Skip to main content

Music eating your iPhone's cellular data plan? Here's how to fix it!

Apple Music Beats 1 on iPhone XS Max
Apple Music Beats 1 on iPhone XS Max

With access to millions of songs, Beats 1's live streaming radio, and your own tracks uploaded to iCloud Music Library, it's pretty easy to run up a big cellular data bill on your iPhone or iPad while enjoying Apple Music if you have a plan with limited data.

If you're worried about running out of data this month, here are a few tweaks and fixes you can try.

Download instead of streaming

Know you're going to want to rock out to the classics on your next long drive? You can put that music on your iPhone or iPad rather than stream it over your cellular connection.

And if you have an Apple Music subscription, you have the option to download any song, album, or playlist from its catalog for offline listening.

How to download Apple Music for offline listening

Download over Wi-Fi

If you're planning on downloading songs to listen to offline in order to save your data, you'll want to make sure you do so while on Wi-Fi rather than over cellular. To check, bring up Control Center by swiping down from the top of your display (or up from the bottom on the iPhone 8 and earlier) and make sure Wi-Fi is enabled, then check the top of your iPhone's screen to make sure the cellular identifier has been replaced with the Wi-Fi icon.

Limit your streaming

Like any other streaming music service, Apple Music uses a data connection in order to serve up Beats 1, its curated playlists, and its other radio stations to your iPhone or iPad.

If you use the service frequently, you'll likely be draining a fair bit of data. Just like our advice above, limiting your Beats 1 play time when you're on cellular is a huge way to mitigate how much data the Music app eats.

If you still want to listen to Beats 1 on the road, there's a more data-friendly way: Download past Beats 1 show playlists. Here's how to do it:

  1. Open Music.
  2. Tap Radio.
  3. Tap Beats 1 Shows.

  1. Select the show you want to listen to under On Demand.
  2. Scroll down and tap the playlist you want under Playlists.

  1. Tap the + Add button.
  2. Tap the download button (looks like a cloud with a downward-pointing arrow in it).

Disable automatic downloads

If you purchase music on your computer via iTunes or through another device regularly, your iPhone or iPad may be downloading it over cellular without your knowledge. It's great for having offline albums on demand—much less so for your data plan. To disable this, do the following:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to the iTunes & App Stores section.
  3. Disable the switch under Automatic Downloads for Music.

Disable cellular data

If you want to make absolutely sure the Music app doesn't eat through your data plan, you can disable cellular access entirely. You'll still be able to listen to any content that is physically stored on your iPhone or iPad when you're on cellular networks; you just won't have access to anything that relies on data such as automatic downloads, Apple Music or iTunes Match, and Beats 1.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Music.
  3. Tap Cellular Data.

  1. Turn the switch next to Cellular Data off to disable cellular data use entirely.
  2. Turn the switch next to Streaming off to disable all music streaming in Music, or turn off the ** High Quality Streaming** switch to allow lower-quality music streaming if you don't want to disable cellular data use entirely.
  3. Flip the switch next to Download off to disable music downloads over a cellular connection.

That's it. The Music app should no longer consume any cellular data.

Your tips?

If you've had the Music app eat large amounts of data on your iPhone or iPad, what caused the issue? Let us know what and how you resolved the problem in the comments!

Update August 2019: Updated through iOS 12.4 and the iOS 13 beta.

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

23 Comments
  • Here's my tip: Switch to T-Mobile. Music Freedom FTW!!
  • PREACH! Sent from the iMore App
  • so true...... wait can we stream without loosing data i thought that was only for iTunes radio?
  • Still having ATT unlimited data FTW!
  • Yeah great sound on Edge data speeds in many places, so YMMV. Nice where it does work, though.
  • That's exactly what I came here to say!
  • Yea, I see this one action as the MOST effective, and least painful solution for those who regularly stream.
  • My issue is the auto play! I hope they fix it in iOS 9. I keep my phone connected to my car stereo deck and it never fails, it auto plays every time it connects or every time I disconnect from making/receiving a call. It's REALLY annoying and there's no way to fix it (Spotify does it as well). Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah that's super annoying, sucks having to hear the same song start up every time you get into your vehicle -__- Sent from the iMore App
  • Is that the fault of the car or the phone... Honestly I've never been able to figure it out. During the week it'll auto-play my podcasts (which is fine). On the weekends I switch my car to FM radio so that it *doesn't* do that.
  • good job Apple, simple and just works.
  • Are you for real? If I could, I'd buy you a relaxing massage.
  • This is my BIGGEST gripe with the service. Actually I have a couple. But downloading for offline should have its own setting. That should not happen on cellular. That's nuts. I didn't think it would behave like that and after saving a couple albums for offline ot ate up a gig of data. Wtf? That should be wifi only. Just keep the songs in the queue. It's what Spotify and Rdio do and it makes sense. Anyways, love the music recommendations but man they gotta get better in some areas.
  • Apple music ate my entire cellular data! :| I am already downloading(offline) over wifi. Sent from the iMore App
  • Does it actually use more data than spotify or Pandora? If you're streaming music, it will take around 200-300mb to get it all on your phone with any of the streaming services. That's how big the file is. You can't make a music file that is 1K...at least not with today's compression technology.
  • Based on reported bitrates of the music streaming: Pandora is the lowest quality streaming and will use less data than every other music streaming app. (Never more than 64k on mobile) https://help.pandora.com/customer/portal/articles/90985-audio-quality Apple Music reportedly uses a 256k variable bitrate for cellular (64k to 256k based on the quality of your connection) and always 256k for WiFi. It will use more than Pandora, more than the 1st Spotify option and generally more than the 2nd option as well, but never more than the 3rd. There is an option coming in iOS9 to remove the variable quality on cellular connections so that it will act like the WiFi bitrate. Spotify has 3 different bitrate settings:
    1. Normal (96k) quality will still use more data than Pandora, but most of the time less than Apple Music.
    2. High (160k) quality will generally use less data than Apple Music, but that may depend on your cellular connection as Apple Music may drop it's bitrate lower.
    3. Extreme (320k) quality (only available for subscribers) will always use more data than Apple Music. https://support.spotify.com/us/learn-more/faq/#!/article/What-bitrate-do...
  • Here's a better suggestion, how bout Apple eats the cost of the cellular data that their app consumes and I'll buy a subscription.
  • Just switch to T-Mobile. Music streaming does not count against your data cap. That includes Apple, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, Rdio, SiriusXM, Google Music and many, many more. http://www.t-mobile.com/offer/free-music-streaming.html
  • Serenity, You could round out this helpful piece by adding some info on how much data is typically used when streaming Apple Music and Beats - I recall an article that suggested an hour a day of streaming uses about a GB per month. Knowing your cap and current data use w/o streaming, you can pick a total that combined with your other suggestions, keeps some spontaneity (not everything needs to be planned in advance). That said, I don't trust my memory or any single article - I hope you can give us some reliable estimates of data use rates. John B.
  • Been looking for this. thanks for the info
  • This is what's stopping me from signing up. These damn data limits. I'm an original AT&T "unlimited data" customer. The only things I stream on a regular basis are the Stitcher and NHK World Tv apps. And only to and from my short drive to work and during lunch M-F. As of Tuesday I'm at 75% data usage according to an AT&T text. My bill cycle began on the 4th of this month. And believe me the Stitcher app is set to offline and wifi only statuses. And the NHK app switches to low quality if there is congestion in the area. If I had Apple music I would easily go over my limit before last Tuesday. In general I shouldn't have go through all of the great lengths in this article to use this service. I should just use it and not worry. It's an Apple service on an Apple phone period. Unless Apple buys AT&T, the government tells AT&T to stop the bullshit or an alien technology renders all carriers obsolete overnight "I just can't" with Apple Music. Sent from the iMore App
  • All the apple music songs say they cannot be download. So much for the offline feature? Thoughts?
  • The partial solution i do in order to keep data usage low, and since Apple streams according to your current data speed... I turn off 4G/3G to switch to 2G (Edge). That is the only way to force Apple to lower bitrate to 128kbps to less. IT WORKS :)