Monday, March 14, 2011

Hidden data use and the iPhone

A salutary tale

I'm on O2 as my carrier using an iPhone 4. I, like most people was a bit miffed when O2 slapped on a 500mb cap on data usage. On reflection though, I rarely get even close to using that. Sensible use on 3G, plus using wifi wherever I can, including at home means my typical monthly data use over 3G is in the region of 80mb - 100mb.

A couple of days ago I paid a cursory glance at my usage in Settings/General/Usage and it was around the 30mb mark. About right given my billing month runs from 25th of the month.

Over the weekend I've mostly been at home (on wifi) or at Cardiff City Stadium - where regular readers will know I don't get a data signal. I haven't been doing anything different, or downloaded any new apps - though I have updated a few existing ones.

Imagine my surprise therefore when at 8.57am this morning a text from O2 pinged in saying I was at 80% of my data limit and they'd let me know if I went over it. Sure enough a quick check in settings showed around 400mb used. Somewhat perplexed, but with no time to check anything (I'm a busy man) I vowed to check things out this evening. Then 30 minutes later I got another text saying I'd exceeded my limit and now needed to buy a bolt on.

I suppose at least they told me rather than letting me carry on and shafting me with a hefty bill at month end.

Anyway, busy I may be but not that busy. I checked again, and use was at 477mb according to Settings. I re-booted the iphone and made sure there were no apps running. What I should have done was check what apps were running - but as I've said before I wasn't doing anything differently to normal.

I then contacted O2 - via chat as it happened. Their phone lines - my first port of call said they were very busy, but within 20 secs of being on the web site I was offered a chat session which I gratefully took.

The next 20 minutes basically confirmed what I'd been told by text. Yes I was over my limit, yes I'd need a bolt on and given I said I'd not normally come near this level of use, they did agree to "look into it", but I suspect they won't find anything.

So, for a £5 bolt on I've got another 500mb to tie me over to my next billing date in 10 days time. Worryingly, I still have no idea which app was the culprit.

My vague recollection is that the following were in the multi-task bar - but remember these apps re supposed to be in a suspended (ie effectively stopped) state.

Sky Sports Football, Safari, Mail, Twitter, Messages, ECB Cricket, Notes, Reeder, Facebook, Contacts, SafeWallet and Angry Birds. I don't (or rather very rarely) stream video or music and certainly haven't been doing this in the last few days. One of them though, appears to have been doing something rather naughty. Two pieces of supporting evidence were significant battery drain - down from 100% at 7.30am to 68% by 9.30 when normally I'm not down to 68% by the end of the day, and the fact the phone did appear to be quite warm at one stage.

So, conclusions?

Well, clearly not all apps go into a suspend state when you open another app or return to the home screen, despite what most people would have you believe. I've heard of this with apps like Pandora and Spotify but I don't use those. Gavin suggested it might be a location services issue, although I don't think I've changed anything since yesterday.

A bit of a mystery then. One things for sure. I'll be paying a regular trip to the task bare to check what's there and clearing them down, and I'll be paying a bit more attention to my data usage over the next few weeks.


murrayalex said...

Did you ever get to the bottom of this one?

Statto said...

No - it's a mystery. Data use since has hardly moved. Most bizarre