My cellphone bleeds data
January 11, 2019 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Why is my cellphone using much more data than the usage report indicates?

My cellphone (an iPhone 6, iOS 12.12) uses an extravagant amount of data, even when I have most applications set to "don't use cell data". For example, in this image you can see the total usage (since Dec 29th) is over 700 megs, while the apps record usage of less than 75 megs. (I have these apps prohibited from using data almost all the time since the issue cropped up a couple of months ago, and this amount of actual use app by app is about right. Apps not shown in the screenshot are not listed as using any data)). The 722 meg total is what my provider tells me when I go their website. So something is apparently using this data. (teacher-me screams, THESE DATA)

-- I have "wireless assist" turned off, and always have.
-- I do not synch to iCloud
-- I have noticed that iMessage does not appear in the list of apps using data, which it always used to.
-- If I turn off cell data entirely for the whole phone, then usage does not increase. Obviously though I would like to recieve texts and emails while out and about.
-- the phone did not have this issue until about last October.

Is there some way I can find out what is using this data, and stop it? We have limited data plans in Canada and this keeps pushing me to the edge. I have googled for this problem but I can't find any useful ideas, partly because the terms one can use searching are so generic.
posted by Rumple to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Do you have photos or anything else auto-synching anywhere like Dropbox or Amazon (Prime photo storage)? That was the culprit on my phone when I had a similar issue.

I would also comb through your bank/card statements from October to see if the new usage coincides with a payment anywhere, or a new subscription service to something.

Sorry I don't know the answer of how to definitively reveal all data usage.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:45 PM on January 11

My wife's phone exhibited exactly the same symptoms. Started in October. It was maddening trying to identify "why", and I kinda gave up. Turned that "wireless assist" off. Turned off "download updates in the background" somewhere. Then we left the phone with Mobile Data turned off for a couple of days, and then turned it back on.

Current billing period ends tomorrow and we're at half the data usage of Oct and Nov, and back to "normal" pre-October usage.


Like I said, maddening.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:00 PM on January 11

Oh, and by the way, when I opened a chat box on the AT&T website, the CSA's advice was to turn mobile data off and on whenever I'm in a Wifi environment. I literally asked if that was the advice, to confirm, and then asked the CSA if they were satisfied with that recommendation. They said "Yes". Flabbergasting.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:04 PM on January 11

I had this issue. Backing up and then restoring the phone fixed it.
posted by bruinfan at 1:16 PM on January 11

Have you done a backup and restore of this phone? I found that, having done this with my restored phone, many of the settings toggles I set were on but were not being respected. EG, I had app notifications marked as enabled in the settings and it required me to go turn the toggle off and back on for every app before they would produce notifications. Just a thought...
posted by msbutah at 2:19 PM on January 11

I have not done a backup and restore because I thought it would just backup the problem and then restore the problem but maybe I will try that? It seems counterintuitive to me.

I also considered "reset to factory settings".

As far as I can tell I am not backing up to any cloud service, and I have always had known offenders like podcast subscription updates turned off

Thanks all so far!
posted by Rumple at 2:34 PM on January 11

Hm. I may have done the "reset to factory settings" instead of a restore.
posted by bruinfan at 4:12 PM on January 11

What's troubling about your display is that the numbers don't add up. Your phone is showing 700+MB of usage, but then the top app is only 25MB, and system services is only 38MB. That's very strange.

My first thought is do you have your phone enabled as a mobile hotspot?

My second thought is some deleted app is still using data? But I think the Usage account even shows deleted apps.

If you have a suspect of which app is using the data, you can turn off cellular data on a per-app basis in the settings. That'd be a really annoying iterative process of trying to find the culprit from scratch though.
posted by Nelson at 5:01 PM on January 11

Have you tried force-closing all apps?

This has helped resolve some iPhone problems in the past for me, where apps have been stuck in an odd state that keeps them doing "something" in the background but not in a normal way where they would get stopped automatically. Or possibly the app was making a cellular data connection that was "stuck open" somehow. This has fixed problems that persisted through a wipe and restore, because it helpfully restores background apps. I only do this as a troubleshooting step and not regularly.
posted by meowzilla at 11:22 PM on January 11

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