Prioritize Wi-Fi Networks on Your iOS Device

I don’t usually share tips here, but I think this one is too good to pass up.

Despite my many complaints with my internet provider, one of the nice services they offer is free Wi-Fi access points in public spaces across Canada. They all have the same SSID, so any time I’m in one of those spaces, it automatically connects.

One of those hotspots happens to be in the lobby of the building where I work. My office also has a Wi-Fi network, of course, and when I sit down at my desk, my iPhone oftentimes attempts to stay connected to the lobby network. Because it carries a weak signal into the office, I have to manually change the network upon arrival; otherwise, web access on my phone will be spotty throughout the day.

So I asked today on Twitter whether there was a way of changing the priority of WiFi networks on iOS, and Allen Tan replied:

Not on iOS, but you can change them in OSX’s network preferences and I think they’ll sync over.

Allen appears to be right — they do sync between Macs and iOS devices with the same iCloud account.

To adjust the priority of your Wi-Fi networks, head into System Preferences on your Mac and choose Network. Select “Wi-Fi” in the lefthand panel, and click the “Advanced…” button. In the “Preferred Networks” list, simply drag each network to prioritize them as you’d like.

This can be a bit of a pain in the ass, as the list and the window are not resizable, but it can also be a little nostalgic. Between all of the Macs, iPads, and iPhones I’ve ever owned, I have about ten countries and probably a hundred networks in my network history, many of which trigger distinct memories. Neat.

Update: As of MacOS Ventura 13.0, this tip no longer works because there is no way to set Wi-Fi priority in System Settings.