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How to set data limits on an iPhone

When considering a SIM-only contract, it’s important to estimate the amount of data you’re likely to need each month.

Our website features data plans ranging from 500MB per month to a whopping 100GB.

Although paying for data you’ll never use is clearly inefficient, restricting your monthly data package could leave you struggling for gigabytes towards the end of each monthly billing cycle.

Then there are occasions where you find yourself burning through data more readily than normal, such as while on holiday.

Daily data drains

The always-on nature of iPhones means they’re frequently connected to the internet, even when you’re not using them.

Apps tend to be web-enabled, and often update themselves at unexpected moments.

Apple’s iWork apps are designed to sync with iCloud, while software and system updates can burn through huge chunks of data.

And that’s before you take into account push notifications, status updates and all the other activities that nibble away at monthly data allowances.

Fortunately, there is a way to ensure your data limits aren’t breached.

If you have an iPhone, you can set limits on cellular data.

This process is relatively straightforward, and these are the stages you’ll need to follow:

  1. Go into Settings.
  2. Select General.
  3. Scroll down and choose Restrictions.
  4. Tap Enable Restrictions. You will be asked to enter a four-digit PIN code, which is separate to any other PINs already stored on the device.
  5. After entering and then confirming the PIN, you’ll be able to restrict individual applications like the camera or Apple CarPlay.
  6. (This is handy if you’re planning on letting other people use your iPhone temporarily, or if you don’t want kids messing about with your handset’s inner workings).
  7. Scroll down the list of Restrictions, and you’ll find Mobile Data near the bottom.
  8. This contains two options – Mobile Data and Data Plan. Both will be set to Allow Changes by default, but adjust them so the tick appears after Don’t Allow Changes.
  9. Return to the previous screen and choose Background App Refresh.
  10. Again, this should be altered to Don’t Allow Changes.

If you subsequently want to remove data limits, simply repeat the above process in reverse.

Additional tips for minimising data usage

Firstly, go into Settings > Mobile Data, and ensure the WiFi Assist radio button is turned off, since this will start munching through data if WiFi connectivity is limited or unavailable.

Turning off iCloud Drive immediately below this option is also advisable, for similar reasons.

Higher up on the Mobile Data page, your Current Period Roaming usage will be displayed for specific devices and apps.

Turn off as many of these as you can, without compromising your handset’s usability.

The nuclear option is to turn off Mobile Data altogether, which will prevent the handset sending or receiving anything more than phone calls and texts when it’s not connected to WiFi.

However, this effectively transforms your iPhone into an iPod, which isn’t always convenient.

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