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How to minimise the data used on an iPhone

Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan, there’s always the possibility you’ll hit or go over your 3G or 4G allowance for the month. Here are some easy ways to cut down on the amount of data your iPhone uses. Read next: Best VPNs of 2017

Track your data usage

Some smartphones are more efficient than others when it comes to mobile data. Apple provides plenty of settings to restrict mobile data on your iPhone, but doesn’t make it easy to see how much of your allowance you’ve used.

If you go to Settings, Mobile, then scroll down to Mobile Data Usage, you’ll see two counters: Current Period and Current Period Roaming. This shows the amount of kilobytes or megabytes used since you last reset the statistics (an option at the bottom of this particular menu).

And here’s the rub: it’s up to you to reset the counters at the moment your contract (or pay as you go package) begins a new month. Otherwise the figures shown are totally unhelpful.

However, you may be in luck as several mobile operators offer their own apps which keep a track of your usage, so you might not need to use Apple’s counters. Bear in mind that even if there is an app, the figures may not be up to date, so be careful if you’re near the limit and will be billed if you go over it.

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Turn off Wi-Fi Assist

Way back when iOS 9 was first released, some users found themselves using more cellular data. This is likely due to Wi-Fi Assist, a new feature that automatically switches to cellular data when the Wi-Fi signal is poor. If you have a limited data plan, it’s a good idea to check whether this is enabled. Go to Settings > Cellular and ensure Wi-Fi Assist is disabled.

Change your Mobile Data settings

Below the Mobile Data Usage counters in Settings > Mobile Data is a list of apps which can use mobile data. By default, they will all be enabled, so you can stop certain apps eating through your allowance by toggling them off here.

They will be able to use Wi-Fi, when available, but when out of range, they may not be usable, depending on whether they need to connect to the internet to work.

Change settings within apps

Some apps have their own settings which restrict particular functions to Wi-Fi only. An example is Dropbox, which can be a big data hog if you use it to back up the photos and videos from your iPhone’s camera roll.

There’s a settings tab in the Dropbox app which lets you disable mobile data, preventing the app from uploading videos when there’s no Wi-Fi connection.

It’s a similar story with Twitter and Facebook too, which can limit auto-playing videos to play only when connected to Wi-Fi, or not at all. Check your other apps for similar settings.

Use Twitter Lite

Twitter introduced Twitter Lite as a way to offer Twitter to users in countries where mobile data is weak, and also as a way for those of us with capped data limits to browse the social network without draining our data. Simply head to on your iOS device, tap the menu button (likely your profile icon) and enable Data Saver.

Once you head back to your timeline, you should see prompts to load up images, GIFs and videos on demand, thereby not wasting your data by loading content you don’t want to see/watch. While it’ll still use up a bit of data, it should be significantly less than the official Twitter app. 

Disable Background App Refresh

Introduced in iOS 7, Background App Refresh is a great feature if you like your apps to show the latest information when you launch them, instead of only then downloading the latest news, weather or other information.

However, this can needlessly burn through mobile data if you don’t regularly open those apps.

It’s easy to stop this happening by launching Settings > General and scrolling down to Background App Refresh. Here you can disable the feature altogether, or prevent specific apps from updating in the background.

Turn off mobile data

It might sound obvious, but the easiest way to cut down on mobile data use is to enable it only when you need it. That requires a trip into the Settings app, since there’s no toggle for mobile data in the iOS Control Center. But it could be worth the hassle if you’re getting near your data cap.

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