Reducing Data Usage on iDevices

One of the most-often asked questions on the BIRRR facebook page is ‘How can I save data? It seems to be vanishing without me doing anything!” While sending photos and uploading big documents are often unavoidable as we conduct business via the internet and can eat into our data limits, there is actually quite a lot we can do to curtail some of the often-unseen big data users chewing through our very limited monthly gigabytes.

Many of the things you can do to manage data usage are

  • Save data in iOS
  • Track how much data you use
  • Stop Apps from using your data
  • How to see which Apps are using data
  • To save cellular data and use WiFi, turn off cellular data
  • Turn off autoplay in Facebook
  • Manage how you use Facetime
  • Manage how you use iCloud
  • Manage how you use iTunes
  • Manage data roaming
  • Use Safaris reading list to read articles offline
  • Manage the data guzzler Photo Stream
  • Turn off push notifications
  • Manage how you get emails
  • Stop Background App refresh
  • Manage WiFi
  • Use WiFi Hotspots

Solutions to the above data usage savers can be found here

Whether you use mobile or satellite broadband, if you own iDevices this is a short checklist to follow (as well as doing what is mentioned above)


Operating system updates for Apple iOS are AUTOMATIC if you are connected via WiFi or cable. If the device is Cellular only, it is NOT automatic, and can be scheduled.

Disable a feature called Wi-Fi Assist which is enabled in the default settings of iOS 9.  Our iDevices can chew through ENORMOUS amounts, through updates and syncing. Go through the following checks to ensure your iDevice is NOT automatically chewing through precious data. The first step is to find the SETTINGS on your device.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 7.17.00 AM



The constant syncing of i-cloud on iDevices, especially if you have several devices, can really chew through your data. You can always turn them back on if needed, but make sure you aren’t in ‘automatic update’ mode:

  • Go into Settings>iCloud
  • Uncheck ‘icloud drive

This is a good spot to uncheck any other ‘auto-updates’ you might not need synced.



Check that apps that aren’t needed all the time are not updating and turn off wi-fi assist. Wi-Fi assist automatically defaults to using your mobile data when Wi-Fi signal is poor. This means your mobile data could be used without you realising, causing your mobile service to exceed your monthly quota and accrue excess data fees.

  • Go into Settings>Mobile
  • Go though your apps and  UNCHECK those you don’t need constantly accessing data.
  • UNCHECK the Wi-Fi assist option at the bottom

NB: Wi-Fi assist is a feature that is enabled by default in iOS 9. If your i-Device is running an earlier version of iOS, your device will not have this feature.

  • wifiassist


  • Go into Settings>General>background app refresh
  • turn off (this will also save battery life)
  • BAR


WARNING: Your i-Device will automatically download iOS updates (when a new one is available) while it is charging, connected to the internet (thru WiFi) and there’s sufficient free space on the device. It will then prompt you to install, turning off updates will NOT prevent the auto download of iOS updates. Turning your device to airplane mode whilst charging OR having your device ONLY on cellular may prevent this.  

  • Go into Settings>App and iTunes Store>Update
  • Scroll down this page until you see the AUTOMATIC DOWNLOADS heading. All new content that you buy after you turn on Automatic Downloads automatically downloads to all of your devices. When you turn on Automatic Downloads, your device associates with your Apple ID.If you use Family Sharing and turn on Automatic Downloads, content bought by other members of your family won’t automatically download to your devices. Only content that you purchase with your Apple ID downloads automatically.Here, you’ll see four options. Turn off Updates and other automatic downloads such as Music, Apps and Books.

Music – When turned on, any purchased iTunes music will download automatically.

Apps – When turned on, any purchased apps will download automatically.

Books – When turned on, any purchased Books will download automatically.

Updates – When turned on, updates for any apps on your device will download as soon as they become available.

  • turn off Use Mobile Data for automatic downloads

See expert tip at the bottom of this article to adjust settings in your router (at OWN risk), this is the only way to prevent automatic iOS updates.

Turn off Automatic Downloads in App & Itunes


  • Go into Settings>Notifications
  • If your iDevice has an Internet connection and you turn on Push Notifications, your content automatically downloads to your device. On devices that don’t support Push Notifications, your content automatically appears in your iTunes download queue. You can manually download the content in iTunes.
  • Turn off any apps that you don’t require push notifications for.


All of the above tips will often need to be re-applied after completing an update.

An easy and easy to forget tip is also to shut down all your apps and browser windows when you have finished with them.

  • Double click HOME button
  • Swipe apps (and browser windows) closed.

This is a small selection of the many data-saving tips you can employ – find more here Data Saving Tips

Expert Tip: Your iDevices will automatically download iOS (when new one is available) while it is charging, connected to the internet (thru WiFi) and there’s sufficient free space on the device. To disable automatic download, you will have to put a block on your wireless router to prevent your Apple iOS devices from contacting Apple update servers. Add to your router in access control.

Tips if you have multiple iDevices: You can use a computer with iTunes to download IOS Updates once, and then manually install the update onto multiple devices. Instructions for doing this are available by clicking here.

Another option, if you have a Mac computer, you can install the macOS Server app from the mac App Store, which costs $19.99. This has a feature called “Caching” which, when turned on, will intercept any downloads from the mac and iDevice app stores, and keep a copy. Next time a device requests the same file, it will download it from the mac instead of from the internet, saving your data. There is no need to tell your iDevices to fetch the updates from your mac, it just happens automatically  This works with every device on your network. I have used this in a school with lots of iPads, and it was saving 100+GB per week at one point. Some more info is available here.

* Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your own connection issues and best plans available.  Information compiled for BIRRR by Julie Stott, Amanda Salisbury, Kye Rosendale, John Kitchener & Kristy Sparrow.  BIRRR updates articles as time permits and when new information is available.