Daily Tips: How to conserve your iPhone data usage

Have limited 3G data on your iPhone or iPad and want to know how to conserve it as best as you can? Get that dreaded "You've used up 80% of your data for the month" message and there are still weeks to go before your next billing cycle? Overage charges are probably the most expensive expensive items a carrier can bill you for so stay with us after the break to find out how to best conserve your data!

If you're worried about conserving your precious data the first thing you need to know is how to track how much data you are actually using. Unfortunately, only your carrier is considered 100% accurate when it comes to data tracking but if you just want a general idea you can use the iPhone's built-in data usage monitor.

Check your data usage

First it's a good idea to keep an eye on how much data you're using:

Now, on with the conservation...

Death by streaming

The biggest usage of cellular data is media streaming, especially video. If you have a serious YouTube -- or whatever site -- video streaming addiction wait until you're on Wi-Fi to feed it. Many sites now offer streaming HTML5 video for iPhone, from news to video podcasts to entertainment. All of them will chew through your data cap in no time. Learn to avoid them when out and about!

The same goes for audio. If you're streaming Pandora, internet radio, or podcasts it might sound small to start but will quickly add up.

Other things to avoid

  • Anything that streams. We can't stress that enough!
  • Online gaming. All those graphics are costing you data!
  • Google Maps. The map tiles are being downloaded.
  • App Store. Even though apps are capped at 20MB for cellular data, start downloading a bunch of 20MB apps and you'll feel the pain.

Settings

Once you've gotten streaming under control, conserving data becomes pretty much about how to turn off Settings and shut down apps that use up data, especially those that run in the background. Here are some tips:

  • Turn off push email. It's small but it adds up. Switch to fetching email in manual mode. Go to Settings: Mail, Contacts, Calendar : Fetch New Data and set it to Manually.
  • Turn off push notifications. Same deal. Go to Settings: Notifications and set them to off.
  • Turn off Cellular data unless you absolutely need it. This will prevent anything from running in the background and adding to your overages. Go to Settings: Cellular Data and turn it to off.

Texting is fine, MMS, Visual Voice Mail isn't

SMS/Texting doesn't use data so don't worry about using them when your data usage is at its limit. However, MMS and Visual Voice Mail use data to transmit pictures, videos, and audio. Stop using them if you're close to your limit!

Upgrade your data plan if you need to

It's important to be realistic. If you are constantly finding yourself getting billed for extra data use every month it may be a better idea just to upgrade to a bigger data plan. Try to talk to the retention department. While not always the case they can generally give you better deals then regular customer service reps.

Hope this has helped you out, and if you have any other ideas for conserving your iPhone data usage let me know in the comments!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you'd like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to dailytips@tipb.com. (If it's especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we'll even give ya a reward...)

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, hosts the ZEN & TECH podcast, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Prime.

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Daily Tips: How to conserve your iPhone data usage

37 Comments

The built in data counter is NEVER even close to what at&t says I spend,, the best reliable way is to check your provider's web site

If you reboot your phone, you should open DataMan before and after your reboot. This ensures that your data usage is properly recorded.

It's just a little annoying though because it usually takes the lrovider's website days to be updated. Anyway, I got stuck with the 200 MB plan on AT&T as that's all that I could afford. I'm happy ad all that they went to tiered because that's the only way I was able to get and iPhone, but 200 mb is nothing. It should have been at least 500 mb. That would be fine! Anyway, thanks for the tips!

I agree with most everything said here in this post, and think it's a great resource for those really looking to learn how to conserve data (those of us who are stuck with AT&T's new 2GB data plan or much of the UKs new limited data caps really need this help) however I disagree with one item covered, disabling push notifications.
While they do use data, The amount they use is very small, and I think disabling push notifications should be reserved as a "last ditch" effort to try and save data, as disabling them will really save you less than 2-4MBs a month, if you really look at how push notifications are transmitted to a device.

Great tips, agree that turning off notifications is a last ditch thing, I would be wasting more data checking those apps for activity...But this article shows how lame it is for providers to sell us expensive but low cap data plans, pretty well helps defeat the purpose of each new generation of phone or tablets capabilities...

i started off with a 200mb data plan then put my sim in an iphone 2g and activated it and now i have unlimited :)

Verizon :) or activate using a iPhone 2G and get unlimited like Dan did. My brother uses Mobilicity in toronto but he only gets edge (unlimited) on his iPhone.

Another tip is to use DataMan app to monitor your data use in real time. You can define your own preferred custom usage thresholds and be notified when you exceed the thresholds. There's also no delay in reporting as the app does not need to wait for the carrier to update its records.
DataMan app has been reviewed by TiPb before.

I've never gotten close to 2 GB. Just be smart and use wifi at all times if you can. Don't pull you phone put when you are out. Actually engage in conversation I use my phone all the time and still didn't get close to 2 GB. Quit trying to use your phone as your main Internet and pony up and get it. If you don't have Internet at your house why would you get a smart phone?

Question, does verizon reserve the right to throttle bandwidth during peak hours, and has anyone experienced downloads being slower at certain times during the day? Didn't ATT temporarily reinstate unlimited data plan during verizons iphone roll-out?

Just want to point out that while there is a cellular data connection, all push activity (email and notifications) is done over the cell network, even if you are connected to wifi. Push activity only happens over wifi if there is no cellular data available at the time. Blame Apple for this nonsense. So turning off push is especially important for people with low-bandwidth plans.

No. U have to persuade them to give u unlimited. Some ppl it works for. Some it doesnt. Best thing is just to stick ur sim in a 2g and activate unlimited data. Its what most att stores still do. I know we keep a 2g behind the counter cause its the easiest quickest way to add unltd data to an existing iphone plan. :)

Call your cellular provider and threaten to switch... It has worked with getting people unlimited on AT&T.

U have got to be really stupid suggesting such here. As vast internet goes, AT&T shareholders may be reading this post and changing things internally. Stupid dumb f&^#.

On AT&T if you have an unlimited messaging plan, MMS "data" does not go against your data plan usage. I am not sure if it does or not when you don't have an unlimited messaging plan (I didn't ask that).
Also, on AT&T the Visual Voicemail "data" does not go against your data plan usage.
I have confirmed this with multiple AT&T sources (mainly because I was paranoid when I switched to AT&T from a TMobile unlimited everything plan). I have called tech support, billing, and customer service - and asked staff in two separate AT&T stores.

What about AT&T Nav app....the voice guided GPS app? I imagine this uses a little bit of data when you leave it on to drive somewhere?

I'd like to point out to all of you complaining about the 200MB plan, that it's your iPhone that's the problem, not the plan. I've had multiple different Blackberries over 3 years and even though it was unlimited for a time, I've never had a single month when I went over 100MB of data. I'm somewhat smart about my data usage (which, like the article says, I do all streaming over WiFi) but I can't believe how much data you guys go through.
My question is, do many programs have a "WiFi Only" option? The one important one I noticed that didn't was Netflix. Why would you not have an option knowing that 1) you'll get better performance over WiFi and 2) people need to watch their data usage? Seems silly, but I really don't have experience with that many programs on the iPhone, but know that almost all of the BB programs that use a lot of data have such an option.
So just remember when complaining about the data packages, that the iPhones were the driving force behind needing increased revenue for the data network. Though, on Verizon that's not a problem since their speed cap is considerably slower.

The problem is, blackberrys aren't iPhones. And everyone who has an iPhone bought an iPhone because they wanted one despite the imperfections. Yes, blackberrys may have some nice features that help save data, but in the long run, you want the iPhone and why you bought it... So frankly I can put up with a little bit of a hassle when I have the best phone ever lol(:

Seriously no unlimited data on a smartphone, especially an iPhone, defeats the entire purpose of having one. I use like 9 to 14gb a month and I feel I'm not using it enough!!

After looking at my data usage, I can honestly say I'm glad I have an unlimited plan from Verizon. In all fairness, my data usage is from the time I got the phone, and I'm a first time smartphone user so I'm sure I use it more than most people playing with it. But in general these are good tips.

Great Help :)
Tip : turning off you 3G when not using it and instead just using Wi-fi sure saves a bunch
Directions: go to Settings:General: Network:

Bingo, Suilenn! Great tip. This is the setting that lets you use your connectivity when in range of your own network, and turns it off otherwise. Thanks.

AWESOME PAGE-Now I know more about my data. I used this to find out that I have over 2000 MB (2GB) and in one week I used 70MB, so I need to use wayyyy more data! Thanks!

Yea but the problem is that I live out in the middle of nowhere so I dinger a decent Internet provider for my house. I am stuck with this crappy USB modem and I can not watch videos, game, or download anything or death by overage charges