasing the OS itself, like the notification center.
  • +1 They can only do so much, even if this seems trivial.
  • They probably "ran out of time" ;)
  • LOL
  • Personally this isn't a concern for me because I have unlimited data, but I know lots of people will be happy to see this update. So, by all means, let's get this update out there, Microsoft! (wow, lots of commas in that sentence. I think I placed them all correctly).
  • (Personally, this)
  • Even if I had unlimited data I'd be reluctant to leave it on as it drains the battery so fast (at least on 3G or higher it does)
  • 3g reception bug. No other phone that has 3g drains like lumia
  • I have a HD7 ;)
  • What are the apps that try to fix this you mention? Which one is best? Spinoff article ranking them...
  • I never once had a problem with this, I actually like how it connects right when you wake it up anyway. True that it does seems to hinder 3rd party app that requires constant connection (i.e.instant messengers, music streams) but I rarely use those.
    What I think they should have is some kind of app white list that allows them to keep the wifi on even when the screen is off. They'll probably start noticing the battery go down faster if they just keep it on all the time.
  • It has been discused many and many times, WiFi always ON doesn't impact your battery. Actually, it can save your battery power in some cases. Please, get your facts straight.
  • Indeed, 3G (And faster) connections drain way more battery than WiFi.
  • WiFi idle uses less power than 3G data idle.
  • It's about time! Gosh, they really ran out of time in Windows Phone 8 development. This brings me hope for a fix to all the small details we have being complaining since Windows Phone 7.
  • I like democracy, please give us the choice to select the behavior. Always on or off with the lock screen. Because I like the current behavior!
  • Same... not an issue for me, but i can see how it would run others up the wall
  • Right!
  • Never faced this problem. This would happen only when the screen is locked manually using the physical button. If it sleeps automatically say after 30 sec setting, the downloads will continue in the background over WiFi.
    I have faced a similar physical button problem in some other area. That is camera button. If I am using say Endomondo or other similar app and wanted to take a photograph using the camera button, the moment I pressed the camera button, it would kill the app with no data saved. So I found a way around it. Would press the home button. Then swipe and find the camera and press it. Then take the photo by touching the screen. Then press hold the back button and find the workout app and press it to bring it forward. Still working and no data lost.
    I think physical buttons are very useful under normal circumstances but not useful during multi-tasking.
  • Yeah I encountered that bug with Endo myself :(
  • I can see how this feature sucks for the few who depend only on wifi during the day like at work for messaging from 3rd party sources, but day to day, not an issue.  However, as always, it's best to provide users with options instead of forcing them into one setting.
  • I wish I had a nickle for every time I saw someone threaten to stop being a customer because of one feature. I bet I'd have enough money to buy all three OS companies...
    Anyway, this is a good change, even though I don't personally have a big issue with it as-is.
  • very true
  • It's a major problem for me also because I'm on the 300mb data plan and plan on sticking with it. I don't stream music and videos all day so don't need the 3gb plan but just from normal use and all the things that are running in the background and can just barely keep my use under 300mb. I have to keep phone plugged in most of the time at home and work to keep wifi from disconnecting.
    This should have been done long ago and please let US decide how we want to use our battery. Does it reaaly make that much of difference if the wifi stays connected? I would think just having the screen on uses more battery than the screen off and wifi on...
  • I may be grandfathered on the unlimited plan, but even I prefer the speediness of WiFi over cellular connection. But seriously, I hope carriers have no say on blocking updates now. That's one of few things Apple did right on.
  • Patience?? This is a huge problem for me on WP7 which i still use. I'm getting either a nexus4 or an iphone 5 next month though because i'm tired of always WAITING for basic features to be implemented when the competitors already have it. I waited MONTHS for copy/paste and then MONTHS for multitasking and i'm still waiting for good apps to be available...  Goodbye windows phone, i will come back to you in a year or so after you mature.
  • Months are merely minutes in Microsoft Time.
  • Could be worse, Microsoft could be running on Steam/Valve time.
  • LOL
  • I completely agree with you! I'm an OG Focus owner who has been patiently waiting for WP8 to be released.. My Focus crapped out and I said hey, let me try that new LG Optimus G but i'll probably end up returning it for the Lumia 920... NOT. Android has so many of the little things covered that I'm finding it hard to go back to Windows Phone.. Especially when Microsoft hasn't really improved the OS a whole lot.. Still no percentages for battery life and if my live tiles are only updating every 30min(3rd party), these tiles aren't very LIVE are they? I'm starting to love this whole widget thing.
  • I agree the behavior should be changed. Battety life on my Lumia 900 is actually better when WiFi is off for the whole day than when it is on. I don't have any data to back this up, but my theory is that when WiFi is on, the operation of turning the WiFi radio On, reach for wireless networks, rejoining the network, then use WiFi for Internet every time we wake the device up is using more battery than just keeping it off and using the cellular network, and I don't know if it is just me, but sometimes it even fails to rejoin the wireless network; this may result in a poor user experience as well. Yes, I know this can be a concern for people with bandwidth limits and I'm not suggesting anyone to keep it off, but it works for me. Now that said, I prefer WiFi connection to stay On even if the device is locked or standing by. SmartGlass, and many other applications would be even faster, and if my theory is correct, battery can even last a bit longer than with the current behavior.
  • Wow... That was a long comment from me. Sorry for that, and props to anyone who actually read the whole thing. Hehe!
  • I hope Joe doesn't get in trouble and fired like Joe Marini.
  • This never happened on my WP7 but it is definitely happening now with WP8. Sucks.
  • If you have background tasks running that connect to the network, then you never really want the WiFi to shut off. It takes significantly more battery to spin up the hspa and lte radios then if you just let the WiFi stay connected. This will be a very welcome change which will save both battery and data plans.
  • I just hope it comes to WP7 too. Its a long wait for Lumia 920 here in India. Nokia is still promoting Lumia 800 and 900 here.
  • Don't really use wi-fi a lot but good to know it's coming. 
  • Doesn't bother me much but I can see why this would be terrible for people who travel abroad and only want to use Wi-Fi. Good for MS to take notice and will have a fix. Hope they'll give us the option as to if we want it on all the times or as it is now, on locked screen it turns it off. If you do have Wi-Fi on and have it charging, it always stays on FYI.
  • This actually annoys me.
  • I would prefer it to stay on, or at least give me an option. It does suck a lot of battery on any phone.
  • Really hope they keep their promise and change the WiFi behaviour. Using data isn't a issue for me, but background downloading...I'm using rdio and its frustrating when I set rdio to sync and it stops because WiFi connection is cut off when the screen locks. I don't want to resort to using Keep Alive as its been suggested that there is a risk of unknown persons gaining remote access to the phone.
  • Not a big deal to me at all. By the time I unlock the phone the connection has picked back up so I more than welcome the battery savings. Hopefully when they "fix it" there is an option to keep it like it is.
  • Hooray!! About time. WiFi stays connected in standby as long as there is an active data connection. I'd be listening to while mowing the lawn on WiFi. The app would momentarily let the 'data connection' loose and would confuse the app when it's network changed
  • For me is quite bothersome, because I usually keep my 3G off as my contract has the lowest allowance. However I'm allways withing reach of WI-FI which makes it ok. Its usually not very problematic except when you want to receive messages from apps like whatsapp 
  • Woohoo, I'm (in)famous! That was my obnoxious tweet that got Joe's attention... I can die happy now, LOL.
  • REALLY bugs me when I'm studying at the library (5 days a week) and I got to reconnect to the free WIFI each time the phone screen turn off!
  • I'm waiting for the Lumia 810. It is good if the wifi of WP 8 is like in Nokia Belle of my N8. The wifi is automatically connect if i use the web or other app and automatically disconnect if I exit to the web or app I used. This is very nice with Symbian, saving battery life.
  • Well I just hope there's no bashing when it is "fixed" and people start complaining about the battery draining faster than before. There's just got to be something people whine about now. But if this is a fix for the Majorities, then it should be fixed I guess!
  • Right they will always find something to complain about
  • Worst. TuneIn stops working cuz of this issue
  • Doesn't bother me the way it is. If they change the behavior and it doesn't drain the battery faster, no problem. Otherwise make it a setting that we can change to behave the way each one of us wants it to behave.
  • Android and iOS both have no battery problems with persistant wifi.  At least niether of mine do.
  • It's great to know this'll be fixed soon. I can't wait to get my Lumia 920, however I'll have to order it from mainland Europe to get an unlocked international version, since I can't get it on O2 and T-mo/Orange/EE have terrible customer support.
    The one thing that does annoy me about my current HTC Titan its odd preference to stay on mobile data, even if there's strong WiFi and zero bars of 3G. I have to force it to lose signal, or, if I'm lucky, flight mode does the trick.
  • I hope they keep the option to switch it off as i dont want the wifi to waste power when i lock it as that is unlimited data is for.
  • I had a few connect issues with this on our Lumia 800/900, so I changed the DHCP lease time from 8 hours to 15min on the WiFi networks we have. The problem was that WP7.5 would forget the ip address obtained over dhcp after going to sleep a few times. Since we have done this, problem solved. Btw, we had similar problems in iOS5.0.0, but Apple fixed it quickly.
  • What REALLY bugs me is that you can't set the priority for automatic connection to multiple WiFi networks. So if there a re more than one in a particular place, it just dumbly connects to them in alphabetical order. I need to have several networks that I could connect to at both home and work, but some are preferred. Sure I can force the connection manually, but... When it wakes from the lockscreen it will undo that and connect again I alphabetical order.
    This too should be fixed
  • I am hoping the fix will also auto disconnect 3g when WiFi network is found and connected.
  • Agreed on several of the comments.  When wifi is operating, the phones data network can automatically shut off.  There is no reason for both. 
    Is there a place where one could submit comments and suggestions?  I am in the process of switching over from android and one of the HUGE things I already miss is the abiity for everything to switch to landscape.  When driving for example, if you have your maps running it is nice to have your music app go landscape to match the direction of the phone while you are navigating.  In the latest android version, the whole phone goes landscape when driving (car mode).  This is a great idea and WP8 should adopt it right away.
  • If the app called Keep Alive from WPH worked I would be happy enough, but it doesn't, so i sit and wait for an update ....hopefully soon.
  • Keep Alive is useless. The only thing that works with any consistencey is leaving the phone on the charger, which is a joke. On my Lumia 800 it's even worse since Nokia doesn't allow you to leave the phone on longer then 5 minutes! At least on my HD7 I could leave it on without the display shutting off.
  • Nokia need to listen to users. They have killed their brand.
  • One question. Can you go to the marketplace, my apps, and re-download all your previous downloaded apps?
  • not had experiece with any WP so far other than in-store...
    so when the phone is sitting on the table, lock screen is showing or the phone is in idle, does this mean that 
    1. emails etc dont come through if i have the data turned off? (possible when im travelling to other countries outside the US and have access to wifi only)
    2. toast notifications and live tiles update with the wifi off (they turn it on periodically) and no other emails are downloaded?
  • I've been a WP user for some time now, after converting from the late WebOS, and I gotta say this is good news.
    The wifi "problem"  is fairly irritating when I want to pause my XBMC media center and I have to wait for the phone to reconnect before I can do.
    Now if we can get WebDAV and CardDAV support...
  • i like the current behaviour of wifi. I hope they offer an option instead of making it always on.
  • If you cant get the update on this feature, you can always get Keep Alive. It works so very well.
  • I'm not bothered by it, but yes. An update adding choise to what behavior is preferred is nice to honor user preferences.
  • Finally. This is really a stupid issue that has plagued the OS. Having to use 3G at home to stay connected for email sync when I have free Wi-Fi is really irritating, wasting both battery life and bandwidth. One of the issues that got me off WP7 in just one month and back to Android (though going back to Android would have happened anyway, this just made it happen sooner). Never understood how making people use 3G/HSPA in idle instead of Wi-Fi saved battery, as 3G/HSPA take much more battery life just staying on than Wi-Fi does.
    Been planning on getting a WP8 device as secondary to my Android device, will do that once this issue is fixed :D
  • I've always figured that cell data uses more power than wifi. You just need to compare power output and data rate. Wifi is faster and uses about a tenth the power of cellular. It's only more significant when you're in a building with poor reception. Always-on wifi would add a hours and hours to my standby time. It would also move a ton of data traffic off of at&t's network. That's good for everyone. Always-on wifi for known networks that don't require manual web-based auth should be the default. This needs to happen.
  • Maybe now I can get WP again. 
  • This is a horrible, horrible horrible bug. Ask me, I have to deal with it all the time everyday. Unfortunately, I do not have data plan on my phone and depend on WiFi to deliver my emails and social network data. With this WiFi bug, its terrible, it totally defies the meaning of setting your sync preference. I have to unlock my phone each time and sync each email manually. Also, another bug with WiFi is that if I connect to one WiFi 1, sync or browse, then go somewhere, like coffee house, connect to their WiFi 2, sync or browse, and then come back to WiFi 1 browsing and sync won't work. I have to disconnect and many a times, reboot (Windows speciality) the phone. Another bug, Windowes Phone does not connect to several open WiFi networks. At the same time, my Nokia 5800 will connect to the same WiFi whereas the Windows Phone will say "YOUR phone cannot connect to the WiFi network".
  • Never had an issue with this. Change will be okay as long it is optional.
  • Personally it's never bothered me but I thought amber alert was about the weather.That seems like such a long time ago. Officially it was prior to Lumi_Joe and knowledge of forums like this. I look forward to an informative future. Thanks to all