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
- Launch the “Settings” app and go to the “Cellular” section located near the top
- Navigate past the listed apps and all the way to the bottom, and select “System Services”
- Find “Messaging Services” near the top to see the total iMessage cellular data consumption
In this screenshot example, “Messaging Services” (iMessage) has used 408MB since the last time the cellular usage data statistics were reset.
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.