Worried about extra data charges? Here’s how to check your usage on an iPhone

Are you one of those people who always worries just a little about how much data you’re using on your new iPhone or other iOS device? Sure, it’s probably fine, but as the end of your carrier’s billing cycle nears, you keep wondering if you (or a family member) are going to go over your data limits and incur dreaded extra charges.

There’s good news. In iOS 12, Apple makes it easy to obsess over your data usage. We’ll show you how to check data usage on an iPhone whenever you’d like with this quick process, and show how it can also be used to limit your data use.

How to keep an eye on your data

Apple iPhone X Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Step 1: Turn on your iPhone and head toward the Settings icon. Once in Settings, look for an option that says Mobile Data. Select this. In some iOS devices, this option may say Cellular instead, but it means the same thing. When the new window opens, look for a section called Use Data For, which should be a couple sections down from the top. It may also be called Cellular Data on some older versions of iOS.

Step 2: Some of the information in this section may vary depending on your carrier. However, most carriers will provide a section at the top called Current Period. Here you will see exactly how much data your phone has used in the current month (or whatever your payment period may be). Many carriers also include a section called Current Period Roaming, a separate tracker of all roaming data used — since the two are frequently charged at different rates, this could also be useful to you. If you don’t see any information about data used in the current period, you are going to have to call up your carrier or log into their website and search for more specific information.

Step 3: As you scroll down, you will also see a list of all the apps you are currently using on your iPhone. Each app includes information on how much data it has used — if it uses cellular data at all. Prior to the iOS 12 update, apps were sorted alphabetically now they’re listed by app usage — apps that use the most data are listed at the top. Throughout the list you’ll also see a section called System Services. If you select this, you will see all the very basic services on your iPhone and how much data they are using, too. This is the amount of data your phone has to use to provide communication services.

Saving data when you are using too much

Are the results of your data monitoring a little disturbing? Are you ready for a new iOS approach? If you are suddenly anxious to start cutting back on data and save some money, we can help out with that. Here are the methods that iOS provides.

Switch data off by app: Remember that list of apps in Mobile Data? They are probably all switched to the green “on” state, but you can look through and switch any data-hungry apps off, blocking them from using data, which is especially handy if you didn’t want them on in the first place. This is a nice way to save on some data while still allowing important services to work. The only exception to this is System Services, which you cannot switch off.

Switch data off entirely: Do you want to put a moratorium on data for the remaining period to prevent any additional fees? At the very top of the Mobile Data window, you should see a label named Cellular Data (iOS reuses this phrase a lot, which can be annoying) with a green button next to it. Flip the green button to off, and your data connection will switch off. Here, different carriers may offer additional options, such as the ability to switch off Data Roaming and Voice Roaming separately. Remember, you can still use Wi-Fi networks to go online when necessary.

Additional data services: Many modern carriers may also offer options in this section to switch from LTE/4G to 3G (which can help save on data) and choose what type of network connection you want for specific voice/data services. Switching voice services to 3G, for example, may help you save data if you make a lot of local calls — and some carriers enable Wi-Fi calling so you can switch off data entirely when making those calls. Your data speed will be slower on 3G.

Turning Off Wi-Fi Assist: Wi-Fi Assist means well, but you probably want it turned off if you are trying to save data. For mobile devices that have it, Wi-Fi Assist automatically switches to cellular data when Wi-Fi can’t handle loading a webpage or similar problem, so it can sneakily use data bit by bit. If you are leaving some data services on, look for Wi-Fi Assist in the Cellular section of Settings, and make sure it is turned off.

Download an app: There are plenty of third-party options to monitor and control your data usage. One good option is My Data Manager.

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