Tips to save cellular data on iPhone

By , Dec 6, 2016

iPhone Cellular Data

Many cellular carriers are skimpy and they charge absurd amounts of money for capped data plans.

If you’re like most people, you’re stuck on one of these capped data plans and you will need to have some kind of self discipline to keep yourself from going over indulging and being charged overage fees.

In this piece, we’ll talk about some of the ways you can help reduce the amount of data you use on your iPhone every month.

Tips for reducing your monthly data usage

There are a myriad of things you can do to reduce data usage. Many of these that we’re about to show you may seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t actually follow some of these simple steps.

We’ll also be showing you some methods of saving data that aren’t so obvious, so follow along with us as we take you through a data-saving checklist that you can use to keep yourself within your data cap.

Compress your text message attachments

If you go over to Settings → Messages, you will find a new option called Low Quality Image Mode starting with iOS 10 that lets you enable lower quality images.

Low Quality Image Mode iOS 10

If you’re struggling to stay within your data caps each month, turn this switch on. It will help reduce the file sizes of photos and videos you send to people via SMS and iMessage, which in turn saves you data. They might not look as good anymore, but you won’t get hit with data overage fees so easily now.

Don’t let app updates download automatically on cellular

Make sure the Use Cellular Data option under Settings → iTunes & App Stores is turned off.

iOs Us Cellular Data Automatic Downloads

If enabled, this will allow App Store app updates to install in the background automatically, even if you’re connected to a cellular network instead of Wi-Fi.

By keeping this off, you won’t inadvertently eat up all your data while you’re not even using your iPhone!

Keep data-guzzling apps from accessing cellular data

Another thing you can do to prevent unwanted data usage is pick and choose what apps on your device can be used while you’re connected to a cellular network. You can do this from Settings → Cellular.

Limit Apps Cellular Data

This pane conveniently shows you how much data your apps are using while connected to your cellular network. You can turn off the apps that are using excessive data and keep the ones that use very little enabled.

Keep in mind however that you will be unable to use any apps you turn off if they require an internet connection and you’re stuck using cellular data only. This can be a turn off for some people, but in extreme cases where you have a low data cap, it can be very helpful because it limits inbound and outbound traffic.

Don’t let videos auto-play in your social networking apps

Many modern social networking apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will now auto-play videos in your news feed as you scroll down to them. As you can probably imagine, this kind of activity really bumps up your cellular data usage.

You can disable auto-play and optimize data usage in most social networking apps. We have tutorials for a few of them below:

The process is similar for a lot of social networking apps. You just have to poke around in the app’s settings a little bit to find it.

Limit cellular usage in your music streaming apps

Apple Music seems to be the go-to choice for many iOS device users, but there are a variety of music streaming apps available for iOS, all of which typically have some kind of data-saving features.

From Settings → Music → Cellular Data, you can turn off Apple Music streaming and downloading separately or both at the same time to reduce usage when you’re abroad.

Apple Music Cellular Streaming

Personally, I’m a Spotify user, and there is also a data saving feature available in the Spotify app that lets me reduce data usage if I so choose to. I’d imagine most other music streaming apps are similar in this respect.

By choosing a lower streaming quality or disabling streaming over cellular altogether, you can significantly reduce data usage. You don’t necessarily have to give up on quality either; you can download your music in high quality while you’re on Wi-Fi and have it available for offline listening when you’re out and about.

Turn off Wi-Fi Assist

There’s a feature under Settings → Cellular called Wi-Fi Assist that lets your iPhone utilize cellular data automatically when your Wi-Fi network connection is too poor to load content. You should disable this feature if you want to save more data.

Disable Wi-Fi Assist

For some people with higher data plans, this feature is great because it improves performance. On the other hand, it is a nightmare for those with lower data plans, as it automatically routes your internet usage into the back pocket of your carrier.

Don’t let iCloud Drive anywhere near your data

If you’ve enabled iCloud Drive on your iPhone, you should limit its internet access to Wi-Fi only. There’s a setting for this under Settings → iCloud → iCloud Drive.

iCloud Drive Use Cellular Data

iCloud Drive sends and receives data that has been stored in the cloud for your apps, and every time you make changes in those apps, it has to sync back and forth.

If you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network, that constant transmission of data could take a bite out of your limited data, so disabling this switch is a responsible move in the right direction.

Disable Push for the Mail app

By default, your Mail app is configured to have new email information pushed to your device as it’s available. This kind of activity means your iPhone not only uses more battery life, but it’s also always getting data sent back and forth.

Although most emails are just kilobytes in size, they add up. Some people also send you attachments, which can easily reach several megabytes in size.

From Settings → Mail → Accounts → Fetch New Data, you can disable the Push option and opt to let the Mail app refresh email data on a timer or manually when you open the app instead.

Mail Push Notifications

Disabling Push gives you greater control over how much data gets sent back and forth over your cellular network and lets you limit it and/or refresh on Wi-Fi only.

Limit Background App Refresh for your apps

Background App Refresh is another feature a lot of people use to keep their apps up to date while they run in the background, but if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, then they could be updating their data while you’re connected to your cellular network and are using unnecessary data.

From Settings → General → Background App Refresh, you can limit the apps you have refreshing their data in the background.

iOS Background App Refresh Data

Personally, I keep this feature turned off for battery life reasons, but it helps with data savings as well.

Keep Wi-Fi turned on

Although keeping Wi-Fi turned on might use slightly more battery than disabling it when it’s not in use, having Wi-Fi enabled means your iPhone can automatically connect to familiar networks as they become available, which helps take the load off of your cellular radios.

In some cases, your iPhone might connect to a public hotspot, which does pose some slight security risks. For this reason, we recommend using a reliable VPN as often as possible to protect your privacy.

Use Onavo Extend

Onavo Extend is a great app that I used to use all the time when I had a 2GB plan from AT&T. This app essentially compresses all sent and received data over your cellular network through a special VPN on Onavo’s side.

You will see lower quality images and media across the board, but the data savings are noticeable (on average, about 25%) whether it’s in your social media apps, while browsing the web, or watching videos.

Onavo Extend is a free download from the App Store.

This app will not work with other VPN software, and you should use it at your own risk. It’s a free service, so they may collect anonymous crowd-sourced information to pay for their servers and free service to you.

Turn off Personal Hotspot

If you keep your Personal Hotspot enabled on your iPhone, then your other iOS devices and Macs will attempt to connect to it on demand when they need an internet connection and there isn’t one to be found.

You should disable Personal Hotspot from Settings → Personal Hotspot whenever you don’t intend to use it.

Personal Hotspot iPhone

This prevents your iPhone from working as a modem and relaying internet signals. Because laptops and iPads seldom load mobile versions of websites, accidental Personal Hotspot usage will easily stack up your data usage in a short period of time

Turn off cellular data

When you don’t need to use cellular data, such as when you’re driving or at work, you can save data by disabling cellular data completely. You can do this from Settings → Cellular.

Turn Off Cellular Data

When you disable cellular data, your cellular radios are disabled, so you’ll also see an increase in battery life in addition to an increase in data savings. Keep in mind however that with cellular data disabled, you won’t get any internet-based notifications unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

Limit your usage

The single most important thing you can do to reduce your data usage every month is to reduce the amount of internet consumption you partake in while you use your iPhone away from Wi-Fi networks.

Being conscious of what you’re doing when you’re connected to a cellular network makes a big difference. Avoid opening social networking apps and using Safari browse the web just because you’re bored. If you can help it, try to limit usage to times when you really have to.

You don’t have to stop using these kinds of apps on your cellular network altogether, but you should learn to use them responsibly and try not to over-use them, assuming you already do.

Wrapping up

There’s a lot to consider when you want to save your data, but honestly, you shouldn’t let data caps keep you from enjoying the pleasure of using your iPhone while you’re out and about. If you need a better data plan, then perhaps you should consider coughing up the extra dough or switching carriers.

Do you practice any of the data-saving tips we’ve talked about in this post? Share anything else you do to save data in the comments below!

  • Share:
  • Follow:

  • Martynet

    Turning all these off will change my iPhone to a dumb phone. If you strugling with data limit every month, just increase it with your carrier. For example, I can live with 7 GB. Not less.

    • I wouldn’t suggest using all of the tips at once, but rather picking and choosing from them to find a happy median for you. If that makes sense.

    • Just turn it on when you need it

  • agahzamin

    Download the traffic monitor app and now i can define limitation for data usage per day. Look at widget page let you know about your remain data that u have for a day or month

    • Checking your data usage with an app or widget is great advice for keeping track, but they will not limit data usage. For that, you will need to practice self control.

  • Agneev Mukherjee

    Cool! Nice article!