How Much Cellular Data Does iMessage Use? Here’s How to Find Out on iPhone

May 22, 2014 - 22 Comments

How much data does iMessage use? iMessage sends text messages, pictures, and movies over cellular data rather than through the traditional SMS and MMS protocols, but have you ever wondered just how much of an iPhone data plan all your iMessage use is consuming? It turns out that you can find this information through a somewhat buried location in iOS Settings, and if you’re on a bandwidth capped data plan it may offer some actionable data to work with if you regularly find yourself hitting the limits of your cellular plan.

You’ll be able to find this information on any iPhone or cellular equipped iPad running a modern iOS release, though most of us use iMessage primarily on iPhones, which is why we’re going to focus on that device.

Finding iMessage Data Consumption in iOS

  1. Launch the “Settings” app and go to the “Cellular” section located near the top
  2. Navigate past the listed apps and all the way to the bottom, and select “System Services”
  3. Find “Messaging Services” near the top to see the total iMessage cellular data consumption

Find iMessage data usage

In this screenshot example, “Messaging Services” (iMessage) has used 408MB since the last time the cellular usage data statistics were reset.

See iMessage data usage

Keep in mind most of this message data usage is exclusively due to the photos and videos, not the actual transmission of generic texts and messaging without multimedia. While the former can eat up 5mb per image sent, the latter text communications are literally measured in tiny kilobytes and would barely dent even the tiniest data plans.

Unlike third party iPhone apps and many other bundled services, there is no option to disable iMessage sending over cellular data while keeping it enabled for wi-fi connections, and instead you’d have to turn the feature off completely and fall back to SMS. That certainly works to avoid additional cellular data consumption, but falling back to SMS can have it’s own problems if you don’t have a generous texting plan associated with the iPhone, making it a delicate balance.

Perhaps the better solution for those with capped data plans who get hit with overage charges due to heavy multimedia based iMessaging is to monitor the usage from time to time, and be sure to connect to a wi-fi network as often as possible to unload the data from cellular onto the wireless network. You can always cut back on sending photos and videos too, or selectively send them as an SMS instead if you have a texting plan to fall back on – just keep in mind the SMS/MMS protocol is fairly ruthless with compression and the quality of any image or movie sent over traditional MMS is going to be abysmal compared to iMessage.

Finally, for those who own a Mac and an iPhone and rely on iMessage to easily share files between the two devices, pay special attention to being on a wi-fi network when you use the service to send stuff between iOS and OS X, which is highly effective but can tax a cellular plan particularly hard.


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


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  1. JoeW says:

    I just discovered this on my iPad, I had every cellular service turned off and yet it was still transmitting iMessage over cellular and there’s no way to turn it off. I don’t want to disable iMessage I just want to only use it on Wi-Fi. I’m stuck on iOS 12.

    This is a major oops from Apple not to provide a switch to control cellular data.

  2. Darren says:

    You can’t send movies over imessage, there way too long and have a huge file size. You can send VIDEOS over iMessage. They’re called VIDEOS, Not movies.

  3. Dawn says:

    Hi , I received at least 2 warning of getting close to overage usage of data . Look at my usage (that contains 4 other people) and it said Imessage uses data so I told those on my plan with iphones to limit to when they have service . Son says imessage doesn’t use data ? Helpe out here.

  4. Rajeev says:

    Hello !
    I’m using i6 nd my data is going at a very high rate my generals is using data very much 100-200mb a day !
    What to do ?

  5. Gabi says:

    So if I don’t have any WiFi iMessage is using data? In that case I don’t want to use up all my data, I only get like 2 gb. And how am I supposed to text my friends with iPhones? Can I turn off iMessage?

  6. bradwiggo says:

    Does it use data if you share your location for say an hour, or a day?

  7. Amit says:

    So… How much data will it consume if I use it very often only for text messages .. No pics or vids

  8. Jess says:

    No, the uninstalled apps section just tells you how much data those apps used up before you deleted them

  9. Da President says:

    Ok I’m lost cause I don’t have tht feature under cellular it gives me no option for it

  10. Koco says:

    What’s the “uninstalled apps” thing under “system services”??? Is it taking up data from apps I deleted?!

  11. Xavier says:

    Is imassage the same like FaceTime? Being free over wifi and all that? Coz at the end of the day I’m paying for the wifi too. So does it affect the wifi bill? Or does the wifi data get used??

    • Derp says:

      iMassage? Is that a new service where Apple comes and gives you a massage? Can I use iMessage over wifi to order my iMassage? Cool!

      How does data work, does it use data?

  12. Ben says:

    I use iMessage without sending pictures when I don’t have wifi and I have hit 7 mb over cell, if you don’t send media on cellular, iMessage uses very little, and is cheaper for me then a text message since i pay 6 cent for a sms and 1 cent per mb.

  13. Sergio Calabrice says:

    It’s all a scam , every cellphone user gets the shaft by the 4 larger providers. For those of you that have friends in certain places . Data plan? $ ? Huh ?

  14. iMactouch says:

    What is more interesting to me is what “iTunes Accounts” is?
    This is every month the biggest part of my mobile usage.

  15. Avenged110 says:

    It’s interesting because using iMessage used to be a battery game for me. With iMessage on, I could use group chats on Wi-Fi with cellular off and saving some power. However, with iMessage off, I can send any non-MMS messages without cellular or Wi-Fi on, also saving a ton of power. And that’s probably my number one reason to not use iMessage. I just wish MMS didn’t compress videos so far you can’t even see what’s happening.

  16. Kingsford says:

    Whats the Uninstalled Apps under that? Seems pointless to keep data of a App that was deleted. Is it clearable or deletable?

    • Paul says:

      It definitely lists recently uninstalled apps though I’m not sure if it counts all that have been installed but removed on the device, which would be a little odd. In any event, yes you can clear all the cellular data statistics by choosing the “Reset” option

  17. mp99 says:

    i’m more interested in the app that was blurred out ..what was that ???? :)

    • Paul says:

      LOL, just a bank app. Usually things that are blurred out are to prevent user confusion (“why doesn’t mine have that?” etc) or to remove personally identifying information.

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