How To Manage and Control Cellular Data Usage on Your iPhone

Since a fair number of folks are on metered data plans, and “unlimited” data comes with some strings attached (like throttled speeds over a certain limit), it’s a good idea to keep an eye on cellular usage. Fortunately, iOS gives us the tools to manage cellular data down to the level of individual apps. Here’s how to monitor data using tools in iOS 7.1.1:

Launch Settings, then tap on Cellular. Once there, scroll down past “Set Up Personal Hotspot” and “Call Time” and you will see a list of apps, thankfully in alphabetical order. Each of them will show how much data has been used since last time “Reset Statistics” was pressed. More importantly, each one has a switch so you can enable or disable usage as needed.

Disabling some of these switches might make my data plan happier.

Another place to look is under Settings > General > Background App Refresh. This should let locations services just work, and other apps that have syncing capabilities are also able to refresh as if by magic in the background. While this sounds like a great idea, it gets less exciting when it starts gnawing on your data plan. This list is also alphabetical, and allows disabling refresh on a per-app basis. Thanks to Apple for this level of granular control, it didn’t used to exist.

If you still see spikes in data usage, verify in Settings > iTunes & App Store whether or not iTunes Match is set up, if Automatic Downloads are turned on, and make sure “Use Cellular Data” is disable here too. This is how iTunes Match and iTunes Radio determine if they can work or not, and will use cellular data while you’re out and about if you buy something and download it on the spot.

Adjusting iTunes/App Store usage can help too.

Precisely because this information didn’t used to be easily accessible, there are some utilities available to monitor data use aside from the free app from your mobile provider. One of the recommended utilities around TMO Towers is Dataman, be it free or be it Pro (which is US $4.99), this is an easy way to track data that’s even faster than you get from your mobile provider since it’s watching your phone in realtime, not waiting for statistics that get sent in later.

A bonus to keeping an eye on cellular data is that your battery life might improve if you aren’t spending all that time burning through your data plan. If you have other tips for watching cellular data, let me know in the comments!

Top image made with help and help and help from Shutterstock.