How to track iPad, iPhone data usage and save money

Both the iPhone and the latest 4G LTE iPads offer a wide array of applications that allow you to do most anything when you are outside of the home. From streaming live television using Slingbox to more mainstream uses such as checking email, browsing the web or surfing YouTube. All of these and many more have a direct impact on your data usage. It’s important to track your iPhone data usage where possible. Not only to prevent unwanted overage charges, but also to possibly downgrade your plan and save money.

Track data usage iPhone

AT&T app tracking data usage

How much iPhone data do I use?
The mere thought of adding carrier apps might give a nervous twitch reminding you of the older pre-iPhone bloatware that existing on most phones. Not all carrier apps are bad. If you are on AT&T Wireless, they offer myAT&T, an free app that is available for download from the App Store. It allows you to quickly check your current data usage as you make your way through your monthly allotment.

my AT&T app

Not to be outdone, the My Verizon Mobile app also offers usage details related to your monthly data plan. It also includes an iOS 8 widget, for quicker access to your plan details.

My Verizon Mobile

 Sprint Zone can help Sprint customers check their data usage, although they are the only carrier currently offering true unlimited plans, so there is less of need for those customers to be on top of their monthly data usage.

Sprint Zone

Within iOS, you can also check usage, but that number needs to be manually rest. If you navigate to Settings > Usage > Cellular Usage, it will provide both ‘Call Time’ and ‘Cellular Network Data’. Select ‘Reset Statistics’ to restart the counter.

Both of these are iPhone apps, so don’t expect glorious retina display updates. More importantly, you’ll be able to utilize them to monitor your iPad 4G LTE data usage.

Advantages of checking usage
The most obvious advantage to monitoring ones usage would be to prevent unwanted extra charges. We all pay a sufficient amount of money each month to the wireless carriers, so why send them more? While monitoring your data usage, you may notice that you don’t use as much data as you thought when you signed up for your plan. If you are playing $30 for either the unlimited or 3GB plan, but use less than 2GB per month, then downgrading your data plan will save you money. The words wireless plans and saving money has a good ring to it.

Third party apps to help track usage
While the carrier options are useful, there are third-party applications that go even further. These are especially helpful when traveling internationally. My wife recently had a business trip that took her through a few countries in Europe. My initial thought was to outfit her with an unlocked phone and have her pick up a sim card locally. Her desire to use her iPhone coupled with a busy travel schedule, it became readily apparent that this wasn’t the best option.

Apps check iPhone, iPad data usage

A great option is to install a third party application to track data usage while traveling internationally. We opted for DataMan Pro ($5.99), a great utility that allows you to set up notifications in addition to providing a great number of ways to monitor usage. Their app is not universal, so there is a separate app DataMan Pro for iPad app, requiring you pay twice. Other options include Data Usage, My Data Usage Pro.

Star codes to request account information

Star codes are service codes that can be dialed from your iPhone – as well as other cellular phones and even landlines depending on the service provider – that start or cancel a special service, such as call forwarding, and to request account status information. If you’re an AT&T user in the U.S., there’s an easy way to find these codes directly on your iPhone. This might vary depending upon your carrier. Navigate to Settings > Phone > Scroll Down and Select AT&T Services. You’ll see this screen of available short codes:

AT&T services

Tapping on the View My Minutes line will show you a status message like this:

Request processed

You will then receive a text message from AT&T giving you information on your minutes used in your current billing period:

Minutes used

Tapping on the Check Bill Balance line will prompt the sending of a text message showing your current balance, due date, and the last payment received:

Account balance

One very useful code that is missing from this menu is the data code that will show you how much wireless data you’ve used (on AT&T’s EDGE or 3G cellular data network, not Wi-Fi usage, which is not tracked or billed through AT&T or any carrier). This code is *DATA# (or *3282#) and it will show data and SMS/MMS usage in the current billing period.

Data used

AT&T always cautions that the information you see using these codes or even when logging in online to view your account may not always be up to date, so keep this mind whenever you request this information.

In case you’re wondering, the text messages that AT&T sends to you in response to the entry of these star codes are all free – they will not be deducted from your messaging plan balance (and you won’t be billed for them if you’re not on a messaging plan).

While the star codes we mention here are specific to AT&T, your carrier may use them as well though you should contact your carrier’s customer service department to verify this.

Online account management

Another way to see your current usage is to log in to your account through your carrier’s online account management portal. Below are links to these portals for several iPhone carriers around the world. More links can be found on this page on Apple’s site:

Here’s an example of how AT&T provides you with account information online. While it may vary, expect your carrier to provide similar statistics.

ATT usage on web

While this method definitely takes more effort than entering a simple star code on your iPhone, you can drill down to get more detailed information on your usage as well as make changes to your plans.

There are plenty of reasons to track your iPhone and iPad data usage. Using a combination of free and paid apps, you can save money by avoiding overage charges or by cutting costs on your existing plan.

Original publish date: Mar 22, 2012. Updated: March 04, 2015.

Comments

  1. AeroCare says

    So can I use any of those on an iPhone if I’m on T-Mobile or do they only work if you’re a Big 3 customer?

    Regarding the 3rd party apps, are there any at least "free to try before you buy" type that you know of?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>