Tip: use Messages low quality image mode to conserve precious cellular data

By , Sep 21, 2016

iOS 10 Lock screen Messages notification 3D Touch iPhone screenshot 001

Apple’s Messages app provides an optional iOS-only mode which cuts down your cellular data consumption to a bare minimum when sending image attachments. I don’t know about you, but I worry about sharing high-resolution images when cellular data is on. In my experience, most normals are oblivious to the fact that sending a single shot-on-iPhone photograph through iMessage burns through one to five megabytes of data, sometimes even more.

In low quality mode, Messages uses only 100KB per image attachment. Another way to think about it: you can send 30 to 50 images for the same amount of data required to share a full-resolution attachment in Messages. In this brief tutorial, we’ll teach you how to tell Messages to send lower quality images in order to optimize your cellular data consumption and prevent unwanted overage fees.

How to enable low quality image mode in Messages

1) Go to Settings → Messages on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

2) Flip the Low Quality Image Mode knob to the ON position.


“When this is on, images sent will be lower quality,” states Apple.

You can now attach photos to iMessages as you normally would—be it directly from within the Messages app or from other apps, using iOS’s multi-purposes Share sheets—and trust iOS to automatically rescale them before they’re sent.

Don’t worry, this mode has no bearing on the images stored in your photo library: it most definitely will not downscale or overwrite full-resolution shots stored in the Photos app.

RELATED: iOS 10 Messages low quality mode uses circa 100KB per sent image

Messages intelligently adjusts both image resolution and compression quality on the fly to keep the attachment at or slightly above 100KB. The exact file size of the sent image is contingent upon the quality and resolution of the original photo.

In my tests, none of my friends could tell any difference in quality between the original resolution photos I shared with them and their downsampled counterparts I sent in low quality mode unless they zoomed in.

As Apple clearly states, this mode only applies to sent, not received images. If you want to receive lower-quality images, too, ask the sender to enable Low Quality Image Mode on their end.

How do you like this tip? Can you think of a few scenarios where you’d want to enable this mode? If so, share them with the iDownloadBlog community in the comments.

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  • ghulamsameer

    Yo can I get a link to the wallpaper on the far left?

    • Obada Essa

      It is probably from an app called WLPPR
      It has hundreds of photos of natural-terrains taken from space.

    • Jayy
      • Agneev Mukherjee

        Ummm… Can you upload the original file elsewhere because Disqus compresses it…??

      • Jayy

        I don’t have any photo sharing accounts, like imgur, photobucket, or whatever else people are using. Just download the WLPPR app it’s only 23.3mb and that specific wallpaper is the fourth row down.

      • Agneev Mukherjee


      • Jayy

        Sorry I couldn’t be of further assistance.

  • Scott Curry

    I like the idea here, but not the implementation. This should scale the image while on cellular, but have the option to download the full image once on a WiFi connection. It should also be the receiver’s discretion, not the sender’s…

    (Yes, I understand how making it the receiver’s discretion is much more difficult, but if using the first option, it shouldn’t be.)

    • It’s a cool idea on paper, but I don’t think it’s possible. Apple currently doesn’t save any of your messages on their server, they can’t see the contents of any messages being sent, nor do they spy on your phone to see whether you are currently on cell or not.

      Unfortunately to implement this, they would likely need to force the sender to send two copies of all images to their server (high rez and low rez), then Apple would need to take a look at how you’re currently using your phone and send you the “appropriate package”. They would also then need to save the high quality version on their server for some reasonable period of time so that you could download it later. But unfortunately while this might save the receiver some space it puts extra burden on the sender and reduces privacy and bloats Apple’s server storage.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if someone at Apple is trying to come up with an ultra creative work around, but for now. I wouldn’t expect to see this soon. Cool idea though for sure.

    • Alex Wilson

      Good idea, I’d like to see the option for all versions of iOS that on cell data you can limit the size but on wifi it can be full size, but this should be controlled by both the sender & recipient some how. Not much job to figure out the how to, just to dream 🙂