The eagle-eyed crowd at Apple Insider spotted a new setting in the latest iOS 6 beta called “Wi-Fi Plus Cellular”. When enabled, the feature should allow iOS 6 devices to keep synchronizing data when initially on a Wi-Fi network that either slows down or loses signal. Interestingly, FaceTime shows as one of the apps that can be synchronized on Wi-Fi or cellular.
This feature isn’t as dramatic as the one from Connectify, which bridges both Wi-Fi and mobile broadband to be used as a single, and presumably faster, data pipe, but it’s still useful. The description of the feature on my iPhone, for example reads, “Allow apps having trouble with Wi-Fi to use cellular data.”
Of course, the iPhone — and all other smartphones, for that matter — transition to cellular networks when not in range of Wi-Fi or if the Wi-Fi radio is turned off. The difference with this new feature is for app synchronization; the settings for which are directly underneath the new Wi-Fi Plus Cellular setting.
As I understand it then, this seamless connection transition applies to synchronization of iCloud documents, iTunes, Passbook updates, and your Safari reading list. FaceTime also appears here and although we don’t “sync” much data on FaceTime, this could mean that FaceTime calls started over Wi-Fi could transition automatically to mobile broadband networks.
Sounds great, but then again, FaceTime over cellular may be a premium service offered by carriers. We have speakers from two of the four top U.S. cellular operators at our Mobilize 2012 event next month where video calling over mobile broadband is sure to be a hot topic.