How to Control Every Last Drop of iPhone Data

You want to squeeze every last drop of useful data out of your cellular deal. Image c/o Muha/Flickr

Are you hitting the end of your data allowance? Do you find yourself hitting that wall regularly and wonder why you must keep topping up your iPhone? Then follow these steps to make your precious data bandwidth last longer. They’re very simple and they’ll put you in control.

Stop downloads over mobile data

If left uncontrolled, iTunes and the App Store will download app updates and stream/download music and other media even when you are using your mobile connection. You don’t want this to happen (or, at least, you have a right to control when it does). To stop your iPhone downloading items like this over your mobile connection, open Settings>iTunes & App Stores and toggle Use Cellular Data to off.

Put your apps on a diet

Some apps like to share data. They like to update constantly, downloading new content “for your convenience” and uploading other information for their own ends. If you want to make your data last through the end of the month you need to crack down on this. Do it now, open Settings>General>Background App Refresh and either turn it off completely (top control), or go through each and every app on your device and decide whether to allow it to refresh in the background or not.

Know your enemy

Some apps use more data than others (hello Facebook). In many cases this is benign. To see which apps are – literally – costing you money in the form of data usage, open Settings>Cellular (or Mobile Data) and look at the list of apps. Under the name of each app you’ll see how much cellular data they have been using. You can disable use of cellular data by any app using the toggle beside its name. Switch off the hungry ones, unless you like to use them on the road.

Willing to Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi Assist lets you supplement a weak Wi-Fi signal with mobile bandwidth. It can be really useful, but it can also be a real data hog. You disable this feature in Settings>Cellular/Mobile Data and look to the bottom of the list where you’ll find Wi-Fi Assist in its own section. Switch it off with the toggle.

Music machine

Do you listen to lots of music on the move? Probably. When you stream your tracks, they will be coming down to you over your cellular data connection, eating bandwidth as they do. Open Apple Music in Settings>Music and look at Cellular Data – toggle this off to disable streaming entirely (you’ll just have to download tracks over Wi-Fi before going anywhere). You might want to continue to stream music, which you can do – just make sure the High Quality Streaming option is disabled and tracks will be lower quality and take up less space.

  • You will also want to turn Cellular Data off in Settings>Podcasts.
  • You will also want to turn off the artwork updating feature in Music>Mobile Data.

Control Mail

Mail likes to check for new messages frequently. That’s fine, but doing so reduces battery life and swallows your mobile data allowance. You can choose to download new messages manually in Settings>Mail>Accounts>Fetch New Data. Turn Push off, then work through your mail accounts to see how they are set up – switch them to Fetch and you’ll be able to download new email when you want it downloaded, presumably when using a Wi-Fi connection.

Reading List

Safari Reading List stores webpages on your device to read later on. This means that you can find things you want to read on Wi-Fi, and then put them inside your Reading List to read later on when you are on mobile data.

Get the Messages

If you like to send images with your Messages (and who doesn’t), then you can save yourself a little more precious mobile data in Settings>Messages> scroll to the bottom and toggle Low-Quality Image Mode and any images you choose to send will be smaller.

Location Services

You can save more data by disabling Location Services – though doing so may disable some of the tools you use frequently, such as Maps. However, if you are near the end of your monthly data allowance and not planning to go anywhere you may tweak a little more usable time by turning Location Services off in Settings>Privacy. Some apps may need to use Location sometimes, but it may help.


You don’t really need Notifications from every app. You probably ignore loads of them. However, it’s logical to imagine that every Notification you receive has generated a small data exchange over your mobile connection. Open Settings>Notifications and switch alerts off from those apps you don’t want to hear from, by tapping the app name and toggling it off in the next screen.


One more thing that might help: you’ll save a huge bunch of space if you stop Photos updating your iCloud Photo Library using Mobile Data. You do this in Settings>Photos>Mobile Data, toggle to off.

Armed with these tips you should be able to get a little more time out of your mobile data connection before needing to cough up more cash or pay extra for going over your monthly limit. Good luck!

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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