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Using too much data on your iPhone? It can be tricky to track how much data you use, especially with the countless apps we download from the App Store and the amount we watch on streaming services or YouTube.

High data usage on iPhone can result in overcharges on data plans and even throttling, and it’s usually due to different apps accumulating a high amount of data – whether it be video calls or scrolling through videos on social media platforms. However, this isn’t the only reason, as malicious apps can sneakily use data in the background.

While Apple’s App Store is one of the safest around, it’s still prone to iPhone malware. Even dangerous loan-infected apps from SpyLoan made their way onto the platform.

This guide will help you reduce your data usage on iPhone and show you how to protect yourself from malicious apps using the best antivirus software.

How to check for your data usage on iPhone

Optimising your iPhone’s data usage is essential for staying within your data plan or avoiding unexpected charges. Knowing how much data each app uses will help you find out how each app impacts usage, along with if any malicious app is using too much.

Here’s how to check data usage for each app on iPhone. For non-US iPhones, Cellular may be called Mobile Services instead.

  1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app.
  2.   Tap Mobile Service / Cellular.
  3.   Scroll down to see Mobile Data.
  4.   Here, you can check how much mobile data usage individual apps use.
iPhone how to check for High Data Usage

Some mobile carriers will reset data usage to zero once a new monthly bill begins. You can see the last time it was reset by scrolling to the bottom.

How to reduce data usage on your iPhone

While many mobile carriers offer users unlimited data plans, there still may be a usage threshold that limits the amount of data you use. Moreover, many iPhone owners may be unable to afford this plan, opting for data limits ranging from 5GB to 100GB.

Going past this limit isn’t ideal, especially if you want to avoid costly phone bills or throttling.

Here are key ways to reduce your data usage on iPhone.

  1. Enable Low Data Mode

    iPhone Low Data Mode

    Low Data Mode is a built-in feature on iPhones that restricts background data usage, minimizing the amount of data consumed by apps when not actively in use.

    To turn on Low Data Mode, go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Data Mode > Low Data Mode.

  2. Disable background app refresh

    iPhone Disable Background App Refresh

    Apps often refresh their content and data in the background, even when you’re not using them. That means even if you’ve left your phone in another room, it can still use data without you knowing.

    To control which apps can refresh data in the background, navigate to Settings and scroll down to your list of apps. Tap on an app. Next to Background App Refresh, toggle the switch to turn it off.

  3. Manage cellular data for individual apps

    iPhone Disable Mobile App Data

    You can further control data usage for specific apps by going to in the individual app settings. Here, you can disable mobile data altogether so the app never uses data unless it’s over Wi-Fi.

  4. Download content over Wi-Fi

    Free Wi-Fi signal

    When you have access to Wi-Fi, download content like music, podcasts, movies, and TV episodes from streaming services. This way, you can access them offline when you’re on mobile data, minimizing data usage.

    If you’re connected to public Wi-Fi, be aware that you’re at risk sharing your information to threat actors. These unsecure networks are the usual culprits for malware spreading through Wi-Fi and unknown Bluetooth devices connecting to your iPhone. That’s why it’s best to use antivirus software (more on that below).

  5. Disable automatic app updates

    iPhone Turn off Automatic App Updates

    Automatic app updates are convenient, but they can consume a significant amount of data. To prevent apps from updating over cellular data, go to Settings > App Store > App Updates. Toggle the switch to turn off automatic app updates.

  6. Use antivirus software to check for malicious apps

    Norton 360 on iPhone

    Even iPhones can get malware, can it can happen as soon as your download an app from the App Store. If you notice an app with high data usage, even though you barely use it, it’s likely to be malware. These infected apps often use data in the background to steal information or cause damage to your iPhone.

    To get detect it early and get rid of it, it’s a good idea to use the best antivirus software.

    Many free malware removal apps will dispatch malicious software on your device, but it’s a good idea to make sure these tools are trustworthy, as hackers can also disguise these apps on the App Store to deploy even more malware.

    The best antivirus apps come with a suite of security features that can eliminate viruses, malware, ransomware, spyware or any malicious software that burrows into your iPhone. Some antivirus software, such as Norton 360 (from $19.99/year), offers security subscriptions specifically for iPhone, making it a more cost-effective option for those who only need iPhone protection.

    We also recommend free apps from known cybersecurity companies, including Avast OneAVG and Malwarebytes Mobile Security. These will detect and remove malicious software on your iPhone. 

Signs of malware on iPhone

Malicious apps can steal your email, passwords, banking details, and more information. A sign that this is happening can be seen when you’re getting high data usage, especially on a specific app.

However, there are many other signs that your iPhone device is infected, including:

  • Your device is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
  • Your browser is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
  • Browsing through websites takes longer.
  • You need to recharge your device more often.
  • Apps take longer to load.
  • There’s an unknown app or software on your device you didn’t download.
  • Pop-up ads appear more frequently.
  • Your iPhone is overheating.

Check for unfamiliar apps

There are over a million apps on the Apple App Store, and the average iPhone user may have dozens of apps that they downloaded and barely use. Hackers can take advantage of this in a few ways, including changing the app’s image or title and hiding it in your iPhone’s App Library.

Scroll through all your iPhone apps in the App Library and check for unfamiliar apps you don’t remember installing.

Check your battery life

Malware is known to use your device’s resources in the background, making it harder for users to detect malicious activity. This can deplete its daily battery life on a mobile device like an iPhone. If your iPhone’s battery life is running out sooner than expected, it’s worth checking Battery settings to see if an app is causing the issue.

Head into Settings > Battery to check if any unfamiliar apps are consuming a high amount of your iPhone’s battery life.

Watch out for pop-up ads

While pop-up advertisements are inevitable in apps and browsers when scrolling through websites, seeing too many is concerning.

If an app or website keeps redirecting you to different web pages and installing unwanted toolbars, extensions or plugins, it could be a sign of malware on your iPhone.

Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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