Cellular data usage soars with new iPhone 4S

Posted on by Mike Evans

Five days and five hours into life with Siri and my white iPhone 4S and I’ve used 313MB of 3G data. Normally I use no more than 250MB in a full month. I keep a close eye on the figures because I travel a lot in Europe and occasionally use data roaming, which is notoriously expensive¹.

This extra usage is more likely to be the fault of the greater facilities built into iOS 5 rather than the iPhone 4S specifically. As far as I can think, Siri is the only likely data hog that differentiates the 4S from other iPhones.

So where is the culprit to be found? Here are some possibilities:

  • iCloud backup: No, this operates only on wifi so will not use your data allowance
  • Mail: Unlikely because I’ve been syncing with Mobile Me for years
  • Contacts: Ditto
  • Calendars: Ditto
  • Reminders: Minimal extra use
  • Bookmarks.: Lots of churning in the first few days but unlikely to be a big item
  • Notes: Minimal
  • Photo Stream: No, because it makes it clear that it works only on wifi
  • Documents and Data: Yes, a possibility although in my case I have made very little use of this feature. Mobile usage can be switched off if you are worried about this.
  • Find My Phone: Minimal usage
  • Storage and backup: No, only works on wifi
  • Automatic synchronisation with apps such as Evernote, Good Reader, Dropbox. I do this on the iPhone, althogh I do this on my iPad, particlarly with Evernote.

So far so good. I can’t really put my finger on it. I have certainly been playing with the phone more than usual because it is new. But my frolics with Siri, another potential data hog, have been mainly in the comfort of my home and therefore on wifi. I’ve booked a few appointments and made a few reminders on the 3G network but really not that much. I am also using iMessage instead of texts where possible (with other iOS 5 users) but, again, I cannot see that consuming large amounts of data.

There is always the possibility that the set-up process, transferring emails and so forth, uses extra data on a new phone, but I really don’t think this is likely. Besides, all my set up was done on wifi.

In conclusion, I don’t see an obvious culprit. I am doing all the usual things, reading news on Reeder, sending selected stories to Instapaper, synchronising OmniFocus, making the odd Tango, Viber or Skype call. Nothing, really, that has blossomed as a result of using iOS 5 or the iPhone 4S.

Perhaps readers could check their usage and see if they have the same experiences, either simply as a result of installing iOS 5 or with a new iPhone 4S.²


¹ My network, Vodafone UK, is relatively cheap for data roaming in Europe. At £1 per megabyte, Vodafone is one third the cost of O2. In addition, Vodafone has an excellent daily package costing £2 for up to 25Mb of data. You need to opt in (free) if you have a Vodafone account, but it is well worth it. It kicks in automatically and you get 24-hours’ usage up to 25Mb (from midnight to midnight London time, not local time). If you go over this allowance you pay the standard £1 per megabyte.

² To check usage go to Settings/General and hit the Usage button. Mobile Usage (or Cellular Usage in the USA) is buried at the bottom on the page. Hit that button and you will see Mobile Data Network with Sent and Received figures. Add the two together to get your usage for period since the last reset. If you have used tethered data you need to add in those figures as well. The statistics can be reset whenever you wish, ideally at the end of a billing period.

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