How to fix a blank Wi-Fi login screen in iOS

Are you having trouble connecting to certain Wi-Fi hotspots? If your iPhone's log-in screen is blank, try this.

Does this happen to you?
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

For as long as I can remember, my iPhone 4S has had trouble connecting to certain Wi-Fi hotspots.

When I go to Panera Bread, for example, I can connect to their network on my laptop without a problem. But it requires visiting a landing page in my browser and clicking a button to agree to the terms of service.

When I try to make that same connection on my iPhone, a log-in screen immediately pops up -- but stays blank. For some reason, it fails to load that landing page, meaning I can't tap "I agree" and therefore can't get online.

This same blank log-in screen appears at other Wi-Fi hotspots as well; those that require some kind of interaction. Needless to say, it's a huge inconvenience.

I've googled this issue many times, reset both my phone and its network settings, and shared my plight on Apple's community forums, but have yet to find a solution. Until recently, when I discovered one quite by accident.

I was in the basement of a museum, of all places, trying to connect to their hotspot. I was especially desperate because I couldn't get cell service down there. No bars at all.

As usual, the log-in screen popped up -- but this time it wasn't blank! I zoomed the page so I could see the little "agree" button, tapped it, and presto: Wi-Fi, just the way the universe intended.

So what made the difference? There was no cell service at the time. To prove this theory, I headed to my local Panera (where there's perfectly good cell service) and tried connecting: same blank log-in screen. Then I enabled the iPhone's Airplane Mode (which disables the cellular antenna) and tried again. Success! This time the log-in screen produced Panera's sign-in page. I got connected, then turned Airplane Mode off, and, thankfully, stayed connected. Problem solved.

It's a kludge, but it works. Why? I have no idea.

If you've encountered this scenario before and know of a different remedy, by all means share it in the comments. Or if you have some thoughts as to why my "fix" works, let's hear that, too. Maybe with a little crowd-sourcing we can get to the bottom of this.