For the most part, the price of cellular plans is determined by one feature, and one feature only: the amount of data customers can consume during each billing cycle. This could be of the order of gigabytes if you’re willing to pay the price. But for those of us looking to sign up for an iPhone, our monthly cellular download limit could be capped at as little as 500 MB, or even 250 MB, per month, leaving little room for fun and frivolity.
More often than not, the amount of consumable data dictates the price of cellular plans
The good news, however, is that it’s easy enough to take control of cellular data consumption on Apple’s iOS. Doing so allows iPhone (and iPad) owners to significantly reduce the amount of data their devices is consuming each month, saving those precious ones and zeros for the iOS apps which really merit them.
Just follow our tips and bits — or bytes — of advice, and in no time at all you’ll start reducing the amount of cellular data your iOS device consumes.
TL;DR - Too Long? Watch A video instead!
Find out which apps are bad piggies
Identifying data hogs
It’s easy to figure out which iOS apps are consuming the most data on your device, thanks to the tools Apple built into iOS.
App Store: The silent data killer
Turning off automatic updates
It’s likely you’ll find that the App Store app has a hefty figure next to it in the Cellular page in the Settings app. If this is the case, it could be that your iOS device is automatically downloading updates for individual apps over cellular, as soon as each update becomes available on the App Store. Instead of outright blocking cellular access to the App Store app, though, it’s possible to simply tweak how the app works in order to save on cellular data consumption.
iCloud Drive: Be Careful!
Putting the brakes on updates
Apple’s iCloud Drive allows iOS device owners to save documents to iCloud and to access them on any associated iOS device. It’s a useful feature, but it can eat into your cellular data allowance unless you’re careful.
In iOS 7, Apple added support for Background App Refresh. This allows iOS apps to fetch data and update their contents in the background, reducing the time it takes apps to re-update their contents when launched. This means, however, that your iOS apps will be fetching data more frequently, in the background and over cellular. As a result, Background App Refresh is one of the biggest data hogs in iOS.
For most of us, accessing email on the go is one of iOS’ best features. So we’re not suggesting that you disable email on iOS outright, to be sure, but we’re saying it’s possible to save on data consumption if you tweak the settings for the Mail app.
You're probably checking email more than you think
Danger: Wi-Fi Assist
Desisting from Wi-Fi Assist
Another potential hidden hog in iOS is Wi-Fi Assist, a feature, introduced in iOS 9, that’s designed to automatically switch to cellular data when the Wi-Fi connection is poor. It serves a useful purpose, of course: When enabled, it ensures that your Internet connectivity continues uninterrupted even when there’s an issue with the Wi-Fi network you’re on. For example, when you’re streaming a station on Apple Music and the Wi-Fi signal suddenly begins fluctuating, Wi-Fi Assist kicks in so that the music streaming proceeds without a hitch via cellular data.
But the downside is that Wi-Fi Assist might be eating into your cellular data allowance, since it uses the network to access the Internet even though you initially opted to do so using a Wi-Fi connection.
Be that as it may, it might still be worth disabling Wi-Fi Assist, which is on by default, in order to save on data consumption.
DataMan here to save the day
Seeking help beyond the Settings app from a third-party app
It’s no secret that Wi-Fi hotspots are more common now than ever before. Our last tip, then, for cellular data conservation on iOS is to save as much on-the-go browsing as possible for Wi-Fi hotspots.
At home, you’re of course always (or at least almost always) hooked up to your Wi-Fi network. But if you’re out of the house, be sure to check for Wi-Fi hotspots on your iOS device before launching Safari, checking Twitter, browsing Facebook, or using whatever Internet-dependent app.
Once your iOS device has signed into a hotspot, it’ll remember that network and join automatically the next time you’re nearby, making the initial process of finding and joining an open network even more significant. Of course, using someone else’s wireless network is better than eating into your own data, right?