You Asked, We Answered: When Am I Using Cellular Data?

It can be confusing to know which features on your phone might be using cellular data. One thing you can be sure of, the list will always include using email, social media, third party apps or GPS, browsing and downloading from the Internet, or streaming music or video.

As a reminder, I always encourage you to connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible. A Wi-Fi connection lets you connect to the Internet without using any cellular data at all. While connected to Wi-Fi, you can also download videos, TV shows, or movies to your phone or SD card to watch anytime at your convenience, with no data required.

You can easily check which specific apps or features are using your data, and how much, by going to the Settings menu on your smartphone and following the steps shown below.

For iPhone:

  • Go to Settings.
  • Tap Cellular.
  • Then, scroll to the section which shows a list of your apps. Your data usage will be marked next to each app name.

On Android phones:

  • Go to Settings.
  • Tap Connections.
  • Then, tap Data Usage.
  • Finally, tap Mobile Data Usage. Scroll down to see a list of your apps. The amount of data each has used will be displayed next to them.

Once you’ve determined which apps are your biggest data consumers, you have several options to control them. First, simply delete any apps you haven’t use for a while, or ones that are duplicating tasks performed by others. You can also turn data access off completely for specific apps. For iPhone users, tap the slider next to the app you want to turn off; on Android phones, turn on the “Data Saver” setting.

Another option is to turn off “background data,” the process by which your apps are updating or performing other maintenance tasks when you’re not directly using them. To do this, follow the same steps listed above for checking your data usage. Then, for all the third-party apps you’ve installed, toggle to allow or restrict background data usage for ones you don’t use often.

Once you’ve grown familiar with identifying what’s using the most cellular data, and by being diligent about connecting to Wi-Fi, you can surf, search, and stream with total confidence. You may even discover that you can save money by switching to a smaller data plan. Remember, with Consumer Cellular, there’s never a fee to change your plan! Add that to the data tips above, and you’ll always have exactly what you need.

52 Thoughts on "You Asked, We Answered: When Am I Using Cellular Data?"

  1. Fred calleon says

    I am still trying to learn about my data usage.

    reply to Fred

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for posting, Fred. We’re always here to help if you have any questions as you get to know your device. Just give us a call at 888-345-5509 at your convenience. We hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

      • Sandy says

        How U turn eye On an off on at&t phoenix4

        reply to Sandy

        • That is an excellent question, Sandy, thanks for posting! For the LG Phoenix 4 you listed in your comment you will go into your settings > Data Manager > Tap on the switch across from cellular data to turn it off > Tap on okay to let the phone know this is something you’d like to do. I would advise that if you do need data though you would need to turn it back on again before it would work.

          reply to Jacob

  2. Larry says

    Awesome info clearly presented!!

    reply to Larry

  3. Marilyn W says

    Does sending texts to a group (of 3 or 4) use data? It was previously, but doesn’t seem to be now.

    reply to Marilyn

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for asking, Marilyn. When sending SMS messages, you won’t be using data from your plan as long as you are using the messaging feature on your phone. If you’ve downloaded a different app to send messages, the app may use data. We’re happy to answer any other questions you may have at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you posting today!

      reply to Ashley

  4. David Whitaker says

    1) How do I know which is a 3rd party app?
    2) How do I know which app using data does?

    reply to David

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Those are great questions, David! A third party app would be an option that you downloaded from the Play Store, and would not be one that came pre-installed on your phone. If you’ve reviewed the list of apps on your phone and you see one that is using more data than expected, we recommend looking for that app on your phone to see what it is, and disable it if you don’t plan to use it. We’re always happy to help you with any questions, so please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you posting, and we hope you have a wonderful day!

      reply to Ashley

  5. Barbara Kintop says

    Why isn’t MyConsumerCellular app pre-installed on phones ordered and paid for on your website? By definition, the CC app is a third party app and can use a lot of my data allowance.

    reply to Barbara

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for posting, Barbara. The My CC app comes installed on most devices we offer. If you don’t see it on your device, you can download it from the Google Play Store free of charge. Please feel free to give us a call if you have any other questions. We’ll be happy to answer them! We hope you have a lovely day!

      reply to Ashley

  6. Denise says

    I have a Alcatel flip phone can I get on the web

    reply to Denise

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for posting, Denise. That device is not designed to access the internet. If you’re looking for a phone that has that capability, we’re happy to tell you more about our smartphones at 888-345-5509. Thank you again for reaching out to us, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

  7. David Gifford says

    When I check my CC account for the data usage, The data usage is only at 12am, 6am,12pm and 6pm. Why is that and how can I get the actual data use time?
    Thanks, Dave

    reply to David

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for posting, David. Your usage is reported to us by cellular towers in batches, and those reports are sent to us at the times you’ve listed. They don’t necessarily correlate to the time that the data was actually used. You can review your data usage by going to the Settings app and selecting Data Usage. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have, so don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509 if we can be of any assistance. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us today!

      reply to Ashley

      • Karen Ellis says

        I can appreciate that Consumer Cellular must get batch reports on data usage, but I noticed on my account that on 1/25/19, at 6:00 a. m. , 876.70mb of data was accessed for this purpose. That’s almost 1gb and much higher than the lowest data plan. Why would so much he used?

        reply to Karen

        • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

          Thank you for posting, Karen. Since the usage is reported to us in batches, that does not mean that the usage was used the same date that the report was received. You can view your usage in more detail on your phone directly by going to Settings > Connections > Data Usage > Mobile Data Usage. From there you can see what apps are using data, as well as a graph showing when data was used. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 888-345-5509!

          reply to Nicole

  8. Betty says

    So as long as I connect to WiFi I am not actually using my data on my plan correct ?

    reply to Betty

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thank you for posting, Betty! If your phone is connected to a strong Wi-Fi signal, you won’t be using data from your plan. If the signal gets weak, your device may need to reconnect to cellular data in order to allow your apps to work properly. We recommend connecting to Wi-Fi whenever possible, because you’ll be saving your data for when you really need it! If we can answer any questions you may have, please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-345-5509. We appreciate you reaching out to us, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

      • Kim says

        You state “One thing you can be sure of, the list will always include using email, social media, third party apps or GPS, browsing and downloading from the Internet, or streaming music or video.”

        What is not clear is you state “always” referring to data use. But the article says using WiFi then one doesn’t use data.

        If I stream video through the browser on my phone and I have home WiFi and am home, does my phone use data, yes or no?

        Thank you.

        reply to Kim

        • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

          We’re happy to answer that, Kim. If you’re connected to Wi-Fi, your phone will use that connection to access the internet, and it won’t need to use any data from your plan. Do keep in mind that if the Wi-Fi signal isn’t quite strong enough, your phone may need to use data. We’re happy to answer any other questions you may have at 888-345-5509, so please feel free to call us at your convenience. Thank you for reaching out to us, and we hope you have a lovely day!

          reply to Ashley

  9. Gary Swenson says

    If I buy a smart thermostat and smart furnace, can I check the thermostat using the data plan vs wifi??

    reply to Gary

    • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

      Hi Gary, if the smart thermostat and smart furnace use a third-party app on your phone that connects to the internet, then you should be able to use the app while on data or on Wi-Fi, whichever is available.

      reply to Nicole

    • TAMMY HAMRICK says

      I just bought a phone from CC, but theres no place on there to connect to my wifi. Or am I missing it

      reply to TAMMY

      • Hi Tammy, thanks for your question, we’re happy to help! If the phone is already set up, go into Settings > Tap on WiFi and then select your WiFi network and log in. If you have any questions about this process though feel free to give us a call at 888-548-6490 or you can also chat with an agent here for further assistance.

        reply to Jacob

  10. Dave Butler says

    Please put a switch on your app allowing data to be turned on or off for each phone in an account. I have teens who will use data all the time. I’d like to be able to turn it off. I want to switch to CC but this feature not being available is holding me back.

    reply to Dave

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Thanks for posting, Dave. We do offer this feature via My Account, and I’m happy to pass your suggestion on to our app team. We appreciate your feedback, and we hope you have a great day!

      reply to Ashley

  11. Pat says

    My phone uses data to receive pictures via texting whether I am connected to WIFI or not. When I turn my cellular data off I get a notice of a message sent to me and the KB amount. The pictures do not appear. So can I assume that my sending pictures is also using my data plan even though I am connected to WIFI?

    reply to Pat

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      Great question, Pat. Your phone does require data to send photos via text message, but the amount of data used is quite small, and is not reflected in your data usage. Thanks for posting!

      reply to Ashley

  12. Pamela Liotta says

    Does sending or receiving a photo by text use data from my plan when my mobile data on the phone is turned off and no WiFi connection?

    reply to Pamela

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      I’m happy to answer that for you, Pamela. A data connection is needed in order to send multimedia messages, which contain photos or videos, but it won’t count against your plan. Thanks for asking!

      reply to Ashley

  13. Rican says

    This particular question , i need an answer to asap ! If i’m at home and i turn my wifi off through the control center, will my device still show up as using my home internet or will i be using cellular data and not my home’s wifi?

    reply to Rican

    • Ashley at Consumer Cellular says

      We’re happy to answer that for you, Rican. If you’re home and you turn off your Wi-Fi router, your phone will switch to cellular data, as the Wi-Fi network will no longer be available. Thanks for posting!

      reply to Ashley

  14. sooraj says

    my google app is using enormous amount of data when connected to wifi..how can i fix it.

    reply to sooraj

  15. Tim says

    I’m just curious if I click my iPhone to where the screen goes casually black with no WiFi am I still using data?

    reply to Tim

    • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

      That’s a great question, Tim! If you have any applications open in the background that typically uses data, they will likely continue using data when your iPhone’s screen turns off. If you need any assistance with managing your data, I recommend giving us a call at 888-345-5509 or chat with us here.

      reply to Nicole

  16. Will says

    Excellent article. My family is planning an overseas vacation and need to make sure we monitor our data closely! Do you know if making calls/texts over wifi only (data disabled) will accrue charges ($1.79/min, $.50/text)? Or are these functions different from Data/Wifi and will cost per usage no matter our connection? We’re thinking of forgoing a temporary travel plan and just being careful to use our phones only while connected to Wifi. Thanks for your help!

    reply to Will

    • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

      Those are some great questions, Will! If you are using apps like Skype or Google Hangouts that allow you to make calls or send texts over Wi-Fi, they should not accrue any charges onto your account. If you want to make sure that this doesn’t happen, you can also enable Airplane mode on your phone, and then enable Wi-Fi. This will prevent the phone from connecting to any cellular network, but still allow you to connect to Wi-Fi.

      reply to Nicole

  17. Mary Anne says

    Is there any way to NOT use data when hiking in a park or forest preserve, and wanting to listen to the radio? Radio apps one the phone are using data I presume? Thank you.

    reply to Mary

    • Hi Mary Anne, thanks for your question! One way to make sure your phone isn’t using data during your hikes is by turning it off in the settings of the phone. This will keep the phone from using data while its turned off. If you have music downloaded to your phone, that would be another way to keep the phone from using data by listening to it that way.

      reply to Jacob

  18. Matt says

    I want to send a video I just created with iMovie to my grandmother, however, I don’t want to use a lot of data sending it and I don’t want her to use a lot of data watching it. If we are both logged onto strong WiFi connections (and both have iPhones) will the imessage app first use the wifi before tapping into our data plans? Thank you.

    reply to Matt

    • Hi Matt, great question thanks for asking! If both phones are connected to WiFi the phone would use that connection rather than switching to using data. It would be if the phones had no WiFi connection at all that they would use that data plan to download and watch the video.

      reply to Jacob

  19. Clarence Frost says

    What is data connectivity and how does it work

    reply to Clarence

    • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

      Hi Clarence, data connectivity is what allows you to access the internet on our service when Wi-Fi isn’t available. This includes things like web browsing, checking your email, using social media (such as Facebook or Twitter), streaming videos from services like YouTube, or even using the navigation feature on your phones Map app. If you have any questions about data and your service, we’re happy to help if you give us a call at 888-345-5509 or chat with us here.

      reply to Nicole

  20. Judy little says

    When using Facebook messenger video chat, does that affect my data plan? I have a home Wi-Fi.

    reply to Judy

    • Nicole at Consumer Cellular says

      Hi Judy, if you’re connected to home Wi-Fi when using the video chat feature with Facebook Messenger, then it won’t affect your plan. It’s also recommended to disable data on your phone just to make sure.

      reply to Nicole

  21. Barbara Rich says

    Does my iphone7 automatically switch to my community wi-fi when I’m at home and go back to CC when I leave home?

    reply to Barbara

  22. Larry says

    In that list I have something listed as “2906”. ???
    It used just 200k but that’s what bothers me…
    It has only about 2 weeks history.can anyone identify this “2906”
    Disabler Pro doesn’t list it either…

    reply to Larry

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