iPhone 4S Data Usage

There is a news story making the rounds today blaming Siri for the increase in data usage in the iPhone 4S. Since iPhone 4 users don’t consume as much data, Siri is getting the blame. A bunch of news outlets are carrying the story, but I’m not buying that Siri is the cause. I think there is either a hardware problem or a major bug in iOS. On my phone, I’ve seen a marked increase in data usage since upgrading to the 4S. As in triple the amount. I’ve never even come close to the data cap and the past couple of months I’ve been teetering on the edge. It’s not like the extra $10/gig charge that AT&T levies is a huge deal, but the amount of data being pushed is staggeringly higher than any previous phone, including months with heavy travel and 3G usage.

Here is a list of outlets running with blaming Siri for the increase in data usage:

Wall Street Journal – iPhone 4S Users Consume Double the Mobile Data of iPhone 4 – Tech Europe – WSJ

Bloomberg – Apple’s Siri Feature Doubles IPhone Data Usage – Bloomberg

Reuters – New iPhone doubles data consumption: study | Reuters (This story takes a slightly more nuanced air; “The iPhone 4S is perceived by some as a data hog because of Siri”)

I don’t believe that Siri is what is causing the data flow. It’s iCloud. When I’m logged into my account on the phone, that is when I’ve seen the increase in data flow over 3G. I think this is the bug that is causing the increase in data and the iOS software updates have not fixed this bug. That is my theory, based on my highly unscientific testing.

This story from ZDNet agrees with me in one regard, that Siri is not to blame: iPhone 4S ‘doubles’ data usage … but is Siri really to blame?.

For starters, Siri’s not really that heavy as far as data goes. As testing has shown (and this is backed up by data I’ve collected from Siri users), doing ten or so queries a day over 30-day period (while out of WiFi coverage, obviously) will consume some 20MB.

What have you observed with your iPhone 4S? Have you had to pay more for any additional data?

  • Dawn

    I’m lucky that I have unlimited data–have been able to keep it since thee early days with my original iPhone.  I have seen increased data and I have to agree it is probably with iCloud.  That is the only thing different that I do on my phone that I didn’t do before. 

  • A

    I got the message yesterday that I had used too much data and that AT&T was going to start slowing my speeds and I never use Siri.  Prior to getting my 4s, I was nowhere near using 2g of data and all of a sudden, a month in and I’m exceeding that?  Can’t be Siri.  I also don’t think it could be iCloud.  I don’t use iCloud since I do a hard back up of my phone on a daily basis at my desk as I’m working and it’s hooked up to my computer to maintain its charge throughout a day heavy in calls.

    I’m flummoxed.

    • blurb

      Do you have an iCloud/.mac email account that you use on the phone?

  • Cynthia Jennings

    I am not sure what it is. I don’t use iCloud at all and I don’t really use Siri that much. I have never been anywhere close to using the 2gigs even though I have the unlimited plan, I got the silly message fromAT&T saying I was in the Top 5 percent of users which is complete hogwash.

  • e.p.c.

    I don’t have a 4S, so this may not work but could you share a wifi internet connection from one of your Macs and get the 4S to use that for an hour, then run tcpdump on just the wifi interface to capture the connections (and data but it’s most likely encrypted if it’s .Mac/iCloud)?  Might give you an idea of what’s driving the data usage.

    • blurb

      The data doesn’t use wifi, which is why the data usage the carrier reports is so high. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the data seems to move late at night or early in the morning.

      Is it possible to monitor the 3G data flow with tcpsump?

      • e.p.c.

        You wouldn’t be able to monitor the 3G flow via the mac running tcpdump.  I don’t know if there’s one for iOS (and thanks to Apple and Cisco using “ios” to refer to two completely different things, searching on “ios tcpdump” is useless).

        I wonder if you turned off Cell data (settings/general/network) if the traffic would route over wifi or if it would just stop the activity until you turned cell data on.

  • blurb

    I’ve turned off 3G overnight and seen a decrease in data. I’ve also turned off iCloud and seen a decrease. I really think this is bug in either or both iOS and iCloud on an iPhone 4S. There is a chance that this is a hardware issue, but I’m loathe to consider that.

  • caddyzig

    Double-check to make sure that both:
    Settings -> iCloud -> Documents & Data -> Use Cellular Data is turned off AND
    Settings -> Store -> Use Cellular Data is turned off

    • blurb

      Thanks for this. In my case, both were set to on. I’ve turned them off. I’ll watch my data usage and report my findings.

      • Anonymous

        I have unlimited data (grandfathered in), so I never bothered to check my data settings, since I’m not affected by the GB plans, but I’m glad I saw this… and my iCloud also had cellular data enabled. And I haven’t touched it — so it looks like that was the default setting w/ iOS5…. you should tweet this info so it gets out to more people. 😉

  • caddyzig

    You’re very welcome!  I’m happy I could offer a useful suggestion.  (I really enjoy both your site and Heather’s and am happy to give back in some small way.)  I’d turned both these off when I explored the new Settings options, but my partner hadn’t seen the Documents & Data option.  Turning it off completely resolved his data use issues.  I wish the default was for both options to be turned off, but I suspect Apple is hoping those who have no clue they can sync/backup their phones will still have an iCloud backup.  

    Also, for anyone having data use issues, DataMan Pro for iOS looks really handy.  I haven’t tried it myself, but have seen good reviews online.

  • Frank Tagge

    I have the 4S — used to have a BB Bold 9700, on AT&T.  My habits haven’t changed significantly, and I’ve even dropped a work-related email acct, so email usage has decreased.  I never exceeded 100 MB on my Bold — now I’m using 300+ MB!  I don’t use Siri, or iCloud, am not “pushing” anything, don’t stream vids or music…  Sync is via iTunes.  I’m on WiFi as much as possible.  Bluetooth is off.  Location services are off.  Pretty much turned my smartphone into a dumb one…  Still no reduction in data usage. I’ve even gotten new hardware from Apple, and a new SIM card from AT&T.  
    I have spent hours on the phone with both Apple and AT&T.  No real help from anyone…ARRRGGGGH!

  • Randy Braun

    Frank, instead of turning off all those various services, you might want to try this one: Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Off. Especially if you’re going to be on wifi for a while, so you’re sure no cell data is sneaking through somehow.

    It is a drastic solution, but I think this next month I am going to keep Cell Data turned off as a default, turning it on only for specific instances when I want to use the Internet and then turning it off again afterward. I will be very interested to see if my data usage continues to be unnaturally high (I spent 20 days of my first month with the 4S like that after I blew through most of my 200MB in less than a week, but I have been slowly leaving it on more, and my data has been climbing back up as a result. Like many of you, I had similar usage habits on my previous phone (iPhone 3), but my data usage only ranged from 80-140MB per month.

    The AT&T rep claims he doesn’t know anything about increased data usage problems with the 4S, and suggests that it might just be 4G that is responsible for the increased data usage. We’ll see, I suppose.

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