Are you one of those people who always worries about how much data you’re using on your iPhone or other iOS device? As the end of your carrier’s billing cycle nears, do you wonder if you or a family member are going to cross the line over your data limit and incur the dreaded extra charges?
There’s good news. In recent versions of Apple’s operating system, including iOS 13, Apple makes it easier than ever to obsess over your data usage and take steps to mitigate it. We’ll show you how to check data usage on an iPhone whenever you like with this quick process, and we’ll explain how it can be used to limit your data use.
Keep an eye on your data
- Turn on your iPhone and tap the Settings icon.
- Once in Settings, look for an option that says Cellular and select it. With some iOS devices, this option may say Mobile Data or Cellular Data, but it’s the same thing. When the new window opens, scroll down to the section called Cellular Data or Use Data For.
- Observe exactly how much data your phone has used in the current month or payment period.
Some information in this section may vary according to your carrier. However, most carriers provide a section at the top called Current Period (sometimes called This Billing Period). Many carriers also include a section called Current Period Roaming, a separate tracker of all roaming data used, since the two are frequently charged at different rates. If you don’t see any information about data used in the current period, call your carrier or log into the website and search for more specific information.
As you scroll down, you will see a list of all the iPhone apps you currently use. Each app includes information on how much data it has used (if it uses cellular data at all). Before iOS 12, apps were sorted alphabetically, but now they’re listed by usage, with apps that use the most data at the top. In the list, you’ll also see a section called System Services.
If you tap this, you will see all the very basic services on your iPhone and how much data they are using, too. This is the amount of data your phone has to use to provide communication services.
Save data when you use too much
Are the results of your data monitoring a little disturbing? Are you ready for a new iOS approach? If you’re suddenly anxious to cut back on data to save money, here are the methods iOS provides.
Enable Low Data Mode
Since iOS 13, iPhones and iPads have been able to switch to a low data mode that changes a number of settings to help conserve data and avoid reaching caps. To access it, go to Settings, select Cellular, and choose Cellular Data Options. Here you will see a Low Data Mode option that you can enable. If you’re on 5G, you may have to select a Data Mode category first.
Low Data Mode behaves differently based on your carrier and the apps that you use, but it tends to automatically enable some of the steps we describe below, as well as pausing big updates, prefetching, and other actions that unnecessarily use data when you’re trying to save.
Switch data off by app
Remember that list of apps in Mobile Data or Cellular? They’re probably all switched to the green On state, but you can go through and toggle off any data-hungry apps, blocking them from using data. This is quite handy, especially if you never intended to have them on in the first place. It’s a good way to save on some data while still allowing important services to work. The only exception to this is System Services, which you cannot switch off.
It’s also a good idea to switch off Background App Refresh if you want to save on data:
- Go to Settings, and select General.
- Scroll until you find Background App Refresh, underneath iPhone Storage, and select it.
- Select Background App Refresh at the top of the next screen. You will see a few different options here, including Off and Wi-Fi. It’s a good idea to switch it to Wi-Fi. This way, apps will only refresh in the background (when you aren’t actively using them) if your iPhone/iPad is connected to Wi-Fi, and it won’t use up any of your data.
Turn off automatic downloads
iOS has a feature that will automatically download content you purchased on one device – apps, songs, e-books, etc. — to all iOS devices on your account. That’s a problem if you purchase a big content package on iPad when you’re on Wi-Fi, and then your iPhone starts downloading it too when on your data plan. Here’s what to do to prevent this:
- Go to Settings, and find the iTunes & App Stores section. Select it
- Look for the option that says Use Cellular Data. Make sure it’s turned off.
- It may be a good idea to check what devices are on your account too, so that you know where all your app content is syncing to.
Switch data off entirely
Do you want to put a moratorium on data for the remaining time frame to prevent additional fees? At the very top of the Mobile Data or Cellular window, you should see the Cellular Data label with a green button next to it. Flipping the green button to Off switches off your data connection. Different carriers may offer additional options, such as the ability to switch off Data Roaming and Voice Roaming separately. Switching on the Low Data Mode toggle also helps to reduce usage by pausing automatic updates and background tasks. You can still use Wi-Fi networks to go online.
Additional data services
Many carriers also offer options to switch from LTE, VoLTE, or 4G to 3G — which can help save on data — and choose what type of network connection you want for specific voice and data services. Switching voice services to 3G may help you save data if you make a lot of local calls — and some carriers enable Wi-Fi calling so you can switch off data entirely when making those calls. Your data speed will be slower on 3G.
Turning off Wi-Fi Assist
Wi-Fi Assist can be helpful under certain circumstances, but you probably want it turned off if you are trying to save data. For mobile devices that have it, Wi-Fi Assist automatically switches to cellular data when Wi-Fi can’t handle loading a webpage or is having similar networking problems, so it can use cell data when needed. If you are leaving some data services on, look for Wi-Fi Assist in the Cellular section of Settings, and toggle it off.
Download an app
If you need extra help, you can turn to third-party options to monitor and control your data usage. Here are a couple of good ones.
My Data Manager
My Data Manager VPN Security helps you protect your online privacy and control your mobile data usage simultaneously. The app has a few features working for it, if you don’t mind leaving it open in the background at all times. First, it protects your internet traffic via a VPN. It also encrypts your data. And finally, it tracks data use by the app, so you can see which ones are draining your data. Use My Data Manager to assess data usage on mobile, Wi-Fi, and roaming to determine which apps are consuming most of your mobile allowance. You can also schedule alerts so that the app can warn you before you reach your data limit. With this app, you can avoid extra fees and even set up a shared or family plan to track data usage for an entire household.
Traffic Monitor allows you to examine your data usage for a chosen time frame under your specific data plan. For instance, you can select a certain date, such as the beginning of your billing period, or program your data cap. You can program Traffic Monitor to alert you when you get to a variety of data thresholds or if you go over your data. You can use the Today Extension widget to observe your current data usage in the Notification Center, or you can automatically track your usage on a map. In contrast with other apps, some of Traffic Monitor’s features are still usable even when you are not using the app. In addition, users can control the background location at any time and in any place.
One extremely beneficial feature that Traffic Monitor provides is the testing, recording, and documentation of internet connection velocity. This is convenient for users as they perform a variety of critical tasks. For example, if you opened up the app and saw a lagging connection speed in your location, you could save a lot of time and irritation by waiting to upload a large file or downloading an album.
Understanding where you’re at with your data usage can help prevent expensive overage charges and frustrating throttling. There are many easy, no-charge methods available to monitor data use on your iOS device. Many of these apps offer privacy protection and ensure that your entire family uses their allocated data responsibly.