Has your iPhone started running out of 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? Here's how to make sure you never run out of data again.
Over the past few months I've been monitoring my data usage on our iPhone. It all started in May when I ran out of data on 10 May, almost a week before my allowance was reset on 16 May.
The only other time that I'd run out of data was back in January when my BT broadband was faulty and I'd been using the 3G connection on my iPhone more than usual. It was clear that something on my iPhone was gobbling up my data so I set about determining exactly what was to blame.
How to find out how much data you've used
To view how much data you have used go to Settings > General > Usage > Cellular Usage. Make it a habit to reset your data each month on the day your network resets your allowance.
Turn off data
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 > General > Cellular and switch Cellular Data 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 lift – as opposed to turning the phone to Airplane Mode, which preserves power but means nobody can contact you.
Turn off Cellular data for particular apps
Go to Settings > General > Cellular and scroll down the page. Here you can disable cellular data for certain iOS features including iCloud Documents, FaceTime and iTunes.
In our case the fact that we had increased our use of Pages and Keynote in May was significant, our phone was helpfully updating Pages documents and Keynote presentations via iCloud, and gobbling up lots of data at the same time.
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. Unfortunately turning off cellular data for iTunes may not stop these downloads from happening. Instead you need to turn off automatic push notifications by going to Settings > iTunes & App Stores and turn off automatic downloads by toggling Use Cellular Data to OFF.
Stop Photo Streaming
May had also seen me ramp up use of Photo Stream, I'd signed up to a friends feed, and started sharing one of my own. When you sign up to Photo Stream it looks innocent enough. The screen where you can turn Photo Stream on (Settings > iCloud > Photo Stream) suggests that if you toggle My Photo Stream to ON 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 friends Photo Stream when we were on 3G networks, suggesting that it's not a very cellular data friendly service. Apple even buries the fact that you can share photos over both Wi-Fi and cellular data connections at the bottom of its Photo Stream FAQ. Apple should address this in the iOS 7 update, at least make it possible to share Photo Streams only over Wi-Fi.
Find out if iCloud is eating your data
You should also check what else iCloud might be doing with your data. Go to Settings > iCloud and check whether Documents & Data is On. If it is that may be ok, but make sure that it is not using Cellular Data. You can check this by tapping Documents & 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.
Those apps that appear in the In Notifications Centre list will 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.
Stop Push 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. Make sure you are set to fetch data manually. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and select Manually from the list.
Check Advanced to make sure all your email accounts are being fetched manually.
Turn off Push for everything
Even better, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data and toggle the switch to OFF.
Make sure Wi-Fi is on
Ever found yourself switching off Wi-Fi when your phone decides to connect to the Wi-Fi when you are about town? It's a frustration that's easily fixed if you choose to 'forget network' but often in the heat of the moment we turn off Wi-Fi. If you do so remember to turn it back on again later or you'll be using 3G at home rather than Wi-Fi.
Don't download an app to help manage your data
This was the advice we were given at the time. Our advice would be don't, however. The app we downloaded didn't seem to track our data usage as accurately as simply checking Settings > General > Usage > Cellular Usage and yet we were paying for the privilege.