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:
- Open the Settings app and near the top of the options choose “Cellular”
- Scroll down past the switches for general cellular capabilities, LTE use, roaming, and hotspot, to find the “Use Cellular Data For:” section
- Locate the app(s) you wish to disable cellular data access for, and toggle the associated switch into the OFF position
- 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.