Configuring the MAC address of the Wi-Fi network to which we connect is something that those of us who work with a computer every day are used to, but in the case of mobile phones, it is a relatively new function. For privacy, devices with iOS 14 or Android 10 and later use a random Wi-Fi MAC address by default. In some cases, you may want to disable this feature.
Choosing between one or the other can be a sea of doubts and that is precisely what we are going to do next. Explain what this function consists of, when we must use each configuration and, most importantly, enable them on our mobile to solve connection problems with the router or maintain a certain privacy when browsing the Internet.
What is the Wi-Fi MAC address?
MAC addresses are identifiers that give what is supposed to be a unique world address. The chip uses the MAC address for network communications, which, wirelessly, are sent over the air for all to see. Because of that uniqueness, the MAC address historically represented the chip itself, the device with the chip installed, and the user who carries it. Therefore, MAC addresses are a battleground for the privacy of personal data.
For several years, iOS and Android have supported MAC address randomization , which is a way to dynamically change this identifier in order to preserve the privacy and privacy of users. But it wasn’t until iOS 14 and the latest versions of Android that both Apple and Google have added MAC address randomization for all Wi-Fi connections.
Differences between single or random address
As you can guess, the differences between one system and another lie in the identification associated with the way we connect to the Wi-Fi Network, being able to always use the same or change it depending on our connections.
- Device MAC address : Whenever you connect to the Wi-Fi Network, the same identification system will be used for your device, with the information associated with it mentioned a few lines earlier.
- Random MAC address : For each unique SSID (wireless network), the device will choose a new random address and use that private address to connect to the network.
For most people, it’s best to leave random MAC addresses on. In fact, this is how it comes by default on our mobiles or, at least in most, as this is going to give us more privacy when browsing as it is a security feature that makes monitoring difficult.
Who could, under this premise, want to keep a fixed MAC address on the smartphone’s Wi-Fi? Very easy. The main reason to disable random addresses is if MAC filtering is used in the router we connect to to access the network. In this case, if your device uses a random MAC address, the router will not be able to identify the phone and you will not be able to use specific MAC settings. Also, if you have your router configured to always assign a certain static IP address to a device on your local network, you must link that IP with the MAC address, not being able to use random addresses.
Configure the MAC address of the mobile
The MAC address function usually changes depending on the manufacturer. Some like OnePlus keep it random by default but there are other brands where fixed address is enabled by default. As with many other options on our smartphones, the user can disable it or not through the network profiles that we can configure in the phone’s settings.
It is easy to activate or deactivate a random MAC address whenever you want but, before doing so, it is appropriate to point out that depending on the models and versions of Android, different names are used for certain Configuration options. For example, a OnePlus phone houses these options within the “Wi-Fi and network” menu while a Samsung smartphone calls it “Connections”. Luckily, it is not usually difficult to find and networks always use the search engine that appears in the mobile settings to enter “MAC address”. This will take you directly to the section that we want to touch.
The easiest route to choose the connection mode is to open the mobile settings panel, select “Wi-Fi and network” (or “Connections” or “Network and Internet” depending on your device). Next, click on “Wi-Fi” to see your networks and touch the gear icon next to the network you are connected to. Once inside the settings of this Network you must click on the “Advanced” button, then “Privacy” and, finally, you can choose the option you want:
- Use device MAC address
- Use random MAC address
Clever. then exit the Settings app and be sure to follow this procedure for each Wi-Fi network where you want to use the phone’s real or random MAC address.
How is it done on iOS?
As we indicated a few lines earlier, Apple released the iOS 14 update with a notable improvement for security and privacy: the private address function that allows us to hide the original MAC address of the iPhone. This is something that before could only be done through Jailbreak but with this software version you can enable this option so that the phone never shows the original MAC of the device and guarantee your privacy when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks or other types of connections , just as it happens with Android.
If you want to know how to change the MAC address on the iPhone , of course without having to jailbreak the device, follow these steps:
- Connect to the Wi-Fi network from which you want to hide the MAC address of the iPhone.
- Open the configuration panel.
- Access the Wi-Fi options.
- Tap the “i” icon next to the connected Wi-Fi network.
- Activate “Private address”.
- Reconnect to the Wi-Fi network.
From now on, when you reconnect to the same Wi-Fi network as before, your iPhone will use a different MAC address. Therefore, you can easily hide or change the address of your device without any major complications.