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Out of Control iPhone Data Usage
Swamp Tech

Out of Control iPhone Data UsageBe careful what you wish for...

For years, iPhone users have envied Android's ability to monitor and control devices, both manually and automatically.  The demise of unlimited data plans forced smartphone owners to pay attention to how their phones use data. iOS 6 added the ability to monitor total data usage independently of carriers like AT&T. iOS7 added the ability to monitor and control usage by application, but the price may have been too steep.

iPhone users are reporting problems with significant mobile data usage, and some are offering suggestions to limit data usage by removing many features that separate smartphones that would be pitiful if there were ways to address the issues without jailbreaking the phone.

The Breakdown by Usage Type chart shows my Verizon family plan usage by line.  The first and 4th lines are college students living away from home. Both have wifi access when they aren't in class. The first line, a Moto X running Android Kit Kat, normally has more usage than the 4th, an iPhone 5s. Why does the iPhone have almost 5 times the usage of an Android phone that likely has more usage?

Here's what I've learned so far:

  • iOS applications still use mobile data, even if connected to a wireless network, including:
    • iTunes and app updates
    • Facetime
    • Text messaging (by default)
  • You can turn off mobile data by application, but sometimes it comes back.
  • You can manually turn off mobile data, but the only way to automate that is by jailbreaking the phone.
  • Wireless access is deactivated when the phone sleeps, but iOS updates and other background activities will still happen using mobile data.
  • Poor reception will cause the phone to continuously connect (this happens on all smartphones).
  • The mail app will continuously attempt to send unsent mail from the Outbox.

To be fair, I had a similar problem with the Amazon store (not to be confused with the Amazon app store) on an Android phone.  It synchronized 100MB of data, images and information on every product I viewed on the Amazon website), even though I didn't use the app on my phone. That isn't trivial (and I suspect it would happen on any phone with the Amazon store), but it pales in comparison with what I estimate to be the 5GB of phantom data usage on the iPhone.

Unfortunately, for now it seems the best option is to manually turn off mobile data unless, and only if, it's necessary.  I'll update this as we learn more...


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