Curbing iPhone Data Use

Acronym Update

April 14, 2016

“Curbing iPhone Data Use”

So few of us have an unlimited data plan with our cellular carriers anymore. AT&T ended the all you can eat (but not abuse) plan in 2010. Verizon ended theirs in 2012. Customers who had those plans could be grandfathered in but they had to agree to never buy a subsidized phone again. These days both Verizon and ATT are charging a $20 per month surcharge for customers who want to keep those plans. Unfair? Remember, you are no longer under contract and neither are they. I have had some customers say they were happy to move to one of the new “metered” plans because they don’t use that much data anyway. I know other users who have kept the old plans because they are heavy users, consuming upwards of 20 GB per month on one line.

These practical steps will not address phantom data use. I have heard of that in the past. A few years back Verizon iPhone users were plagued by inaccurate data counts. There is certainly a possibility of excessive carrier updates occurring in the background. I think these cases are few and far between.

1. Data used by a particular app

– Settings

-Cellular data

This allows you to see if any apps have been using an excessive amount of data. If Safari appears to be the culprit, the user may have multiple tabs / pages open that need to be closed. You may want to delete seldom used apps that appear to be big “data hogs.” Other apps may need their settings adjusted.

2. Facebook (not Facebook Messenger) app

– The Facebook app has a flawed, on by default setting to auto play videos.

– You may want to watch your cousin’s cat video, but at your leisure. You certainly don’t want it playing in the background

– In the Settings of your Facebook app, all the way down at the bottom (why do they make it so hard?), there is an option to adjust the video playback. It should be set to the least intrusive setting – OFF

3. WiFi Assist


-Cellular Data

Go to the bottom

-Set to the OFF position (not green)

In theory WiFi Assist seems like a good option. This new feature was added to iOS with the launch of iOS 9 in Sept 2015. Cellular data steps in and gives your WiFi a boost when your WiFi seems weak. Who decides what weak WiFi is? How much data kicks in? Is your carrier managing this objectively?

I have read a few horror stories about this feature since last fall. Customers have been billed for lots of data they never thought was being used, to the tune of $100s and $1000s

Keep WiFi Assist – OFF

4. Updates

– Settings

– iTunes and App Store

I think it’s great to keep your iPhone updated. App updates not only provide functionality, but also security updates. In the Automatic Downloads section, you can choose whether to set Music, Apps, and Books & Audio Books to on or off. This would depend on whether you purchase interact with them on multiple iOS, Mac, and Windows devices. For example, do you sometimes buy your songs on iTunes on the Mac or in Windows? Would you like them to automatically appear on your iPhone?

Updates (meaning App updates) should be set to on for everyone.

However, use cellular data should be set to OFF. A recent Microsoft Word update was 477 MB. That would use up a lot of VALUABLE DATA.

If you are on the road and really need to update an app — go to the App Store and update it manually

5. WiFi Calling

This feature was added to nearly all current iPhones in the U.S. within the past year. ATT and T-Mobile had it first, while Verizon officially gave its blessing when iOS 9.3 rolled out in March.

– Settings


– WiFi calling

This feature may not save any data because it mostly applies to voice calling and text messaging, but it is a tangent of the data topic so I am including here. I have worked with customers who had one bar of service in their homes, with calls dropping and text messages frequently delayed. The customer had a fast home internet connection and a solid WiFi router. There really wasn’t a point to changing carriers because once the client stepped 100 feet out of their home, cellular service was fine. The town also had excellent coverage with this carrier.

WiFi calling is just that. It allows calls to be routed from the cellular network to whatever WiFi connection you are on. With some carriers like ATT, text messages will also be routed over WiFi. This feature has worked well for my client over the past 3 months. As soon as he is in an area with a sufficient cellular signal, WiFi calling flips off.

If you have weak cellular coverage at home or you will be in a certain place for a while with a weak signal, turn WiFi calling ON. The first time you may be asked to confirm your home address for E911 compliance purposes.