How to control cellular data used by system services on an iphone?
Answered

Hi all,

I recently activated an iphone 5s with iOS 8.0.2 on Ting.  Decided to try Ting because I liked how there is flexibility to use the features(talk, text, web) when I needed it instead of a fixed amount each month.  And went with the iphone 5s because of the better camera, figured I wouldn't play around with it too much, and just to try out the Apple "quality".  It was a toss up between that and the first gen Moto X, but the this iphone was the best available used option at the best price at the time I made the purchase.

I hardly use data but have found instances in the past that it would've been helpful.  ie when I'm lost somewhere and would've been nice to have a GPS or something or if I'm shopping at a store and want to do a pricematch.  That's one of the reasons why I liked Ting.

However I'm having an issue where the iphone has some background services called System Services that is using up cellular data.  Where in about two or three days of being on a cellular network it has used 1.4 MB of cellular data.  Which isn't much but over a month period this rate would lead me into at the very least the lowest tier of data on Ting even though I never purposely used cellular data for my own purpose. Just checking now, sure enough I'm already in the $9 bucket for data usage even though I never intentionally used it.

Here are some threads that I found related with a similar issue:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1728719

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5367555

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6456803

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6399436

Which leads me to believe that this is an issue with iOS rather than a network provider issue and is why I thought I'd try posting in this forum rather than submit a ticket to Ting.  Also wanted to give others a heads up on this potential issue in case they are contemplating on activating an iphone on Ting.

I tried most of the things suggested in the threads above.  Other than resetting the network connection because as mentioned I believe this is an iOS issue.

Some things I tried are:

-In settings under notifications turned off every app/feature I didn't that I'd use to not show notifications

-under cellular, I switched every app available to off for cellular but don't have that option for system services

-turned off Siri

-turned off location services completely

-don't have icloud set up

-in setting for itunes and app store have every option for cellular data turned off

-under mail, contacts, calendars have fetch new data turned off

-and I'm logged out of itunes and the app store

However when I check I see that cellular data is still being used by system services.  one that I think is growing consistently is iTunes Accounts .  Then I randomly get some brand new one like today called Documents & Sync which just showed up.  I think this may have been triggered by taking a photo for the first time with the phone today.

Also I don't want to completely disable cellular services because there are some features that I do want to connect when I'm not on a wifi network.

Anyways long story short, does anyone know a solution to lockdown/control the use of cellular data by these system services?  Or if there is something I should be doing?

Some people in the thread from macrumors above seem to imply that if you have an iphone you shouldn't mind of having to use paying for this type of data that the iphone uses in the background.  But I don't agree with that point of view and doesn't work with a provider like Ting.  And I don't mind if some of the usage is for required services.  But it should be minimal and I don't use some of these features at all.  Like Game Center.  So at the very least there should be a feature to force these services to be wifi only.

I see iOS 8.1 is available but based just on a quick search, I don't think it says anything about resolving this issue of using cellular data when not needed.  If anything it sounds like 8.1 is more geared for features for the iphone 6.  Based on other threads, it sounds like this issue started around iOS 7.  So I'm planning to start looking into if it's possible to downgrade to iOS 6 but I'm guessing it's not going to be possible or hard to do.  And even though my original intent was to not mess around with the phone like you do with an Android phone am somewhat willing to try jailbreaking it if possible if it leads to a solution for this.

Sorry the above is kind of long but wanted to provide the details.  ie in case people start talking about apple vs Android, or maybe some suggestions that I already tried.

Thanks in advance for any help or input on this issue!

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3 comments
  • Hi there,

    System services cover several required OS services and checks, including software updates, sync, location, time/date, visual voicemail, messaging, security, your Apple ID, among others. Tapping on "System Settings" from the phone's "Cellular" submenu will indicate exactly which services are using the most data.

    As you mentioned above, there's not much that can be done to prevent them from running, since they're required to optimize most or your phone's settings. It's just part of the services required to run a smartphone.  The only way fully disable them is by turning off mobile data on the phone or your Ting account, which should prevent cellular data usage entirely. If mobile data is on, they will always run as necessary.

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  • Thanks for the reply.

    Just to give others a heads up:

    After about a week's usage and looking into it and thinking about it, I guess I can live with how the cellular data is being used as long as the rate is about the same as it has been.

    This is my first activated smart phone and I guess I should have realized that there are processes that will connect to cellular data.  With my Android device I had to root it to stop some of the processes I didn't want running.  And it doesn't look like this sort of thing is as supported for Apple devices.  So I don't plan on trying to do anything like that.

    The biggest use of cellular data is the visual voicemail for the iphone.  I found the following thread which suggests that it's something that needs to be done on the carrier side:

    https://discussions.apple.com/message/17184182#17184182

    But in the following thread it sounds like Ting didn't have a solution for this as of a couple of months ago:

    https://help.ting.com/entries/30669787-iPhone-Voice-Mail

    I was thinking about opening a ticket to see if this issue has been resolved but decided it's not worth it.

    If cellular data is totally turned off the phone does default to regular voicemail but badge notifications do not appear letting you know that you have a message.  btw it looks like you get charged the minutes for both when a caller leaves a message and when you check your voicemail from the phone.

    So I figure with the iphone, figure that you will always be in the first bucket of data use even actively using the phone to connect to cellular services.  Then with actual use there's a good chance that you'll be in the second bucket.

    For myself, that is in some ways disappointing because I didn't take this in account and think with taxes and fees my monthly amount may be close to what I was paying before for an unlimited plan which I was hesitant to give up.  Ting does have roaming and the previous carrier did not, and is a reason why I decided to try Ting.  And I think there will still be some savings for most months but that will be based off of usage of the phone for that month.

    Anyways just wanted to post this for others as a heads up because it wasn't something that I had taken into account when making the decision to try out Ting.

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  • Thanks for replying, K.

    We don't currently have the option to disable visual voicemail, other than disabling mobile data entirely.

    Voicemail doesn't use any minutes, however, checking your voicemail from your Ting phone will incur usage if you're calling your voicemail. That's because that call to your voicemail counts as a regular call.  To avoid that, you can access your voicemail from any other number. Here are a few instructions.

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