It’s 2015, yet the monthly price of an iPhone contract is still determined by the amount of data you’re able to access during each billing period. In order to enjoy a less expensive plan, iPhone owners need to get smart with data, saving as much as possible and reducing their overall wastage. With the iPhone 6s expected to hit Apple Store shelves some time in September your chosen plan for the new handset is therefore going to be determined by the amount of cellular data you require each month. As such, saving data has never been more important.

In this article, we’re helping readers out through putting together three defined levels for data management: small savings, mid-level fixes, and, the most affecting of all, super cellular savings. These allow users to impose increasingly drastic limits on their monthly cellular data consumption. Here, we’re going to outline all three levels, leaving readers to choose which route best suits their personal situation.

Small savings: making minor tweaks

Small savings involve making minor tweaks to the way Apple’s iOS runs and performs in order to reduce your monthly cellular consumption. Our first piece of advice is for iPhone owners to pick up an app called DataMan: this smart, universal app provides quick, at-a-glance information on the state of your cellular data consumption; it’ll alert you if you’re in danger of exceeding your monthly quota (and incurring additional charges, as a result), and it even offers a widget that can live in Notification Center or on your Apple Watch.

In addition to keeping a closer eye on cellular data consumption, iPhone owners can also tweak a small number of settings in order to save on data wastage. First, in the iOS Settings app’s “Wi-Fi” section, ensure that Wi-Fi is enabled, and that “Ask to Join Networks” is disabled; this will allow your handset to join onto known Wi-Fi networks automatically, reducing background data consumption. It would also be a smart move for iPhone owners to check this section of the Settings app regularly, and to join onto free Wi-Fi networks while out of the house. Most bars, coffee houses, and restaurants tend to offer customer access to their own in-house Wi-Fi and is indeed something we should all be taking advantage of.

Make sure Wi-Fi is enabled, and that your iPhone is configured to join known networks automatically.

Make sure Wi-Fi is enabled, and that your iPhone is configured to join known networks automatically.

Finally, an iOS 9 (which will be released on Sept. 16) feature can be tweaked in order to prevent your iPhone from wasting data. It’s called “Wi-Fi Assist,” and will be found in the “Cellular” section of Settings. Wi-Fi Assist prompts your iPhone to use cellular instead of a Wi-Fi network when your wireless connection is poor. It results in a better, more reliable browsing experience, for sure, but it also means your iPhone is dipping into your limited data plan rather than using a free, unlimited Wi-Fi service. Consider disabling Wi-Fi Assist if you upgrade to iOS 9.

In iOS 9, Wi-Fi Assist could mean your iPhone consumes cellular data when it doesn't really need to.

In iOS 9, Wi-Fi Assist could mean your iPhone consumes cellular data when it doesn’t really need to.

Mid-level fixes: getting serious

If careful use of Wi-Fi doesn’t help your cellular data problem, you’ll need to get serious about cellular data access on iOS and start identifying (and disabling) data hogs. You can check how much cellular data individual applications have downloaded in the “Cellular” section of the Settings app. Here, iOS apps will be listed alphabetically and, alongside each app, a figure showing how much data they’ve downloaded for the current period. Some apps, like 1Password, for instance, won’t have downloaded much data, but others may have chewed through hundreds of megabytes (dare we say gigabytes) of data since your statistics were last reset.

You'll be amazed at the amount of data certain iOS apps consume.

You’ll be amazed at the amount of data certain iOS apps consume.

After identifying an iOS app which has consumed a lot of data, you can prevent that individual application from accessing cellular using the toggle button alongside it. By default, all iOS apps can access data on your iPhone; switching the toggle from green will mean that app can no longer consume data on iOS.

Our advice here would be for iPhone owners to disable cellular access for iOS apps which aren’t essential for their day-to-day smartphone usage. Browse through the list and pick off ones which aren’t going to have a huge impact on how you enjoy using your iPhone.

The final mid-level cellular saving tip is to disable automatic App Store updates over cellular from inside the iOS Settings app. Auto-updates, which see your iOS device update applications automatically, can be disabled from the “App and iTunes Stores” section of the Settings app. Here, you’ll notice a toggle button alongside “Updates,” though don’t flick this off. Instead, further down the screen here, you’ll notice another toggle button labeled “Use Cellular Data.” This is the button you need to disable; doing so prevents apps auto-updating over cellular, and limits this process to Wi-Fi only.

App updates can be pretty heavy; they really should be downloaded over Wi-Fi only.

App updates can be pretty heavy; they really should be downloaded over Wi-Fi only.

Super cellular savings: the price you pay

If all of the above doesn’t help your cellular consumption woes, consider some of the below options. But let us stress this: it’s important to recognize that many of the below tips and tricks will have a negative impact on the functionality of your iPhone.

For instance, one great way of saving cellular data is to disable Background App Refresh (inside the “General” section of the Settings app). This stops your iPhone from allowing apps to fetch data and update their contents in the background, over cellular. When enabled, it means applications load content faster and feel more responsive; these processes do result in cellular consumption. However, this isn’t strictly necessary for them to operate.

Background App Refresh is a great feature. But it could be eating through a large chunk of your cellular plan.

Background App Refresh is a great feature. But it could be eating through a large chunk of your cellular plan.

Another big cellular hog is the recently launched Apple Music. Available from inside the iOS Music app, Apple Music lets iPhone owners stream songs over cellular, and this of course impacts on your overall monthly consumption. You can disable cellular access for Apple Music in the “Music” section of the Settings app. However, though doing so will save you data, it does mean you’ll be unable to enjoy on-demand music while away from Wi-Fi.

Apple Music could be chewing through data, too, especially if you're streaming music while on-the-go.

Apple Music could be chewing through data, too, especially if you’re streaming music while on-the-go.

Finally, and most drastically, it is possible to disable cellular access outright for everything on your iPhone. You can do this from inside the same “Cellular” section of the Settings app – just tap the big button marked “Cellular Data,” at the top of the screen. The result means your iPhone can only access the Internet when connected to a Wi-Fi network. Of course, this makes having data redundant in the first place, but it might be a good practice to turn cellular off for certain periods of time to limit data use.

The best way to save data consumption? Turn cellular data off on your iPhone handset.

The best way to save data consumption? Turn cellular data off on your iPhone handset.

A fine, fine line

As you can see, there’s a fine, fine line between saving data, and reducing the functionality of your iPhone. If you’re looking to save on data consumption, start with small savings and work your way up. Hopefully you’ll be able to strike a happy, sensible balance somewhere along the line.