The personal website of Chris Coyier

WiFi in 2017 Tahoe

I recently bought at 2017 Chevy Tahoe. I mostly quite like the car. It’s big and safe and comfortable and it’ll serve my family well. This is about one nitpick I have.

This car is a WiFi hotspot. It offers a 4G LTE thingy as part of the OnStar package it has. The reaction timeline for that goes like…

  1. Neat! I’m gonna name our’s Ruby’s Chariot for our daughter.
  2. [Data plan runs out 10 days after getting the car. It’s a 3GB plan.]
  3. Wait.
  4. Why on earth would I pay for this when I literally always have my cell phone that has data and that I already pay for?

I really don’t need another monthly cost for something that won’t really add any value to me. So I figured I’d just flip it off.

In the settings right in the dashboard console, there is a WiFi settings area, and a very obvious toggle for flipping off the WiFi. Only it doesn’t do anything. The WiFi icon is still lit up and the car still broadcasts an SSID.

I web searched around a bit, and someone recommended using the OnStar app on my phone to manage that. Sure enough, through that app, the WiFi was still turned on. I turned it off there too. Only that didn’t do anything either. The car still broadcasts an SSID.

So there are three options:

  1. Let devices in the car still connect to it, even though it doesn’t have internet. This is super annoying because you’ll pick up your phone to do something, have it look like it’s connected just fine, but nothing works because there is no internet, and then remember and scowl.
  2. Tell your device to forget the network. That works in that you don’t accidentally connect and get trapped in connected-but-not-really internet purgatory. But it’s almost more annoying as it pops up a password modal on my phone as it regularly senses it as the only nearby network and wants to connect to it.
  3. Just pay for the damn monthly fee as it’s the only option without infuriating UX.

There are minor upsides to having a paid plan. I think WiFi is easier on the phones as far as battery life (although we’re in the car with chargers so it hardly matters). Also, there are no size or power constraints with the antenna, presumably, so the car probably will get better signal than my phone can.

In any case, you really should be able to turn off the WiFi on anything you own, and the fact that they make it this hard is a big thumbs down.