iOS 11’s Control Center Doesn’t Truly Disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth: Here’s What to Do Instead

That shiny new Control Center in iOS 11 doesn’t actually let you disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth anymore. You can toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off from the Control Center, but the hardware radios will still be running and they’ll turn back on completely at 5 a.m. Yes, this is really weird.

What The Control Center Toggles Do

The Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggle buttons in the Control Center don’t actually disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Instead, as Apple’s own documentation says, “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”. Of course, since the hardware radios are active, they’ll continue draining battery power.

So, while it may seem that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are disabled when you flip this switch, they aren’t. Apple says this allows you to continue using “important features” like AirDrop for transferring files, AirPlay for playing media on other devices, the Apple Pencil, Apple Watch, Continuity features like Handoff and Instant Hotspot, and Location Services.

If you flip the Wi-Fi toggle, your device will disconnect from its current Wi-Fi network. However, the Wi-Fi radio will remain active. It just won’t automatically join Wi-Fi networks unless you walk (or drive) to a new location, you restart your device, or it’s 5 AM local time. It will also be re-enabled if you toggle Wi-Fi back on or choose to join a Wi-Fi network from Settings.

Likewise, if you toggle Bluetooth off, the Bluetooth hardware radio will remain active. Your iPhone or iPad will remain connected to any Apple Watch or Apple Pencil devices, and features like AirDrop, AirPlay, and Instant Hotspot will continue to work. However, it will disconnect from other Bluetooth devices, like hardware keyboards and headphones. If you restart your device or 5 AM local time rolls around, Bluetooth will be fully re-enabled. It will also be re-enabled if you toggle Bluetooth back on or connect to a Bluetooth device from Settings.

In other words, Apple wants things to “Just Work”, so they don’t want users easily disabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from the Control Center. This ensures all Apple’s fancy integration features and hardware devices like the Watch and Pencil will keep working.

You can see this yourself. If you toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off via the quick toggles in the Control Center, they’ll just appear as “Not Connected” in the Settings app instead of “Off”.

 

How to Actually Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Apple still allows you to fully disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—you just have to do it from the Settings app. In other words, in iOS 11, the quick toggles in Control Center do something different from the options in the Settings app. Yes, it’s weird.

If you disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth from Settings, they will be fully disabled until you re-enable them again. The hardware radios will shut down and any features that depend on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth—like Location Services or Apple Watch connectivity—will stop working.

To disable Wi-Fi, head to Settings > Wi-Fi and toggle the Wi-Fi slider off.

To disable Bluetooth, head to Settings > Bluetooth and toggle the Bluetooth slider off.

 

With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth disabled from the Settings app, they’ll appear as “Off” on the main Settings screen instead of “Not Connected”.

Of course, you can also choose to enable Airplane Mode. With Airplane Mode enabled—something you can do via the Control Center—both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will be disabled along with your cellular connection.

 

This is a weird change, but it’s apparently just the way iOS works now. If you ever need to truly disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you have to head to Settings. If you don’t, Apple will assume you’re not really serious about the change.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.