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iPhone Phantom Data Usage

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to help a friend out in purchasing an iPhone 4S. She was a new AT&T customer but was porting her number from Verizon and wanted to join in a FamilyTalk plan with her daughter who was already an AT&T customer. It became slightly complicated when the system ran a credit check because her last name was not the same as her daughter who had changed her last name after her marriage. 4 hours later, we were trying out Siri on her brand new iPhone 4S. All seemed fine, and we parted that night.

Four days later – this morning, I get a frantic call from her telling me that she’s got a TXT message from AT&T notifying her that she’s hit her 90% quota of her 200MB Data Plan. What!?

We logged into the AT&T MyWireless site to check on her usage. Sure enough, every day at noon or midnight, more than 40000 KB total transfer was being logged. That was impossible. She has NO APPS INSTALLED other than the default ones from Apple.

Granted, she didn’t have the iPhone set to use the WiFi network in her home, but 40MB/day on mail and… what else!? Impossible!

I was aware, since last April, of a few dozen iPhone users experiencing Phantom Data Usage during sleeping hours. Some people reset their phones and it was fixed. Some people called AT&T tirelessly to get the charges off their bill. And some people just upgraded their plan to the 2GB DataPro Plan.

Suspicious, I checked my usage. I was still under my 200MB threshold, but it was higher than usual. Over the night of the 13th and 14th of October 2011 (the night of the iPhone 4S launch) I had two nights of >18MB usage. My regular daily usage is about 2MB so I knew something was wrong.

The problem is, I don’t know exactly what’s wrong. Is there a rogue program not releasing the 3G connection? Did I use the Phone 9 times more than usual that night? I doubt it.

So far, there are some ways to prevent data usage:

  • Plug AC adapter In (this prioritizes WiFi)
  • Stop all apps before going to bed (stops rogue apps)
  • Turn Cellular Data Off (stops foreground data transfer)
  • Turn Airplane mode On (stops background data transfer)
  • Turn iPhone Off (stops everything)

So, I decided to monitor the situation to get to the cause of the problem. We upgraded my friend’s plan to the 200GB DataPro Plan, and will be trying each step to see what difference they make.

Posted in Apple, English.


3 Responses

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  1. juan sanabria says

    We’ve had a similar problem on my wife’s iPhone 4. During this month she’s had several days where the phone has transfered 40-100mb a day even though she just checked email a couple of times and didn’t download a thing.

  2. ex-iPhone user says

    “Turn Cellular Data Off (stops foreground data transfer)
    Turn Airplane mode On (stops background data transfer)”

    Turning Cellular Data off should prevent any connection taking place over the mobile network.
    Turning Airplane Mode on will cut off your voice calls, SMS text messages as well as your mobile network – not far from switching it off completely, which you might as well do, if you’re planning to go to sleep and not use the display for anything else.

  3. Thomas Shim says

    This is a known issue, apparently. The best thing is to shutdown Cellular Data in Settings. You don’t really need to turn off the phone or even go into Airplane Mode (which also shuts off WiFi). Apparently, Apple acknowledges this, according to AT&T Wireless, so a fix may be on the way.

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