Ask LH: How Can I Minimise iPhone Data Usage When Travelling?

Ask LH: How Can I Minimise iPhone Data Usage When Travelling?

Hey Lifehacker, I am heading overseas and want to minimise my data usage on my iPhone. Which settings do I need?

I still want to use my Google Maps and web browser apps when required, but I don’t want to use 3G for email, WhatsApp, Facebook or anything else. What should I do?

Roaming At The Mouth

Dear RATM,

As we’ve noted before, since iOS 7 iPhone owners have been able to set whether individual apps are allowed to use your mobile connection. Go to Settings –> Cellular (Apple insists on imposing this US label for mobile networks on everyone) and scroll down. For each app you don’t want, you can switch off mobile data.

Two warnings: firstly, if you use Exchange Active Sync for mail, it will continue to use mobile data even if you’ve set Mail not to use it. Secondly, some users have reported issues where apps will switch themselves back to using mobile data, so it pays to check those settings periodically during your trip.

You can also choose to switch off cellular data entirely on this screen. It can make sense to do this (as well as disabling individual apps), and only switch on when you have a specific task you want to perform. That minimises the risk of using data accidentally.

It’s very easy to run up a large bill while roaming, so check our guide to the most common mistakes. Hope you have a great trip!


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