How to Keep Control of Your Cellular Data [iPhone, AT&T]

Cellular data has been a big topic in the tech world recently. Sprint recently cancelled unlimited data for hotspots, net books, and tablets. There is news that a new cellular service is offering $19 unlimited everything plan, but with a huge catch. All of this coupled with AT&T cancelling unlimited data last year to users can make even the average user think more about how much they use their data. This seems like an issue that will continue to occur with a growing number of smart phone owners stressing data networks. However, there are many ways of surviving life with capped data and we’ll show you how today.

Know Where You Stand

One bad thing, at least with AT&T for that matter, is that you have to check yourself to see how much Internet you have used up. You get a text alert after using up 65% of your data; however, you’re left in the dark after that. However, there are ways to see how much data you have used up. The easiest way is through text message, and here’s how:

Go to “Phone” on your home screen.

Go to your “Contacts” and find “View Data Usage”.


Click on the number *3282#, click dismiss, and wait for the message to appear.


You’ll get a message in 30 seconds at most with the total number of MB you have used. If you didn’t know, GB = 1 thousand megabytes. If you have a cap of 2GB, you should stay under 2000 MB (or 2048 MB to be exact).


There are then the individuals that are entering a new contract. These individuals don’t have the choice of an unlimited data package and must understand how to budget their data. If you are one of these users, you can guesstimate how much data you will in fact need with AT&T’s data estimator. Here’s how to use it:

Go to AT&T data estimator website.


Understand each module of the estimator. Adjust according to if you’re finding plans for your smart phone, laptop, or net book under the “Select Your Device” tab at the top right. You are able to adjust according to how many emails, number of hours, amount of apps, posts, and minutes by sliding the module. You can adjust accordingly by day or month using the drop down menu.


As you adjust, pay attention to the “Estimated Monthly Usage” tab at the bottom. If you are intending on paying $15/month, stay around 200MB a month. If $25/month is more in your budget, then 2GB is more of your limit.


Take Advantage of WIFI

WIFI is one of the best data conservers for your iPhone and iPad. The average user won’t use up all of their 2GB of data just during commuting to and from work or school. Not taking advantage of WIFI at home, at a local coffee shop, or other WIFI connected place can also heavily affect data usage. When taking advantage of WIFI, keep your device with the WIFI lever always on. For added safety, have your device ask you before connecting. This will prevent you from connecting to mysterious, “open” networks. Here’s how to enable this:

Go to “Settings” and click “WIFI”


On the lever that says “Ask to Join Networks”, click “ON”


Whenever your device tries to connect with an unknown network, you’ll be asked before you automatically join. This will prevent your device from being a victim of bugs, stolen information, and data.

Control Your Device

If you want to conserve data based on what you already have, then there are many ways of saving on those MB by making adjustments in your iPhone. With the iOS 5 update, more applications and services than ever are taking advantage of your data. When at home and using WIFI, consider turning off cellular data all together. Instead of searching for the fastest connection, your iPhone will automatically go to WIFI. Here’s how:

Go to “Settings” and “General”


Click “Network”


Turn the “Cellular Data” lever off.


The Money Issue


Having a better control of your data not only prevents you from overages, but also can allow you to know when you might even need to extend your data package or lower the allowance. Some users find that they are frequently in WIFI networks and can find having a 2GB allowance to be more useful. The best way to assess this is to pay attention to your cellular bill for about two months. Monitor how often you use your data.

On the other hand, current economic situations may force you to lower your data allowance. 4GB of data for $45 a month is a huge difference from $25 a month for 2GB, a $20 savings. The tips above can allow you to make the most of your data squeeze. In addition, knowing how to crunch your data well can be a great money saver for individuals interested in an iPad. The WIFI+3G iPad is close to $200 more than the WIFI only iPad. Being able to know how to take advantage of WIFI only will allow you to allocate your money somewhere else.



With many carriers limiting the amount of data their users use, it becomes even more important to find alternatives to using your cellular data. In addition, users with unlimited data will find a capped data plan to be more cost effective. With more and more users having a cap, they will see it as a cost effective alternative to cutting costs in other ways.

Despite these advantages, there are some disadvantages to a capped data plan. If you go over, even just a MB, you will automatically get charged $10 with AT&T for an extra gigabyte. In addition, once you change over to a capped data plan, you can’t go back to unlimited when with AT&T. These are the factors to consider before making the big decision of switching over. Using online resources, including AT&T’s data estimator will help you with this decision.

Ari Simon
Ari Simon

Ari Simon has been a writer with Make Tech Easier since August 2011. Ari loves anything related to technology and social media. When Ari isn't working, he enjoys traveling and trying out the latest tech gadget.

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