How to Stop Going Over on Your Data

Courtesy Apple

So you went over on your data again. Shit. And now you have to pay an extra fee on your monthly iPhone bill because your WiFi connection isn't strong enough and somehow your phone's using data when you're not even on it. Verizon charges its customers $10 for every gigabyte they use beyond their allotment. AT&T overages are $15 per gigabyte. This is real money that can add up over time, so take some steps today to keep more of that money in your wallet. Here’s what to do.

Disable a hidden iPhone setting.
“Wi-Fi Assist” is a feature that will recognize when a WiFi network’s connectivity is no good, switching over to your cellular data instead. You’ll find this feature by navigating to Settings > Cellular and scrolling all the way to the very bottom of the page. By disabling it, you force the phone to stick with the WiFi. Even though the connection may be a bit slow, it won’t count against your data usage.

Block certain apps’ access to cellular data.
Still in the Settings > Cellular menu, you’ll find the “Use Cellular Data For” heading. You likely have a few apps you’ll only use when you’re connected to WiFi — we’re looking at you, Netflix. By flipping switches here to the “off” position, you prevent the according app from using any Internet connection beyond WiFi. 

Disable iCloud drive’s cellular data usage.
If you use iCloud to backup photos, music, and other data, then you simply must disable its access to your cellular data. It sends and receives loads of files in order to keep your phone synced with Apple’s servers, but there’s no need to do this off of WiFi. Go to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive, and turn off “Use Cellular Data.”

Turn off Background App Refresh.
Here’s a move that will not only cut down on apps hogging your cellular data connection, but helps save your battery at the same time: Rather than leave Facebook to constantly refresh when you aren’t using it, for example, this option sets it up to only update itself when you start up the app. Here’s the path: Settings > General > Background App Refresh.

Ask people for their WiFi passwords.
We know, this one sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget. If you want to prevent cellular data overage charges, then reduce your usage by connecting to WiFi more often. Whether it’s a network at a friend’s house, the bar, the coffee shop, or some other place, free and fast Internet is way more plentiful than you might think. So ask people about it.

Manually monitor your data usage.
Your iPhone has a data gauge that will keep close tabs on your cellular data usage, but you must manually reset this counter each month to synchronize it with your billing cycle. If you have the discipline to do so regularly, then navigate to Settings > Cellular. The “Cellular Data Usage” heading will give you a readout of how much data you’ve used and will give you the option to reset it. 

Install your carrier’s iPhone app.
All the major carriers — Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and company — have free apps that will not only let you manage account settings, but will give you a clear indicator of how much data you’ve used in the current billing cycle. This will be effectively the same method as the previous one, but with nothing to reset manually.

Change your data plan.
This is probably the advice you don't want to hear, but if you’re regularly getting slapped with extra charges for using more data than your plan allows, the solution is simple: Upgrade your plan so you can stop paying penalties.

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