iOS 8: A Take Control Crash Course
by Josh Centers

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Managing Data Usage in iOS 8

Internet connections without some kind of bandwidth cap are difficult to find. Fortunately, I know some tricks to manage your bandwidth usage in iOS 8. All these tricks will help you reduce your use of cellular data, but some can also help you stay under a general broadband Internet cap, too.

Monitor Cellular Data Usage

In Settings > Cellular, under Use Cellular Data For, iOS lists every app that has used cellular data, along with a tally of how much data it has used since you last tapped the Reset Statistics button at the bottom of the screen.

Disable Cellular Data by App

iOS gives you ultimate control over whether an app is allowed to transfer data over a cellular connection.

Tap Settings > Cellular, and under Use Cellular Data For, turn off the switch for any app that you don’t want using cellular data, perhaps because it chews data in the background (Skype, I’m looking at you). If you disable cellular data for an app, it won’t be able to use cellular data for any purpose.

Stop Automatic Downloads

When you buy an app, ebook, or music from Apple, it downloads to your device automatically. It can also automatically download to all your devices, so long as they are signed in with the same Apple ID. For example, if you bought this ebook from Apple’s iBooks Store on your iPad, it may have downloaded automatically to your iPhone. Although this feature is convenient, it can eat data quickly.

To disable automatic downloads—and turn off automatic app updates—toggle the appropriate switch in Settings > iTunes & App Store.

Tip: If you disable Updates, you should occasionally open the App Store app, tap Updates, and then manually download available updates.

Disable Cellular Data for Automatic Downloads and iTunes

What if you want to enable automatic downloads, but you don’t want them to happen over your cellular data connection? Go to Settings > iTunes & App Store, and turn off Use Cellular Data.

With this option disabled, items for which you’ve turned on automatic downloads (music, apps, books, or app updates) will download only over Wi-Fi. In addition, iTunes Match and iTunes Radio—two heavy users of wireless data—won’t work over a cellular-data connection.

Stop Background App Refresh

Introduced in iOS 7, Background App Refresh keeps certain apps updated even when they’re in the background. While this feature keeps app content fresh and saves you from waiting for data to load when you launch an app, it can also eat data without you realizing.

You can disable Background App Refresh entirely, or on a per-app basis, in Settings > General > Background App Refresh.

Limit iCloud Data Usage

Some iCloud services (shown in Settings > iCloud, if the device is signed in to an iCloud account) can use a lot of wireless data, including Photos, Safari, and Backup. Consider disabling these services if you don’t use them.

If your device has a data plan and you’re having trouble staying under your cap, disable Use Cellular Data at the bottom of Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive (or Settings > iCloud > Documents & Data if you haven’t yet upgraded to iCloud Drive). If cellular data is off, your iCloud Drive documents will sync next time the device has a Wi-Fi connection.

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“PSA: Avoid unanticipated overage charges by enabling cell data on a per-app basis in iOS’s Settings > Cellular.”

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