Safari has a built-in Reading List feature for saving webpages you’d like to revisit later. It’s like bookmarks, but with full offline support. That is, any webpage saved in your Reading List prompt Safari to download and cache its text, images, layout and other assets on your device so that it can be read at any time, even without an Internet connection.

And with iCloud syncing, a webpage added to Reading List on one device gets individually cached across all your other devices, too. Caching webpages isn’t the smartest idea if you’re on a metered cellular plan, especially if you frequently use Reading List on the go.

Thankfully, iOS lets you decide whether or not Reading List items should be downloaded when your iPhone is connected to the Internet through your carrier’s cellular data network.

About Safari Reading List

Reading List made its debut with the release of OS X Lion and iOS 5 in 2011.

The feature received offline support the following year in OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6. Reading List is unavailable on a device unless Safari syncing is turned on in Settings → iCloud on iOS or in the iCloud preference pane in System Preferences on macOS.

Don’t confuse Reading List with Safari’s regular bookmarking feature, which simply stores a webpage URL rather than download and cache its full contents, like Reading List does.

Due to the fact that a vast majority of websites take advantage of high-resolution image assets, your offline Reading List cache can eat up a significant amount of on-device storage.

And because Safari syncs your Reading List, bookmarks and other data via iCloud, adding a webpage to Reading List on your iPad prompts your iPhone to  download it, and vice versa.

Thankfully, you can revert this behavior with a few taps, here’s how.

How to stop Reading List caching via cellular

Safari on iPhone and iPad defaults to caching all Reading List items for offline access, whether you’re connected to the network via Wi-Fi or through your carrier’s cellular data network.

To tell Safari to cache your Reading List items for offline access only when your iPhone or cellular-enable iPad is connected to a Wi-Fi network, do the following:

1) Open Settings on your iPhone or cellular iPad.

2) Tap Safari.

3) Scroll to the bottom of the Safari settings screen, then slide the switch Use Cellular Data underneath the Reading List headline to the OFF position.

This will stop Reading List items from being downloaded through this device’s cellular connection. You must do this on every iPhone and cellular iPad using the same Apple ID.

With cellular updates turned off, any webpages you add to your Reading List in the future will still show up in Safari’s Reading List menu but they’ll only get cached via Wi-Fi.

Deleting offline Reading List cache

To free up storage space taken up by Safari’s offline Reading List cache, go to Settings → General → iCloud & Storage Usage, then tap Manage Storage under the Storage headline.

Find and tap Safari in the list of apps, swipe left over Offline Reading List, then hit Delete.

Wiping the cache clean won’t remove any items from your Reading List in iCloud.

You will still be able to open any webpage from your Reading List like you normally would, but your device will need to be connected to the Internet to display a non-cached item.

And one last tip before we sign off—knowing your Reading List is archived automatically in iCloud, you are actually able to easily restore it from an earlier version at any time.

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  • Agneev

    I have a question regarding this: Is the Reading List stored online or offline?
    Because I have seen several pages in my Reading List both online and offline.

    • Reading List is stored in iCloud and made available on any device as long as syncing has been enabled for Safari in Settings for iOS or System Preferences on macOS. If you don’t have iCloud set up on your device or Safari syncing has been disabled in iCloud preferences, you won’t be able to use Reading List.

      While you’re offline, you can read articles that you already added to your Reading List.

      It’s really just a special place for a list of URLs you’d like to revisit later—just like Safari’s regular bookmarks, but with one key distinction: Safari automatically caches all webpages in your Reading List for offline access.

      This happens automatically and there’s no way for the user to prevent this from occurring other than the ability to decide if webpages in your Reading List will be downloaded over cellular or Wi-Fi only.

      Some of the pages in your Reading List that were previously available offline may no longer be cached due to iOS’s automatic storage management. In other words, if you’ve at some point used up nearly all the available storage on your iPhone, iOS probably decided to delete some of the cached webpages.

      • Agneev

        That’s good to know. Thanks.