Tracking which apps are eating into your bandwidth can save you money and heartburn.

Watch Out for Data-Hungry Apps

A typical app eats a surprising amount of data each month – much more data than is apparent. You may think an app uses your bandwidth just when you’re operating it. However, some apps also use data when they run in the background. And, of course, all apps need to be updated every once in a while.

If you’re the regular iPhone user, you probably have a ton of apps installed on your phone. Each of these apps requires a lot of data as upkeep each month – an amount that will pile up quickly. All this means that, with cellular data being as expensive as it is, you end up footing a huge phone bill at the end of the month.

Keeping Track of Data Usage

If you own an iPhone (or other Apple device) running iOS 7 or iOS 8, you can easily keep track of how much data your apps are using – both individually and together.  This ability is built-into the operating system.

Finding Out the Total Volume of Data Used in a Billing Cycle

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To find out the amount of data your Apple device has used in a billing cycle, go to “Settings”. Here, tap on the “Cellular” menu.

In the “Cellular” menu, you will find some data under the “Cellular Data Usage” column: “Current Period” and “Current Period Roaming”. The “Current Period” will have some MBs of data next to it – this is the data your iPhone has used for the current billing cycle.

The “Current Period Roaming” option will have some data usage next to it if you were away on a trip somewhere, otherwise it will probably be 0.

The data usage figures here don’t automatically reset ever billing cycle – you have to manually do that. So the first time you check the data used here, the numbers will probably be inaccurate. To get accurate numbers, reset your statistics on the first day of your billing cycle (just tap “Reset Statistics”).

Finding Out Data Used by Apps Individually

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If you scroll down further in the “Cellular” menu, you will find a list of apps installed on your phone and the amount of data they have consumed in a billing cycle. There is also a separate submenu called “System Services” that has a list of Apple authorized apps and services (Notifications, iTunes, Voicemail, Siri, Messages and the like). It tracks the amount of data these essential apps and services use each month.

If you want to save data, you can prevent these apps from accessing your cellular data connection individually. Just slide the bar next to an app to the left (off). The app will still be able to use your Wi-Fi data, but not your cellular data.

Like with the total volume of data, these numbers are not accurate for a billing cycle unless you manually reset them on the 1st day of your billing cycle.

Using Apps to Monitor Data Usage (also for Users with Old iPhones)

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If manually resetting your data statistics every month sounds like something you’re sure you’ll forget to do, you could get a data monitoring app. Some apps will inform you if an app (or groups of apps) has crossed a certain data limit, so you can prevent them from using more data. Most data monitoring apps also tell you how much data you have used per month and how data is remaining, depending on your cellular plan. These apps are useful if you wan to ration your data each month.

The My Data Manager app will help you monitor all your data usage – mobile, Wi-Fi and roaming – each month. You can set a daily data budget on the app and you will be notified if you cross your set data budget.  If you want to track the data usage on a per app basis, you could download the DataMan Pro app. Be warned, though: this is a paid app. There is also a free version, but it, of course, has limited features.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, you should be fine using the built-in capabilities of your iPhone. Just remember to set up a monthly notification to reset your statistics. Otherwise, you could just get a free data monitoring app.

Got Android? Read: Monitor Your Mobile Internet Usage Using 3G Watchdog