Top tips to reduce data usage on the iPhone by restricting access to mobile data by selected apps.

Phone contracts are getting more generous and the amount of data that we can use is increasing, but our consumption is also increasing too. Here’s how to limit the amount of data used by apps.

Your latest phone contract might have twice the data allowance of your previous contract, but the amount of data required by apps is a lot more and it is easy to exceed the limit, even if it is a high one. Watch a video or two, stream some music and most of your data allowance can be gone and panic sets in.

Apps that run in the foreground, such as Apple Music, Netflix, YouTube and so on, use the most data, but apps that run in the background also contribute to the data usage and sometimes it can be quite a lot. You do not need to stop background apps from running, you just need to stop them using mobile data.

Turn off mobile data

It is important to know the amount of data that has been used by the iPhone so far this month, so you can see if you are near your limit. Open the Settings app and press Mobile Data. (US iPhones call it Cellular data). In the Mobile Data section is the Current Period usage. Here you can see it is 74.3MB.

 Mobile Data in iPhone Settings app Mobile Data switch in iPhone Settings app

A switch at the top enables mobile data to be completely disabled. Press it if you are close to your contract limit and do not want to use any more, which might incur charges.

Limit mobile data access from apps

Swipe up and there is a list of apps and below each one is the amount of data used. This makes it easy to see the worst offenders. Turn a switch off to prevent an app from using mobile data. I Turned off the App Store for example, so apps and updates cannot be installed using mobile data (it works normally whenever there is Wi-Fi).

 Turn off mobile data for selected apps on the iPhone Turn off Wi-Fi Assist in the iPhone Settings app

Turn off Wi-Fi Assist

There are lots of Wi-Fi hotspots and your iPhone may connect to them as you move around when you are out. The quality of the Wi-Fi varies and it may sometimes be poor. Wi-Fi Assist is a feature on the iPhone that automatically switches to mobile data if a Wi-Fi connection is poor.

The advantage of Wi-Fi Assist is that it improves internet access. The disadvantage is that it may use more mobile data than usual. Turn it off to stop it using mobile data. It forces the iPhone to use Wi-Fi even when the signal is poor. It is less convenient with Wi-Fi Assist disabled, but it saves data.

Go to Settings > Mobile Data (or Cellular Data) and scroll down to the bottom. Turn off the Wi-Fi Assist switch.

Limit apps to Wi-Fi

Apps that run in the background can use mobile data and sometimes they can use a lot. They may check for status updates, messages, social network posts, and other items every few minutes. Each time they update, they use a bit of data and it all adds up.

Stop apps running in the background to reduce mobile data usage.

Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and use the switches to prevent apps from running in the background. For example, if you can live without Facebook updates every few minutes, turn it off. You won’t miss anything and updates and notifications can be seen when the app is run.

 Turn off Background App Refresh on the iPhone Limit apps to Wi-Fi in the iPhone Settings app

Preventing apps running in the background has the added benefit of reducing battery drain.

Press Background App Refresh at the top and there are three options. Select Wi-Fi and apps will update in the background, but only when the iPhone has a Wi-Fi connection. No mobile data is used.

This is a great option and it means you can reduce data usage while continuing to run apps in the background and get updates and notifications.