• How to check your mobile data usage on an iPhone
  • Discover which iPhone apps and services are using mobile data
  • Turn off iPhone apps to stop them using up your mobile data allowance

The iPhone is a fantastic tool for accessing the internet on the move. It makes it all-to-easy to browse websites, check email, and even stream video on the move.

Nothing is free, however, and all of this uses up mobile internet data. Measured in MB (megabytes) and GB (gigabytes, which are 1024MB) your mobile internet data allowance keeps tabs on how much internet you are using. See: Apple Support: understanding cellular data.

It used to be that most iPhones came with free unlimited data accounts, but those days seem to be over. Now most mobile phone providers allow you a limit, between 500MB and 1GB to 3GB. With a few exceptions like Three which still has unlimited data on its One Plan.

And almost everything you do these days on an iPhone uses some amount of Internet data. Most apps are web connected these days, from Apple Maps getting its data online, through to iWork apps syncing with iCloud. If you’re not careful you can quickly and easily go through your data allowance

This guide to mobile data usage will help you keep track of your mobile internet usage.

See:

iPhone data allowance

Smartphone users consume more data than tablet users

Manage iPhone Mobile Data Usage

The Mobile Data Usage part of Settings can be used to check how your doing for Mobile data. If you want to get a feel for how much data you're using click on Settings > Mobile > Mobile Data Usage.

Scroll down and look for Mobile Data Usage. There are two parts you need to check here:

  • Current Period: This is the amount of data you have used in your current billing period (this will typically be monthly even if you are on a Pay-And-Go account).
  • Current Period Roaming: This is the amount of data you have used when roaming abroad in the current period. Usually monthly. If you are abroad and using mobile internet data it’s important to keep an eye on this section. Dataq can still be quite expensive at around 69p per MB. With a £40 per day data cap it can still cost a lot of money to use data abroad.

iPhone Mobile Data Usage

Manage mobile data for iPhone apps

If you find yourself running out of data you may start to get warning messages from your provider. If you want to cut down on Data usage then there are a few things you can do. Click on Settings > Mobile > Mobile Data Usage and scroll down to Use Mobile Data For. This displays a list of apps that can use mobile data.

These are all stored alphabetically, but you can see what amount of data they are using underneath. Some Apps like BBC iPlayer and YouTube can use quite a bit data, as can the new iCloud-integrated apps Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Take a look and see which apps are using the most internet data, and decide whether you want to keep using those apps on the move.

Use Mobile Data For

Stop iPhone apps from using data

If you want to prevent apps from using mobile data (so you can only use them to access the Internet when connected to a Wi-Fi network), tap the green switch next to the app in Use Mobile Data For. It’ll switch off and the app will no longer be able to access the internet through mobile data. The app will still work when you connect to a Wi-Fi network, however.

Turn off  mobile internet on the iPhone

In extreme circumstances you might want to use the Mobile Data switch at the top to turn off all Mobile Data. Tap the green button next to Mobile Data to turn it off. The iphone will now work more like an iPod touch, and will only be able to access the internet when you are connected to Wi-Fi.

This is generally useful if you have exceeded your internet allowance for that month and don’t want to pay for additional data from your mobile provider.

Cut down on iPhone data bills by using Wi-Fi

You should have Wi-fi turned on by default (but some people don’t). Tap on Settings > Wi-Fi and make sure you’re connected to your Wi-Fi network at home. If you want to cut down on internet charges tap on Ask To Join Networks to turn it on. The iPhone will scan for internetne networks and ask you to join them when out and about.

See: Wi-fi to handle majority of mobile data traffic by 2017

Cut down on iPhone mobile data usage by checking System Services

You can also see which system services are using mobile data. Tap on Settings > Mobile and and scroll all the way down to System Services. Tap this to view a list of what system services (iTunes Accounts, Push Notifications, and so on ) are using mobile data and how much. These should be quite small, and within your limits. You can’t turn these off individually though, if you don’t want to use them you have to turn all Mobile Data off.

iPhone System Services

Turn Data Roaming Off on an iPhone

We suggest tapping Data Roaming to Off (not green) at all times. When you do this the iPhone will work fine in your home country, but will not be able to access the internet when you are abroad. If you want to access data overseas tap Data Roaming to turn it on.

See: How to avoid data roaming charges and What the EU's ban on mobile roaming charges means for you

Create a Personal Hotspot on an iPhone (or don’t to cut down on bills)

You can create a Personal Hotspot to share your data with another device (like an iPad or MacBook). Tap on Personal Hotspot and switch Personal Hotspot to On. This will use extra data so make sure it’s turned Off by default. Some mobile phone operators also temporarily block your account if they detect you creating a Personal Hotspot (as they want you to pay extra for this service).

Download an app

Most mobile phone providers in the UK offer an app that enables you to access up-to-date information on your account. These are all free and generally well worth downloading from the App Store. Here are the links to apps for major mobile phone providers:

The Three iPhone App