How to stop running out of data on your iPhone, how to turn off WiFi assist

Has your iPhone started running out of cellular data before your allowance is reset each month? Do you receive texts from your mobile network warning that you are at 80% of your data allowance for the month? Have you ever run out of data before the month was up? If you are tired of running out of cellular data every month follow our tips and never run out of data again.

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  • Save data in iOS 9 1
  • Track 2
  • Stop wasteful apps 3
  • Guilty apps 4
  • Turn off 3G/4G 5
  • Facebook 6
  • FaceTime 7
  • iCloud 8
  • iTunes 9
  • Done roaming 10
  • Safari 11
  • Photo Stream 12
  • Push Notifications 13
  • Email fetching 14
  • App refresh 15
  • Wi-Fi on 16
  • Wi-Fi hotspots 17
  • Share your connection 18
  • More stories
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Tip 1 of 18: Save data in iOS 9

When Apple introduced iOS 9 some users found that their Mobile Data (or Cellular Data if you are in the US) was being gobbled up more rapidly than before.

It turned out that the reason for this was Apple’s new WiFi Assist feature, which will utilize the mobile network if your WiFi is flaky.

If you think this is happening to you, you can turn this feature off in Settings > Mobile Data then scroll to the bottom of the page where you can turn off Wi-Fi Assist.

Now, in reaction to the discourse over the new feature, Apple has admitted that users “might use more cellular data” in a new support document about the feature.

The issue is that the feature is turned on by default, so users who have a limited data allowance may wish to turn it off, but if they are unaware of its existence they will be none the wiser about the cause of their data drain.

Apple has made sure that there are some limitations to the feature, though: it won’t work when you are data roaming in another country and not all apps can take advantage of the feature, for example video and audio streaming apps are exempt. However, Apple’s Safari, Mail, Maps, and Apple Music do utilise the feature.

UPDATE: Despite Apple's attempts to rectify things and warn users of the feature, the company is now in trouble over  WiFi Assist.

At the end of October, a Californian couple, William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips, filed a class action lawsuit accusing Apple of not warning iPhone owners about the fact that WiFi Assist's would switch to cellular data when the WiFi signal was poor.

Even Apple’s guide to WiFi assist that it published after being criticized for not alerting users to the feature, isn’t considered satisfactory as it “downplays” the charges users might accrue.

According to an Apple Insider report, the plaintiffs anticipate that damages could "exceed" $5 million due to the number of potentially affected customers.

UPDATE: 28 October - We've received a text message from O2 that reads as follows:

Heard about iOS 9's Wi-Fi Assist?

It automatically switches from wifi to 3G or 4G when your wifi signal is poor. So you can stay connected on your mobile.

It's on by default, so you could be charged if you use up your mobile data. Want to switch it off? Tap Settings, Mobile Data, and turn it off.

Read on for more tips for saving data on your iPhone or iPad, this feature was originally written for iOS 7 and 8, but many of the features remain the same.

Next Tip »

Next Prev slideshow image

When Apple introduced iOS 9 some users found that their Mobile Data (or Cellular Data if you are in the US) was being gobbled up more rapidly than before.

It turned out that the reason for this was Apple’s new WiFi Assist feature, which will utilize the mobile network if your WiFi is flaky.

If you think this is happening to you, you can turn this feature off in Settings > Mobile Data then scroll to the bottom of the page where you can turn off Wi-Fi Assist.

Now, in reaction to the discourse over the new feature, Apple has admitted that users “might use more cellular data” in a new support document about the feature.

The issue is that the feature is turned on by default, so users who have a limited data allowance may wish to turn it off, but if they are unaware of its existence they will be none the wiser about the cause of their data drain.

Apple has made sure that there are some limitations to the feature, though: it won’t work when you are data roaming in another country and not all apps can take advantage of the feature, for example video and audio streaming apps are exempt. However, Apple’s Safari, Mail, Maps, and Apple Music do utilise the feature.

UPDATE: Despite Apple's attempts to rectify things and warn users of the feature, the company is now in trouble over  WiFi Assist.

At the end of October, a Californian couple, William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips, filed a class action lawsuit accusing Apple of not warning iPhone owners about the fact that WiFi Assist's would switch to cellular data when the WiFi signal was poor.

Even Apple’s guide to WiFi assist that it published after being criticized for not alerting users to the feature, isn’t considered satisfactory as it “downplays” the charges users might accrue.

According to an Apple Insider report, the plaintiffs anticipate that damages could "exceed" $5 million due to the number of potentially affected customers.

UPDATE: 28 October - We've received a text message from O2 that reads as follows:

Heard about iOS 9's Wi-Fi Assist?

It automatically switches from wifi to 3G or 4G when your wifi signal is poor. So you can stay connected on your mobile.

It's on by default, so you could be charged if you use up your mobile data. Want to switch it off? Tap Settings, Mobile Data, and turn it off.

Read on for more tips for saving data on your iPhone or iPad, this feature was originally written for iOS 7 and 8, but many of the features remain the same.

 

Step 2 of 18: Track how much iPhone data you use

Before you can start to manage your iPhone cellular data usage, you need to keep tabs on how much you are using. To view how much data you have used go to Settings > Cellular (Or Mobile Data) and scroll down to see your Mobile Data Usage. If you have never reset this number it could be pretty big.

Our advice is to get in the habit of resetting it every month, perhaps set an alert on your phone so that you remember to reset it on the day your network resets your allowance. To reset your statistics, scroll down to the bottom of the page and tap: Reset Statistics. Get in the habit of looking here once in a while so you can see if you are on target.

 

Step 3 of 18: Stop iPhone apps using cellular data

One of the new features in iOS 7 was the ability to determine which apps on your iPhone are allowed to use cellular data. This feature remains in iOS 8 and iOS 9.

When we are close to our allowance, we head to Settings > Cellular/Mobile Data and scroll down to switch off a number of apps so that we will think twice before wasting our cellular allowance on them.

The other benefit of stopping some of your apps using cellular data is that it should stop them updating in the background when you are out and about – thereby preserving battery life.

Read: How to save iPhone battery life

 

Step 4 of 18: How to see which apps are using data on iPhone

Below each of the apps on the Settings > Cellular page you will see just how much data they have been using since you last reset your iPhone. You can expect that the apps you use frequently will have higher data usage, but any that stand out as guzzling a lot more data that you think they should be can be switched off here.

 

Step 5 of 18: Turn off 3G and 4G data on your iPhone

If things are really desperate, one way to preserve your data when you are running low is to temporarily disable cellular data. This way if you have a week or so to go until your contract renews then you can manage your usage rather than running out completely.

To turn off your cellular data so go to Settings > Cellular (Mobile Data) and toggle the Cellular Data switch to off.

This will turn off all cellular data to restrict all data to Wi-Fi, including email, web browsing and push notifications. We also find this is a handy way to preserve battery life – as opposed to turning the phone to Airplane Mode, which preserves power but means nobody can contact you. 

Read: iOS 9 review

 

Step 6 of 18: How to turn off auto play in Facebook

A while ago Facebook added a feature to their iOS app that means when you are scrolling through your news feed any video that's been posted will automatically stream – even if you aren't on a Wi-Fi network. Obviously this isn't an ideal situation if you have a limited data allowance.

We recommend you change your settings so that it only streams if you are in Wi-Fi. Go to Settings > Facebook > Settings and scroll down to Video and switch to Auto-play on Wi-Fi only.

Read: iPhone 6s review and iPhone 6s Plus review

 

Step 7 of 18: Don't use FaceTime on 3G or 4G network

It's great that we can use FaceTime over 3G or 4G, but if you have limited data but loads of free minutes you will probably prefer to stick to normal calls. Go to Settings > Cellular and scroll down your list of apps to make sure that FaceTime is switched off for cellular data.

You might be thinking that you wouldn't contact anyone via FaceTime over cellular, but crucially, this will also stop anyone contacting you via FaceTime when you aren't on a Wi-Fi network.

 

Step 8 of 18: Stop iCloud Drive using cellular data

Go to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive. Here you can turn off Cellular Data so that your iPhone only updates iCloud Drive when you are on a WiFi network.

Alternatively, turn off the ability for apps to store documents and data in the cloud by toggling the switch beside each app to off, this way you can be more specific about which apps you think can do with out this allowance.

If you are regularly using Apple's iWork apps, such as Pages or Keynote, you may find your phone busily syncing large documents over your cellular connection, and you probably won't want that.

 

Step 9 of 18: Stop iTunes using data

If you have cellular data turned on for iTunes, and you subscribe to iTunes Match, you may find your data is being gobbled up, which is particularly annoying given that you are paying for the service to start with.

Go to Settings > iTunes & App Store and make sure that Use Cellular Data is switched off.

Similarly, if you are an Apple Music subscriber, make sure that Use Mobile Data is not selected for Playback and downloads at Settings > Music.

 

Step 10 of 18: Avoid Data roaming charges

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.

Go to Settings > Cellular and toggle the switch beside Data Roamig.

If you want to access data overseas tap Data Roaming to turn it on.

You'll notice the EU Internet option too, this is due to a new law that states that roaming charges in the EU are illegal. It means that European customers will pay the same price for any phone call, text message and  data usage whereever you are in the EU. You can't enable the ‘EU Internet’ option unless you turn on Data Roaming.

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

 

Step 11 of 18: Use Safari reading list to view articles offline

One of our favourite new features that arrived in the iOS 7 version of Safari was the Reading List feature that lets you download a webpage for reading off line. This is great when you are reading a webpage during a commute and about to head into a tunnel. The feature remains in iOS 8 and iOS 9.

It's also great if you are out of data and want to be able to read some articles on your iPhone while you are out and about. You can queue up a few web pages in your Reading List while you are on a Wi-Fi network, and then read them without using up any data. While you have access to Wi-Fi go to Safari, open the web pages you wish to read, click on the Share icon at the bottom of the page, and select Add to Reading List. Wait for the phone to download the article and then head out.  You will be able to read this article even if you are using Airplane Mode.

However, if you don't want your phone to use cellular data to download the pages you have added to reading list on your other devices, you need to head to Settings > Safari and scroll down to toggle off Use Cellular Data for reading list.

 

Step 12 of 18: Beware data guzzling iPhone Photo Stream

Photo Stream was the main culprit when we started to regularly hit our data allowance back in the summer of 2013, having signed up to a friend's feed, and started sharing one of our own. Back then, when you turned off Photo Stream in Settings > iCloud > Photos and then toggle My Photo Stream on, it looks innocent enough, claiming as it does it will "Automatically upload new photos and send the to all of your iCloud devices when connected to Wi-Fi." This may be the case, but we were getting sent photos from our friend's Photo Stream when we were on 3G networks, suggesting that it wasn't a very cellular data friendly service.

Luckily the iOS 7 update, bought the abilty to manage Photo Sharing. You could turn off iCloud Photo Sharing (at Settings > Photo & Camera), which would stop your phone from downloading images from other people's shared photo streams that you subscribe to (you can still download them on your Mac or another device).

When Apple launched iCloud Photo Library, we were concerned that it could also gobble up iPhone mobile data, but the Upload to My Photo Stream indicates that it is via Wi-Fi only.

One way to make absolutely sure that Photo doesn't use your cellular connection is to go to Settings > Cellular/Mobile Data and switch the slider beside Photos to off.

READ: How to share your Mac's iPhoto library via iCloud

 

Step 13 of 18: Save data: turn off Push Notifications

How many of your applications are using the Apple Push Notifications service to alert you to new data? Go to Settings > Notifications to find out. You can easily stop any apps from pestering you with Notifications here. The format for this has changed slightly in iOS 9. Previously you could scroll down the list, tap on those apps you don't want to notify you, and toggle to switch beside: Show in Notification Centre, and Show on Lock Screen. However, you would still want to make sure that those apps that you still want to receive notifications for aren't doing so over your cellular connection.

In iOS 9 you get the choice of notification style for each app. You can choose for apps to not Allow Notifications. Or you can choose the kind of Notifications you allow. It's slightly annoying that you have to turn off Notifications on a per app basis, but you can at least see the kind of notification setting you have for each app without tapping on them first (it's below the name of the app).

Note that if you have an Apple Watch you may want some apps to display notifications on that device - go to the Apple Watch app to set this up. 

Those apps that appear under Include on the Notifications Centre tab may be using data to alert you to changes. If you really don't need to be told that your friend has replied to your post on Facebook turn Notification Centre off by tapping Facebook, and switching the slider to off. Be ruthless with the apps that are alerting you to changes, although if you then end up checking them every five minutes it may be a false economy.

Turning off Notifications can also save iPhone battery life: follow these tips for getting better iPhone battery life.

Find out more about Notifications.

 

Step 14 of 18: Manage iPhone data usage: Stop fetching email

Another one to curb is your email. If you have the phone set to fetch data wirelessly at specific intervals you will quickly consume data – this can get really out of hand if you have your iPhone set to Push data to your iPhone from the server as it will be updating all the time. Start by making sure that Push is not selected. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and if Push is turned on, turn it off.

Now make sure you are set to fetch data manually. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and scroll down and select Manually from the list. You can be even more precise if you prefer, and amend your fetch settings for separate accounts. Changing these settings also has the benefit of preserving battery life.

 

Step 15 of 18: Stop background app refresh in iOS 8

One of the new features of iOS 7 was the ability for your phone to automatically update its operating system, and it's apps, in the background without you having to act. The same feature remains in iOS 8 and iOS 9.

However, this can be a problem if your phone decides to update when you aren't on a Wi-Fi network. Head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and make sure that the Background App Refresh switch is set to off. 

 

Step 16 of 18: Keep Wi-Fi on

If you have ever found yourself switching off Wi-Fi when your phone decides to connect to the Wi-Fi when you are about town you may find yourself using cellular when you are back at home.

It's a frustration that's easily fixed if you choose to forget the network when one of them pops up.

Just tap on the network name, and in the following screen select Forget this Network.

 

Step 17 of 18: Use Wi-Fi hotspots

You'll be able to find Wi-Fi networks all around, especially in any big city. You can find Wi-Fi in most coffee shop chains, many restaurants, and other public areas like libraries and airports. If you are a BT broadband subscriber you can use the BT WiFi app to get onto any of their hotspots for free. Download the BT WiFi app for iOS here.

However, you should always exercise an air of caution when accessing a hotspot, as we explain in this article: How do I know if a Wi-Fi hotspot is safe. The best advice is to use a Wi-Fi hotspot that requires a password – it's an extra assurance that someone else won't be spying on what you are doing.

 

Step 18 of 18: Share your connection to Wi-Fi

You could create a hotspot from your Mac and access it from your iPhone.

This is ideal if you are at work and your boss won't let you use the local Wi-Fi network, or if you are in a hotel which only has ethernet access.

You can follow the instructions in this article: How to share a internet connection from a Mac to an iPhone

Now Read: Using iPhone settings

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