How to Control What Apps Can Use Cellular Data on iPhone

Jun 17, 2014 - 7 Comments

How to control what iOS apps can use cellular data

Modern versions of iOS allow iPhone and LTE-enabled iPad users to control exactly which apps can use cellular data. Additionally, the settings control panel can help to make the decision easier to allow or disallow a specific apps cellular access by displaying how much cellular data a specific app is actually using. This can be a valuable tool to use if a specific app is consuming more bandwidth than it should, you don’t want an app to update when on cellular connections, or even if you’re simply trying to avoid going over a bandwidth cap imposed by a cellular network provider.


Note: this only impacts app data when an iOS device is connected to a cellular network, meaning 3G, 4G, LTE, etc, it has no impact on the app being able to connect to data sources through Wi-Fi networks.

Managing Which iOS Apps Can Use Cellular Data

This allows you to set exactly what apps can use and can not transmit through a cellular data connection:

  1. Open the Settings app and near the top of the options choose “Cellular”
  2. Scroll down past the switches for general cellular capabilities, LTE use, roaming, and hotspot, to find the “Use Cellular Data For:” section
  3. Control what apps can use cellular data in iOS

  4. Locate the app(s) you wish to disable cellular data access for, and toggle the associated switch into the OFF position
  5. Disabling cellular data usage for a specific app in iOS

  6. Repeat with other apps as desired to control or disable their cellular data access, when finished hit the Home button to exit out of Settings

You’ll notice a number underneath each applications name, that number indicates the amount of cellular data used since the counter has last been reset (typically after a system restore, manual reset, or perhaps never if the phone is new). In these screenshot examples, the App Store has used 823MB of data, which is no big deal if you have an unlimited cellular data plan, but if you had a cap at 1GB you may find that setting important to disable, choosing instead to rely on a wi-fi connection.

Again, if you don’t see this list on the iPhone it’s probably because you didn’t scroll far enough, it is located beneath the Personal Hotspot control settings.

Note that cell data usage and controls for System Services and core functions like iMessage cellular use are managed deeper within the Cellular Settings panels.

Use this trick if you’re looking for very fine-tuned controls over what applications can transmit on your iPhone or iPad data plan, it’s a much better solution to turning off all data if just one or two apps are the hungry hogs and the rest of them aren’t consuming much of the data plan in general.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

7 Comments

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  1. Tomas says:

    For me, some apps as FaceTime doesn’t allow to be disable in this screen, I can move the option to “off” position (to left) but when I return it’s enable again. Does anyone face this same problem?

    • Paul says:

      I do not have that issue and can turn FaceTime on or off with cellular data, what carrier and version of iOS are you using? I am on AT&T, iOS 7.1

  2. Jessica S. says:

    I love these simple yet wonderful tips. Thought I would take the time to thank you after reading your website for about a year, almost daily. Just wish the cellular data tracker could be reset monthly if you wanted it to.
    Keep it up and is this blog a hobby or a full-time job?

  3. Mark says:

    While a few of my iOS apps can have their cellular data switched off, most simply reactivate when I leave the system settings. When I return, all my settings have reverted. Happens with both Apple made iOS apps & 3rd party apps

    Cheers !

  4. Gary says:

    I’ve done this but when I open those apps I constantly get a message that says cellular data is turned off. How can you disable that pop up window????

  5. Max Lill says:

    Thanks for the tip. I had no idea that this was possible, i’ve been stuck with all or nothing for quiet sometime. Although i’m having some trouble like Tomas and a few of my apps aren’t staying disabled. Any suggestions? Thanks

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