Bowery Mural

O2, Apple and The Continuing High Data Usage Scandal

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ok, I know you don't care that much and it's only a scandal to me, but still...

If you follow me on Twitter you'll notice that lately i've been less than happy with the amount of data my new iPhone 4S appears to be using. For the past 2 years I was on an unlimited data contract with O2 (who, by the way i've been with since the very early days - previously pay as you go). Mobile companies got wise to the fact that they'd missed a trick and could/should be charging for data or at least cap it. And so most introduced different rates or levels depending on what you needed. 100MB, 500MB or 1GB per month. Now i've read a few tech blogs and most say that an average person won't need more than 500MB per month so that's which option I went for this time. Only it didn't quite work out like that. I got my new phone on 14 October and by the 5 November I had used 80% of my data allowance. What?!! That can't be right surely. I called O2 and spoke to a girl with a distinctly northern accent, i can't quite place it though. She preceeded to tell me that the data usage was in fact correct(!) and that I could purchase more data if i wanted(!), that her friend had a new iPhone 4S too but she swapped it for a Samsung Galaxy thing because and i quote "the 4S updates every night and uses all your data. She was using too much data too so she swapped. I wouldn't have gotten a 4S if i were you" (!!!!!) I just hoped that O2 were indeed recording this call for training purposes as that wasn't a very professional thing to say, was it?

Anyway I let her ramble on. Asking me if i was streaming YouTube videos or tvprogrammes (WT actual F?!) Of course not. I have a laptop and a tv for that. Was I using it any more than normal? NO! Did I have location services turned on? YES. Turn them off then. What is the actual point of having a smart phone if you have to turn off most of the services you bought it for in the first place? It was a frustrating conversation and I left with no answer to my original question - why were my data usage stats to high? Surely I can't be in that top 2% (or whatever the latest infographic shows) who have a higher data usage. Surely?!! She suggested i go to an Apple store or...wait for this... go to an O2 shop to speak to a GURU! (as when i asked if there was a tehcnical helpline she said no, they just deal with billing enquiries etc on the phone). NOTE: later whilst browsing the O2 website buying an extra 100MB data bolt on i saw they also have a Bolt On for monthly technical help, it'll cost you £7.50 though! I mean WT actual F two??

Anyway not satisfied with that i went on the phone to Apple. The guy talked me through all my settings and suggested that i turn off Cellular Data Network. I do that at home now but what if i'm out and about? I won't get the internet if i'm walking down a high street. "No you won't" so again, what is the actual point of a smart phone if you cannot do this?! These people were missing the point... Anyway, the Apple guy emailed me a copy of the user guide and made sure my settings were all turned on / off in the right combination. I'd try this out to see if the data usage went down.

Three days later (yes, only 3 days after the original 80% data text from O2), I got one to say I'd run out and that i could follow a link to buy more. I was seathing at this point. I phoned them again and caused great hilarity in the office at the lack understanding at the question I was asking O2 (yes, I was on the phone to them again). We went around the houses. I was still using too much data, according to them. Yes, but there must be a reason for it? I don't get more than 15 emails per day MAX, I never use it for YouTube. I only downlaod songs or apps at home on a Wifi signal. All I really use it for is Twitter, Facebook and Words With Friends. That'll be it then, she said. WTF?! At this piont i am losing patience. That night i go home and check my bills for the past two years. Maybe i am a large volume user? Maybe i am in the top 2%? I'd never actually checked my data usage since it was always unlimited, have you?... I sat down, logged in and started going through my bills... Previous bill prior to getting 4S circa 175MB for the month. Next one - 380MB. One before that 250MB. I scrolled back and back and back and the only bill i found that had me anywhere close to 500MB was from April 2011, which coincided with my trip to London. I was out and about wandering without wifi so of course the data usage was higher but still not above 500MB. SURELY THERE IS SOMETHING NOT RIGHT HERE??

I made an appointmewnt with an Apple Genius. In the meantime i searched all the forums online and it seems this is a common problem. And the solutions appear to be the phone companies blaming Apple and Apple blaming the phone companies. I don't care who's fault it is i just want it sorted. I don't want to have to be buying extra data each month! Oh and also, Appled released the new version of iOS which was meant to help the battery life. Since my 3GS days i've always got a day's use out of my battery. Not a full day mind you but if i charge it at night use it all day, i don't need to charge until about 8pm. This was the same for my 4S, which is meant to have a better battery(!). Anyway i installed the new version and that night the phone was on standby and had only dropped about 2% during the night. Before it would've been about 15% drop. However it seems that this hasn't fixed the battery problem, which i'm not sure I have anyway. I'll await a next release. The high data usage is a much bigger concern to me.

So the Apple Genius was nice and again checked all my settings to make sure I had it set properly and he said that O2 must be charging me for using data that I'm not. I told him what the 3 different people on the phone have said and he said "yeah they would say that". He said to monitor it and if it was still overly high then i should go back. Frankly I'm fed up with the whole saga. My new allowance began yesterday and according to my bill i've used circa 800MB of data in the first month of having an iPhone 4S. It means i'll probably have to up my bolt on to the £10 (1GB) per month extra instead of £6 (500MB). Now you might think that this is a whole lot of palavar for just an extra £4 per month, but it's the principal of the thing. How come before I wasn't using anywhere near 500MB per month but now with the new phone I am? In my head there's a dodgy deal been done between the phone companies and Apple. We'll make it use data, you can start charging! or something like that *wink*.

Whatever it is, it's certainly not making for a good experience. More and more i'm hearing stories of high data usage being recorded, which weren't there before. I mean in theory i should be able to read half a million emails on 500MB.

Anyway... It's a shame as before this i'd never ever had a bad word to say about O2. And I absolutely love the phone. It keeps me connected. And the girl who quipped about how i should've got a Samsung Galaxy can run to the hills!! So that's it. My story. I had to get it out there. I can now put it to bed and succumb to the grip that O2 has on me and pay that extra £4 per month for data. You could say i'm playing right into their hands.

Angela x


  1. Hey, i have heard the updating at night thing too.

    I asked a mate who has one, he says

    a) Is your phone connected to the wifi network at home, if so make sure it is always connected at night.

    b) Are you downloading apps/updates using 3g?

    c) make sure your phone isn't always backing up to iCloud using 3g.

    d) make sure your phone isn't automatically downloading emails.

    e) if all else fails switch off the phone at night.

    Hopefully this might help!

    P.s I am on orange and have a data allowance of 750MB and i only ever use 250MB of it.

  2. Hey, yes it seems it's common knowledge now.
    a) yip only use wifi at home BUT on some forums it says that the phone will revert to data/3G if it goes into standby mode?

    b) only download things when on wifi at home.

    c) i don't use iCloud, mostly because i'm scared it won't work but it's never been switched on. I also back up to my laptop and not the iCloud.

    d) I've only ever had the manually get emails function on my phones. I couldn't be doing with it pinging.

    e) looks like i'll have to turn off the phone at night.

    But the only thing is that the data dump will probably still happen at some point during the day.

    On the forums i've read some people say that since there is no longer a button to turn 3G on/off then the phone is always connected, even if you think it's not. Not sure this is true, as you can turn off Cellular data network (the guy at Apple said that should be enough).

    I was fine with my 3GS. I really do think there's something in this phone....

    I also read that there was a bug in the Yahoo mail system that meant even if you manually check for emails it was still pinging data somewhere. So i deleted the yahoo account from my phone.

    Ach hopefully if more people complain about it then it will be recognised as a legit problem. Other than that i'll have to suffer it.... hhhmmmmm

  3. There is nothing (well there are *some* things) worse than having a shiny new gadget that causes you woe :(

  4. Angela, I have been having the same problem!

    Did you get it sorted?

    O2 basically said to me that iPhones are data heavy users... thats all I could get from them. Not a solution or acknowledgement of the issue.

    I have friends who use half the data I use. I've used 300mb in a week hardly using ANYTHING. Thinking of booking an appointment with Apple next week and ringing o2 tomorrow.

  5. Hello Bhavik
    No I didn't get it sorted. My nly option (at the moment) is to up my data usage bolt on from the £6 500MB one to the £10 1GB one. It seems ludicrous!

    My new allowance started on 20 Nov and i'm lamost at 300MB already! Not right, surely.

    Yes definitely book appointments to see them but it seems like they are both blaming each other.

    Hopefully more people report it as a problem and they take it seriously to produce a 'fix'. Have we suddenly gone from average users to the top few percent of people who go to 1GB? I don't think so. It's not like i'm constantly using it for emails or business or anything. Just normal FB, Twitter, web, Words with Friends and it's on WIFI from 6pm to 8am most days too!!
    GRRRRRRR is all i cany say.
    Good luck!


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