Stop running out of cellular data on your iPhone, see which apps use the most data

Best ways to stop running out of data on your iPhone

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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  • Track 1
  • Stop wasteful apps 2
  • Guilty apps 3
  • Turn off 3G/4G 4
  • Facebook 5
  • FaceTime 6
  • iCloud 7
  • iTunes 8
  • Done roaming 9
  • Safari 10
  • Photo Stream 11
  • Push Notifications 12
  • Email fetching 13
  • App refresh 14
  • Wi-Fi on 15
  • Wi-Fi hotspots 16
  • Share your connection 17
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Step 1 of 17: 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 and scroll down to see your Cellular 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.

This feature was based on iOS 7, although many of the featrues are still available in iOS 8. Don't miss our top iOS 8 tips article here: 29 iOS 8 tips & tricks: Get to know iOS 8's best new features

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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 and scroll down to see your Cellular 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.

This feature was based on iOS 7, although many of the featrues are still available in iOS 8. Don't miss our top iOS 8 tips article here: 29 iOS 8 tips & tricks: Get to know iOS 8's best new features

Step 2 of 17: Stop iPhone apps using cellular data

Another new feature in iOS 7 was the ability to determine which apps on your iPhone are allowed to use cellular data. When we are close to our allowance, we head to Settings > Cellular 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. 

Step 3 of 17: 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 4 of 17: 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 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 our iPhone 5s reviews here]

Step 5 of 17: How to turn off auto play in Facebook

Facebook recently 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 our iPhone 5c reviews here]

Step 6 of 17: Don't use FaceTime on 3G or 4G network

It's great that we can use FaceTime over 3G, 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 7 of 17: Stop iCloud Documents & Data using cellular data

Go to Settings > iCloud > Documents & Data. You can turn off the ability for apps to store documents and data in the cloud by toggling the Documents & Data switch, or you can be more specific about which apps you think can do with out this allowance.

If you want to stop your documents syncing when you aren't on a Wi-Fi network just toggle Use Cellular Data to off. 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 8 of 17: 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.

Step 9 of 17: 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.

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

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

Step 10 of 17: Use Safari reading list to view articles offline

One of our favourite new features in the iOS 7 version of Safari is 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.

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 11 of 17: 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. When you turn 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 with the iOS 7 update, you can now manage Photo Sharing. You can turn off Photo Sharing (at Settings > Photo & Camera), which will stop your phone from downloading images from other people's shared photo streams that you subscribe to. However, should you still want to be able to see your friend's images on your phone, you can stop Photo using your cellular connection in Settings > Cellular. If you have a photo stream this is one to watch when you go on holiday.

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

Step 12 of 17: 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 > Notification Centre to find out. You can easily stop any apps from pestering you with Notifications here (just 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 will still want to make sure that those apps that you still want to receive notifications for aren't doing so over your cellular connection.

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.

Step 13 of 17: 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 14 of 17: Stop background app refresh in iOS 7

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

Step 15 of 17: 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 16 of 17: 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 17 of 17: 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: How to improve iPhone battery life

Comments

Comments

macworlduk said: That doesn't sound right Jim! You'll want to give them a ring and find out what's going on there.

Jim Brady said: why is att&t still charging me for data while my cellular data is switched off

macworlduk said: Apologies for this! We are working on a fix as we speak, it's the new slideshow engine playing up on iPad.

C.J. McELEAVY said: Can't get this page to go to the next step,so i can't make a comment on what looks like a very useful article.I'm reading it on iPad Safari.Anybody got any suggestions?

Lisa Wheeler said: My data usage is what made me realize what a Pintrest junkie I was. Sigh.

macworlduk said: It would be ideal if you could set your iPhone to monitor your data usage according to when your contract renews - we know that this is something some android phones can do... Ideally it would reset on the first day of your month, and warn you if you were getting close to your data allocation later in the month.

Dragonfly said: The O2 PAYG data plan I have, charges £1 a day for the days I use data and if it creeps over midnight, while the data is still on, (i.e. I forget to switch it off) O2 Charge another £1 !Siri will now switch off Cellular Data if you ask him nicely, but he won't switch off Cellular data at a specific time, example 23:55. It would be good if Apple would allow Siri to do things like this on a schedule.

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